Perhaps some people think it's strange that there have been people meeting these past two months to talk about preserving Mexican-American history in a town like Tucson. After all, when specifically thinking about our sense of place, the buildings and people, aren't we surrounded by that history every day? Well, yes and no—mostly no.
A few years ago, I was doing a story about an infill development project north of the UA campus. The project's architect told me she was tired of people who complained about the destruction of Barrio Libre (now Barrio Viejo) that made way for the Tucson Convention Center and the county government buildings. "It happened so long ago, why can't people just get over it," she said. The destruction took place in the late 1960s—so I guess a sense of time just depends on individuals, but I know from personal experience that most people can't get over it, nor should we. But the conversation proved a point that just because you are someone who works in preservation, documents our local history or is involved in architecture, that you're going to get it.
What's to get? Well, the second in a series of recent discussions on preserving our area's Mexican-American history got to the heart of that question in a packed community room in Menlo Park with people like UA professor Lydia Otero (author of La Calle), Patricia Preciado Martin, Betty Villegas (representing Latinos in Heritage Conservation), Amanda Castillo, Raquel Rudio Goldsmith and Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias. Everyone had a story and everyone had a landmark that meant something to them. I was reminded of an essay I read last year by outgoing Tucson Pima Arts Council director Roberto Bedoya on gentrification, place keeping and the impact that honoring our sense of place has on how we feel as a people and community. I hope these conversations on how our local Mexican-American history fits in local preservation and urban development continue. Kudos and thanks to the organizers. It sounds like there's more to come. We look forward to bringing their work to the pages of the Tucson Weekly.
— Mari Herreras, email@example.com