January 16, 2020 Show
Annie’s Drive In/Abe and Annie Garcia: 304 East 9th
One of the earliest popular restaurants to serve Mexican food in Amarillo, Annie’s was known throughout the neighborhood for its gorditas. Abe and Annie Garcia opened the business in 1975 across from the Tri-State Fairgrounds. The Garcias originally met in the 1940s near Bovina, Texas, where they both worked in the cotton fields. They moved to Amarillo a few years later. The couple had nine children, and their drive-in employed a number of family members, including their granddaughter Mercy Murguia, a current Potter County Commissioner. Both were very involved with Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church and were well-known for their willingness to help the community—especially those in need. Abe died in 1997 and Annie passed away four years later. Both were honored with standing-room only funerals. Today the original location for Annie’s Drive-In is a car lot.
Cuellar Grocery and Tortilla Factory, Maria Magdalena Martinez, 1401 S. Arthur
Located just a few blocks from downtown Amarillo, La Frontera Mexican Food Restaurant has been a popular destination for office workers and Barrio residents since opening in 1985. But this building’s history extends far beyond La Frontera. In 1934, Juan and Teresa Cuellar opened Cuellar Grocery Store at this location to serve the surrounding community. Less than two decades later, the store was rebranded as Cuellar Grocery & Tortilla Company, making it the first corn tortilla business in the city. The Cuellars operated the business until retiring in the early 1970s. Greg and Mary Socorro Martinez purchased the building in the 1980s to open their restaurant. One of La Frontera’s interior walls—original to the grocery—reminds diners of this history.
East Park, 700 S. Ross
One of the oldest parks in the city, East Park was established in 1922 and serves as one of three neighborhood parks in the historic Barrio. It features five picnic areas, an athletic court with a tennis net and basketball goals, plus a wading pool. None of the buildings or equipment survive from the park’s early days, but its tree-lined sidewalks and green space have made it an important gathering place for this residentially dense neighborhood. Multiple generations of Barrio residents grew up playing in East Park.
El Alamo Park, 1621 S. Houston
The largest park in the Barrio neighborhood, El Alamo was established by the city in 1945. At the time, the new park’s name was decided by a city-wide contest. The winning name came from David Coronado, a resident of the neighborhood, who won a $25.00 bond. Since then, it has become a central destination for local residents thanks to its size and location adjacent to Interstate 40. El Alamo hosts an annual Cinco de Mayo event each year and other large community festivals, thanks to its gazebo, large play structure, splash pad, athletic court and other shaded areas.
Famous Heights Park
Tee Anchor Lake has long been a prominent water source in this area. In fact, in 1982, a skeleton was discovered in this natural storm drainage playa. It was carbon-dated to more than 2,600 years old. That historic discovery put plans for a municipal park on hold, but early in Amarillo’s history, the lake was part of Famous Heights Park, a popular destination before 1920. Inside a large gate, Famous Heights Park included a horse-racing track and a boat rental station on the lake shore. Officially, the city still refers to the section of the Barrio neighborhood around Tee Anchor Boulevard as the Famous Heights Addition.
El Ballet Folklórico/Glenwood Dancers
This long-standing local dance group was created by Isaac Rodarte in 1985, with the goal of offering wholesome activities for neighborhood children and teaching them about Mexican heritage and culture. Rodarte’s group first practiced outdoors at El Alamo Park and went on to become colorful, positive advocates for the Barrio community. They performed in the “Texas” outdoor musical in Palo Duro Canyon and at events includings Las Fiestas de Amarillo and the Tri-State Fair Parade. Many community leaders participated in El Ballet Folklórico as young people, including current Potter County Commissioner Mercy Murguia. Though El Ballet Folklórico ended in 2010, its tradition continues with the Glenwood Dancers. Based at Glenwood Elementary School, this dance troupe also performs locally using traditional costumes and dances.
Glenwood Electric Park
For nine years, Glenwood Electric Park was this young city’s most prominent amusement center. It opened in 1908 on the eastern edge of the city near Llano Cemetery. At the time, hardly any Amarillo homes had electricity, making this destination—where the entire grounds were lit by overhead spotlights—a major nighttime draw for local residents. It featured a large carousel and roller coaster. Racetracks hosted dog, horse and automobile racing. A baseball diamond, wooden two-story opera house and small zoo offered further diversions, attracting visitors from throughout the Texas Panhandle. Glenwood also served as the site for the Panhandle State Fair, organized in 1913. Due to its popularity, the Amarillo Street Car Company’s tracks eventually were built all the way to the park’s west entrance. When the city’s streetcar line closed in 1917, it left the park geographically isolated—too far from the city center for residents to access. It closed soon after. Today, Glenwood Apartments are located where the Electric Park once entertained residents.
Globe Foundry (Mayes Welding), 100 S. Ross
Now the home of Mayes Welding, this auspicious building is located next to the overpass where Ross passes over the railroad tracks. Originally it was known as Globe Foundry, the second facility belonging to an Amarillo business called Star Foundry and Machine. The Star Foundry was owned by Lowell “Dutch” Stapf and originally located at 13th & Lincoln. Stapf first came through Amarillo in 1926 with a traveling circus—he was a part owner—and loved the city so much he sold his ownership stake and stayed. He used those proceeds to buy an existing foundry, adding a machine shop and changing the name. Throughout the Depression, Stapf acquired multiple government manufacturing contracts through the Works Progress Administration and grew his business into a sizeable enterprise. The Foundry became a major manufacturing center with customers across the United States and around the world. It was known for employing many within the Barrio neighborhood.
Llano Cemetery, 2900 S. Hayes
In 1888, when Amarillo was in its infancy, a young family was traveling west through the area when 24 year-old Lillian Morrow died. The family buried Lillian on a 20-acre plot of land south of the city, owned by the Clisbee family. That was Amarillo’s earliest known burial. Three years later, Potter County purchased those 20 acres and renamed the site Amarillo Cemetery. Slowly, Amarillo expanded toward this rural graveyard, and as the city grew, the original acreage became full. In 1921, the Texas Legislature approved the charter for Llano Cemetery and the expanded space served as the southern boundary for the Barrio neighborhood. Today it memorializes many legendary residents, from the city’s early leaders to space shuttle commander Rick Husband. Notably, Llano was a diverse cemetery but was initially segregated, with separate areas for white residents, black residents and residents of Mexican descent. For years, it was one of the only Texas cemeteries that accepted the Romani ethnic group (“gypsies”) for burial, and Romani families from as far as Dallas would travel here to bury and remember their dead. Llano’s administration building was built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration, using bricks from the original Potter County Courthouse. In 1987, Llano became the first designated Texas Historic Cemetery. Five years later, in 1992, the U.S. Department of the Interior listed it in the National Register of Historic Places.
IMPORTANT: Artist and photographers should check in at the Llano office when they arrive. Mark Blankenship will direct you to locations that you will find compelling. Please remember that the loved ones of many families are at Llano and respect the families and the cemetery. Also, if you are creating on-site, bring a drop cloth or other materials to protect the grounds while you work. Leave no trace!
Joel Maldonado, radio DJ
Established in 1955, KZIP was the first full-time Spanish radio station in Amarillo. Five years after its launch, Joel Trevino Maldonado moved with his family to Amarillo, at which time they became residents of the Barrio neighborhood. Joel attended Bowie and Caprock but never graduated. After working in road construction and at Tradewinds Airport, he had an opportunity to help KZIP with a prerecorded Sunday morning Spanish-speaking radio show. Eventually, the program extended to a live, six-hour program from 6am until noon every Sunday. By 1981, Joel had become a full-time DJ as well as a salesman and general manager for KZIP. Under his leadership, the station transformed into one of the Hispanic community’s primary local news and information sources.
Born in Mexico in 1880, Mateo first found work as a horse trainer and even trained one of the famous white stallions preferred by the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. (Villa is shown atop one of these horses in his most famous photo.) Lopez fought with the Zapatistos in Mexico and was a railroad worker. Eventually, Lopez came to Amarillo when the Santa Fe Railroad began bringing Mexican citizens to the U.S. to serve in its workforce. Lopez began work for the Santa Fe Railroad around 1921. At first he lived in the railroad’s barracks until saving enough money to buy his first home at 1414 S. Cleveland. This made Lopez one of the earliest residents of the Barrio. As he and his wife raised nine children in the neighborhood, they had an enormous impact on the city’s Mexican-American community. Lopez was one of the original trustees who purchased the historic Alamo Salon building in 1929, and eventually served as an officer of Amarillo’s Mexican Cultural Committee. The building is now the Alamo Community Center (1502 S. Cleveland).
Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 1210 SE 11th
Amarillo grew quickly in its first two decades, and by 1916 a significant number of Catholic residents had settled in the area. The arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad brought many workers of Mexican heritage, and it was soon decided that Amarillo needed a Catholic church. Every payday, two women—Doña Maria Vasquez and Susan Morris—visited the railroad camps to collect money for land and a church building. Thanks to their efforts, Amarillo’s first Catholic church was established at 9th and Taylor in 1916, then moved to 11th and Arthur in 1918. From the beginning, it served the Spanish-speaking Catholic citizens of Amarillo. The church moved once more, to its current location, in 1927. At the time, white citizens and non-Catholics opposed the relocation, but Rudolf A. Gerken, Bishop of the Amarillo Diocese, had grown passionate about serving the Barrio and developing a parochial school alongside the church. Our Lady of Guadalupe still stands at this location today. In 2018, it celebrated its 100th birthday.
Pete’s Paving/Pete Mendez
A prominent Hispanic leader, Pedro “Pete” Mendez attended Johnson School and Dwight Morrow School in Amarillo before dropping out to enter the workforce. He worked in agriculture before enlisting in the Marine Corps and serving in World War II. After the war, Pete returned to Amarillo and married Jesusita Flores. Together they had five children. Pete was hired by Gilvin & Terrill Construction, a road paving business, and became the first Hispanic to serve as a supervisor with that company. He left in 1961 to start his own business—Pete’s Paving, Inc.—relying on the Small Business Administration and its 8A program to pursue government contracts. As his business grew, Pete worked hard to reinvest in his community, serving at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, The Wesley Community Center and a variety of other organizations. He was a founding member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the first president of Los Barrios de Amarillo and the first chairman of Las Fiestas de Amarillo. Though Mendez passed away in 2018, Pete’s Paving continues to thrive under the management of Pete Mendez, Jr.
Tony Renteria, La Voz Del Barrio
Created in 1977, La Voz del Barrio (“The Voice of the Neighborhood”) was the first bilingual newspaper targeted at Amarillo’s Hispanic community. This monthly publication allowed Barrios residents to communicate with each other about neighborhood celebrations, upcoming events and meetings, team sports and even offered classified advertising space. La Voz del Barrio was distributed at the Alamo Center and Wesley Community Center, as well as other businesses serving the Hispanic community. One editor long associated with the publication was Tony Renteria, an Amarillo native and former president of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Renteria was a first-generation American and the son of two orphans from the Mexican Revolution. In addition to La Voz del Barrio, Renteria worked to bring mental health services into the Hispanic community. In 2004, the Hispanic Chamber gave Tony its Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sanborn Elementary School, 700 S Roberts
Amarillo’s East Ward School was built in 1922, making it one of the oldest school buildings still in use in the city. Due to a tiled roof and Spanish Colonial architecture and ornamentation, the building remains one of the most visually distinctive schools in the Amarillo Independent School District. East Ward was renamed Sanborn Elementary in 1928 after Henry B. Sanborn, who established the Frying Pan Ranch in the Texas Panhandle to demonstrate the value of barbed wire in a partnership with inventor Joseph Glidden. When the Fort Worth and Denver City Railway built through the Texas Panhandle, Sanborn helped establish a townsite on the ranch’s eastern boundary. That site eventually became Amarillo, the county seat of Potter County. Sanborn Elementary is located in the middle of the Barrio neighborhood just blocks from the railroad, and has been a community center ever since. It has educated generations of local students.
Scivally’s. Bob Copheranham
In the 1950s, almost all grocery stores were small, neighborhood stores. One of these was Scivally’s at 1533 10th, which served the people of the Barrio community. By 1978, Bob Copheranham—who owned a snack food business in Tulia—had decided to move to Amarillo for more opportunity. Upon arriving, Bob spotted Scivally’s, and asked Mr. Scivally if he was interested in selling. Within a few weeks, the Copheranham family had secured a loan, purchased the grocery store and had changed the name to Bob’s Thrifty Foods. Bob’s son, Ken, began working there as a sacker at 12 years old. In 1983, Bob purchased the Taylor & Sons at 10th and Arthur and changed its name to Bob’s Supermarket. Ken and Kaki Copheranham purchased the original store from Bob and renamed it Ken’s Venture Foods. Bob retired in 1989 and Ken bought both stores. In 1999, the Copheranhams closed the original grocery and converted the 10th and Arthur location to Fiesta Foods—a Hispanic-themed concept designed to meet the needs of the surrounding community. Wildly successful, the company now includes stores in Pampa and Midland. Ken’s son, Jarrett, is part owner of this thriving, multi-generational business that has called the Barrio home for four decades.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Betty moved to Amarillo as a 15 year-old in 1954. She had been attending a British school in Argentina, so she was already fluent in both Spanish and English when she arrived. Betty graduated from Amarillo High School, then attended Amarillo College and West Texas State University, where she graduated with a teaching degree. For 15 years she taught at Dwight Morrow Elementary School—which primarily served Mexican-American students—then moved to Glenwood Elementary School. When the Texas governor signed into law the Bilingual Education and Training Act in 1973, Betty became the first bilingual teacher within the Amarillo Independent School District. In 1978, she was named Glenwood’s principal. She retired from teaching in 2001 after 41 years working in AISD. Betty was instrumental in helping Eveline Rivers establish the Eveline Rivers Christmas Project and continues to serve on its board. In 2002 she was named the Amarillo Globe-News Woman of the Year.
Santa Fe Depot
Built in 1910 for $120,000, the Santa Fe Depot was the first part of Amarillo most visitors saw upon arrival in the city. Many of these visitors during the first part of the 20th century were immigrants from Mexico. During this period, the railroad industry began to look to Mexico for construction and maintenance of rail lines—especially after the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Rail construction had been ongoing in Mexico for decades, and the construction of the Mexican National and Mexican Central Railroads predated much of the railroad construction in the western United States. In El Paso/Ciudad Juárez, the Mexican Central Railroad linked with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
and became a virtual extension of that transportation link. Because of this, during the first decades of Amarillo’s history, Mexican immigrants provided much of the labor in the process of laying railroad tracks for the Santa Fe. These Mexican and Mexican-American railroad track workers were known as traqueros and were essential to building the railroads of the Texas Panhandle and the western United States.
Tenth Avenue Methodist Church (Now – Power Church), 1016 S. Roberts
Now the home of Power Church, a growing multilingual church within the Barrio, this building once served the community as Tenth Avenue Methodist Church. A historically significant property, the gothic revival-style building features a dramatic cross-gabled roof and an enormous stained glass window facing the street. It was built in 1928 with an addition in 1955. The stunning window was donated by Polk Street Methodist Church—one of the oldest churches in Amarillo—because Polk Street had been in the process of constructing a new building and demolishing its old one when Tenth Avenue was being built. Today, Power Church is led by Pastor Manny de los Santos. The church began in 2016 and, through its organization the Amarillo Barrio Community Development, established a popular annual community gathering called the Barrio Bash.
Wesley Community Center (original house)
Located in the heart of the Barrio, this long-standing community center was established as a nonprofit in 1951 when a group of volunteer women from Polk Street United Methodist Church began providing services to the underserved neighborhood surrounding it. An Episcopalian couple, Mr. and Mrs. W.I. Clifford, donated a large home and additional land across from Alamo Park, stipulating that it be used for “serving the people of Southeast Amarillo.” At this location, the women led sewing classes, taught English as a Second Language, and provided youth activities and day care services. The Wesley has played a central role in the Barrio neighborhood ever since, serving multiple generations of residents with childcare, summer camps, afterschool programs, senior citizens activities, youth mentoring, a wrestling club, counseling services and much more.