Arizona Centennial: Latino Arizona: 100 Years

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Learn about a photo exhibit that chronicles contributions Latinos have made to Arizona. Frank Barrios, author and historian, talks about the exhibition.

José Cárdenas: Arizona celebrates statehood day on February 14th. "Latino Arizona: 100 Years" is a new state centennial documentary photographic exhibit that looks back at the early days of Latino pioneers and the contributions to our state. Here to talk about the exhibit is Frank Barrios, author and historian. You're probably the perfect guest to talk about 100 years of Latino contributions because your family's been in the state for more than 100 years. Tell us about that.

Frank Barrios: That's correct. My -- on my mother's side, my family was here when Arizona was part of Mexico. They moved from Sonora into Arizona and southern California, when this was all part of Mexico. And my background is I'm a professional engineer and worked with water all my life and spent three years serving on the central Arizona Project Board of Directors and now retired and get to do what I love best. Look at history. My own family history but also the important contributions made by the Mexican community to the state of Arizona.

José Cárdenas: And you're the author of a book called "Mexicans in Phoenix," a collection of photographs. Many of them in the exhibit we're going to be talking about. One of -- the exhibit we're going to be talking about. One of them actually predates statehood. This is a famous Marshal in -- Marshal in Phoenix, Arizona.

Frank Barrios: This is a photograph, on the left of the small individual is named Enrique Garfias. He came to Phoenix in the 1870's --

José Cárdenas: This would be your left.

Frank Barrios: My left, that's correct. My left and he's the guy with the small hat, small guy, but if you read the newspaper accounts, the man had exploits like Wyatt Earp. Elected five times Town Marshal of Phoenix and three times Constable of Phoenix and he -- his exploits were fantastic. Just even one -- I don't know if it's legend or truth, but one says he walked into a bar, three people drew down on him and he killed all three and stayed there. He would have -- it's a shame that he was lost to history because he had a fantastic contribution to the City of Phoenix, to the state of Arizona.

José Cárdenas: We're talking the late 1800s at a time when the Mexican population was the largest population in Arizona and you saw a lot of people of prominence who were of Mexican, Latino descent. And that changed with the
railroads and -- groups dedicated to protecting the rights of Mexicans. Tell us about this picture.

Frank Barrios: The individual with the white suit, the president and person who started it. He was a resident here in Phoenix. Ran a Spanish language newspaper here in Phoenix and once the railroad came to Arizona, people started coming from the east and south, and Phoenix, for example, was 50% the population was Hispanic and I think there was a mix of middle class, poor, and the Mexican community had a voice in the government. Then, the railroad came and the Mexican community was marginalized. This group you see in the picture came together to protect Mexican businesses in Arizona.

José Cárdenas: And some of the issues they were dealing with were measure, for example, English only.

Frank Barrios: That's correct.

José Cárdenas: Sounds familiar, but that kind of discrimination now. The next picture we have of Immaculate Heart is a reflection of what some people believe was discrimination against Mexicans in early Phoenix. This dates from --

Frank Barrios: 1930s, 1940s. This is the Mexican Catholic church. Immaculate Heart of Mary. Completed in 1928. And there was an issue in 1915, when St. Mary's Catholic Church was built, the church said all masses in Spanish would be in the cellar, all masses in English, upstairs in the main center. The Mexican community took that as an insult and went to the priest and to the bishop and said, rightfully so, that they had built the first Catholic church, the Mexican owners had donated the land for the first church and now Spanish masses would be in the cellar. And so the end result was that they brought in -- excuse me -- priests from Spain who took over service to the Mexican community and they built a separate church for the Mexican community, which was immaculate heart of Mary and St. Mary's was for the non-Hispanic community.

José Cárdenas: And the language is a big part of the last picture. Spanish language movie theaters.

Frank Barrios: Absolutely, everybody my age that grew in up in Phoenix, would know this theater. They had Spanish language movies in there. It was very popular with the Hispanic community and it was built probably in the late 1940's and served through the '50s into the '60s. And everyone would go to the theater into the '60s and everybody would go to the theater and see Mexican movies with famous star, very classical Mexican move movies and popular.

José Cárdenas: Frank, we're almost out of time. The exhibition, we've got information on the screen. Covers 100 years, but roughly 1870s, to the 1970s. What kind of pictures are people likely to see in the exhibition?

Frank Barrios: Pictures of the Mexican community. How they lived during this period. Leaders of the Mexican community and generally a feeling of the contribution made by the Mexican people to the state of Arizona.

José Cárdenas: Frank Barrios, thank you for coming on "Horizonte." You've been on before and I'm sure we'll have you on again.

Frank Barrios: Thank you very much.

José Cárdenas: That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas. Have a good evening.

Frank Barrios:Author and Historian;

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