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El Paso’s Role In Mexican Revolution Still Visible 100 Years Later

It was the early 1900s and everyday Mexicans were being uprooted and forcibly taken away from their land and sent to virtual slave camps.

They finally had enough and took up arms to end Porfirio Diaz’s 30-year reign of tyranny.

This Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of the Mexican revolution.

More than just a city on the border, El Paso played a larger role in the Mexican revolution than many cities in Mexico did. Revolutionaries and refugees sought shelter here in El Paso.

“So it was me walking through the streets of El Paso as a boy (and) I had no idea of the rich and wonderful history here,” said El Paso David Romo, the author of “ringside Seat to a Revolution.” For me it was just old brick buildings.”

The Sun City became a haven for those who opposed the Mexican government – and it all centered in Downtown El Paso.

Tays and First Street is in the heart of El Paso. The intersection no longer exists because in it’s place is a railroad track. But 100 years ago, there was a neighborhood there and one home directly linked the El Paso Police Dept. with the Mexican revolution.

In 1908, El Paso Police raided the home and found the operations center for the Mexican anarchist movement.

Police found thousand of rounds of ammunition, weapons, bombs and revolutionary newspapers printed here by exiled journalists.

“Newspapers were published. Books were published,” City Rep. Steve Ortega. “Of course a lot of the folks who had resources back then, much like today, moving over to this side of the border.

Another hot spots for producing revolutionary newspapers, the Caples building in Downtown El Paso. This is where revolutionary leaders would buy weapons and they would even recruit new men. Up on the fifth floor of the Caples building is one of the most notable recruits of all of the revolution – Pancho Villa.”

Many El Pasoans have ties to the infamous rebel general – including Ortega.

“My great-grandfather was a general in Pancho Villa’s army,” Ortega said. “My great-grandfather used that money to settle here in El Paso. That’s one reason why I’m here.”

Ortega said his grandmother did not like Villa.

“She kind of felt like he was a guy who ravaged people’s lives,” Ortega said. “he allowed his troops to storm homes, and destroy communities but you will hear other people say that you know what? he was a guy who gave back to the poor.”

No doubt there was a lot of bloodshed but the war even offered entertainment to a lot of El Pasoans to get the best seat in the house though, you had to go up above at places such as the Camino Real Hotel.

About 10 stories above Downtown is an old portion of the Camino Real Hotel that is no longer open to the general public. But 100 years ago it was. In fact, everyday Joes would take their lunchbreaks Downtown, go to the top of the Camino Real and look at a magnificent view of explosions and gun battles.

“And the waiters were bringing up the mugs of beer and they were watching the canon fire,” said El Paso Mayor John Cook.

Romo said former El Paso Mayor Joseph Sweeney reported seeing firsthand, “Federales being shot down… and shrapnel bursting into the air.”

Cook said it’s a lot like what we are seeing today.

“When we have bullets end up bouncing off of city hall or hitting the UTEP campus, it’s another revolution that’s taking place,” Cook said.

Ortega called El Paso a key city in the revolution.

“The key city on the American side as it dealt with the Mexican revolution,” Ortega said.

Romo said El Paso’s role in the revolution cannot be underestimated.

“If it weren’t for El Paso, perhaps the revolution would not have been sparked in northern Mexico.”

That history’s still on display, if you know where to look.

An exhibit at the History Museum Downtown shows El Paso’s connection to the revolution. It runs through next month.

Related Link:Link:David Romo’s Tour Of El Paso Mexican Revolution Sites

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