Op-ed written in The El Paso Times by Carmen Rodriguez and Oscar J. Martinez
This is to make it known, especially to local government leaders, that there is very strong opposition in the community to the city’s plan to take away 40 percent of the Downtown public library in order to make room for the Mexican American Cultural Center. We have heard such opposition over the last several months during petition drives, in public forums and as part of our involvement in the creation of Community First, a new coalition of local organizations, leaders and activists.
It is felt that the implementation of the city’s plan will seriously damage the library, an institution that El Pasoans love and want to keep whole. Apart from the mutilation of the building, the drastic shrinkage in space will inevitably result in a reduction of services. A major fear is that the children and teen sections, which are located in the part of the building where the MACC is slated for placement, will shrink and wind up in the basement. Currently, the children and teens entities are jewels that provide exceptional learning opportunities for our young people. Our kids deserve the best. Do not hurt them by butchering the library.
And what about the MACC? We have no doubt that, once informed of the facts, El Pasoans would overwhelmingly support the cultural center having its own building. Certainly a “signature” project for the city deserves as much. The truth is that the city had little interest in a cultural center and embraced it only to gain support for passage of the bond in 2012. It is important to remember that in 2000, the voters supported a Quality of Life Bond that provided for the improvement and expansion of the library. But now a slate of new city representatives has no problem diminishing the library and undoing what voters supported in the past. Where is the fairness in that?
If the city is not willing to do justice to the MACC, it should at least drop its plans to shove it into the library. The members of the Mexican American Cultural Institute, who worked for years conceptualizing the cultural center, have come to the same conclusion. They see preservation of the main library as a top priority as well and would rather continue working for a standalone cultural center that is first class and will bring pride to the city.
We ask El Pasoans to join the Community First Coalition, currently comprised of the following organizations, in rejecting the city plan to mutilate the main library: Social Justice Education Project, Paso del Sur, Friends of the Main Library, Mexican American Cultural Institute, Wise Latina International, LULAC Council 228, and the Hope Border Institute.
Carmen Rodríguez is an attorney and Oscar J. Martínez is a retired professor. Both are involved in the ongoing effort to expand the Community First Coalition.