Barrio Viejo - Tucson's "Old Town"
Barrio Viejo is known for its lively adobe houses, Mexican cantinas that serve chili and margaritas, as well as its numerous brewpubs and retro-style cocktail bars. Visitors light candles and leave prayer messages in the decaying walls of El Tiradito's "wishing shrine." The Jewish History Museum, housed in Arizona's first synagogue, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a converted firehouse, are two other cultural attractions....
Barrio Viejo, which translates to "old neighborhood," is known for its brightly colored adobe homes, Mexican cantinas, and trendy eateries and pubs and is a favorite amongst the Tucson locals and visitors alike.
This historic neighborhood is densely populated with 19th century residences. Many of the city's most influential families and local figures have lived there in the past. And back then, the barrio had a vibrant street life that evoked memories of old Mexico. It was a Free Zone with few police officers until the 1880s.
It was home to a mixed population of working class people from Europe, Africa, Asia, and Mexico in the 1880s and 1890s, with many of them employed by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Tucson was transformed from a dusty little town to a city of opportunity after the tracks were completed.
However, by the mid-twentieth century, many of the homes in Barrio Viejo had fallen into disrepair. In 1971, the building of a convention center resulted in the leveling of 80 acres and the demolition of 725 houses, displacing 725 people. Many referred to it as a discriminatory act. The preserved adobe homes make up one of the country's largest collections of nineteenth-century adobe structures.
Throughout the 1970s, gentrification began. Many of the neighborhood's initial Mexican-American settlers were displaced to make room for white middle-class families. To iron out disputes, the city produced a growth plan. By blocking the development of a highway through their community, residents were able to avoid further destruction.
Kelley Rollings led a campaign in 1971 that grew into a larger campaign to save and protect one of Tucson's most charming districts.
Barrio Viejo is a desirable neighborhood that is now being revitalized. And it's bringing up the topic of gentrification once more. It's so attractive that Oscar winner Diane Keaton paid $1.5 million for a four-bedroom adobe home in the area from the 1880s. She allegedly intends to renovate the home and resell it for a gain.
The neighborhood, like Tucson itself, is at the center of the immigration debates that have engulfed the nation in the Trump period.
Tucson would vote on a contentious sanctuary city referendum on the November ballot. Supporters of the initiative claim that it would codify current rules that govern when Tucson police should inquire about an individual's immigration status.
The old neighborhood, Barrio Viejo, is mostly made up of 19th century homes and businesses in Tucson. Most of the old neighborhood was bulldozed in the 1960s and 1970s to make room for urban redevelopment, including the Tucson Convention Center. Many Tucsonans today would gladly bulldoze the Convention Center if it meant restoring the city's forgotten heritage.
This was home to a racially diverse population of working-class people from America, Europe, Africa, and Asia in the 1880s and 1890s. The Southern Pacific Railroad employed a large number of people. Tucson was transformed from a hopelessly poor, dusty little Mexican town in the middle of nowhere to a rising Southwestern community of seemingly unlimited potential when the SP arrived in 1880.
Just south of the Convention Center is Barrio Viejo. Take your camera if you go (which you should). The photos you may see online are just a limited sample of the historic architecture designs that have been restored by private individuals and families.
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