about the Mexican Revolution on the border served as my guides. But the one historian who is perhaps the most responsible for getting me to write about my own city is Leon Metz. I’ve run into him a few times at historical conferences. The former law enforcement officer turned historian is an amiable man. He looks a little like John Wayne and a little like Jeff Bridges. Everybody likes Leon Metz. He’s almost as popular as the UTEP football coach. His books sell very well too. If you go to the history section at any Barnes & Noble in El Paso you probably won’t find any of the books that served as my guides to the revolution. But you’re likely to find more than a dozen books written by Leon Metz about local gunfighters, sheriffs and Texas RangersJohn Wesley Hardin, Pat Garrett, John Selman and Dallas Stoudenmire. Occasionally Metz writes about the Mexican Revolution too from that Wild, Wild West cowboy perspective of his. Let me give you an example. In Turning Points of El Paso, Texas, he is highly critical of the revolutionary Spanish-language newspapers that flourished in South El Paso around the turn of the century. Metzwho doesn’t read or speak Spanishdenounces many of them as badly written “handbills” full of “emotional, oftentimes hysterical overtones” whose content “sounded impressive only to other socialanarchists.” He expresses displeasure with these publications that “frequently denounced the United States \(which savagely as they did Diaz.” One of those anarchistic newspapers he mentions is Regeneracion, which Metz claims was published out of the Caples Building in El Paso by Ricardo Flores Magon. \(I’m not sure how Magonwho established his headquarters in El Paso in 1906 could have published his newspaper out of the Caples Building. The Caples West historian describes Magon as a friend of “bomb-throwers,” a man with “enough real and imagined grievances to warrant psychotherapy for a dozen unhappy zealots.” Ay, ay, ay! Talk about bomb-throwers. Them’s fightin’ words, as the Hollywood gunslingers used to say. They’re the kind of outrageous distortions that would spur any self-respecting microhistorian worth the name to reach for his laptop and write his own version of the past. Which I did. But I guess I shouldn’t be too irritated by Metz’ take on things. Historians are like the blind men who touched different parts of the elephant and thought it was either a wall, a snake, a tree trunk or a rope, depending on what they touched. We all have our biases and our limited viewpoints. It all depends on where we stand. Microhistorians, I think, are just a little more honest about it. We tend to believe that there is no such thing as a definitive History only a series of microhistories. E1 Paso probably had more Spanish-language newspapers per capita during the turn of the century than any other city in the United States. Between 1890 and 1925, there were more than 40 Spanish-language newspapers published in El Paso. They provided a counternarrative of the border not found in the mainstream press on either side of the line. The periodicals printed not only news and political manifestoes but serial novels, poetry, essays and other literary works. The cultural milieu created by a large inflow of political refugees and exileswhich included some of Mexico’s best journalists and writersset the stage for a renaissance of Spanish-language journalism and literature never before seen in the history of the border. The first novel of the revolution, Los de Abajo, was published in serial form in 1915 in the Spanish-language daily, El Paso del Norte. Mariano Azuela, a former Villista doctor, wrote it while he lived in the Segundo Barrio. Yet politics was indeed most of these publications’ bread and butter. Because they were published on the American side of the border, the Spanish-language press could be aggressively antiDiaz. Many publications were openly revolutionary. Victor L. Ochoa, the first El Pasoan to launch a rebellion against the government of Porfirio Diaz in 1893, was the editor of El Hispano Americano. In 1896, Teresita Urrea was listed as the coeditor with Lauro Aguirre of El Independiente. She had moved to El Paso that year and was already called the “Mexican Joan of Arc” because of the various uprisings her name had inspired throughout northern Mexico. In 1907, Aguirre’s press also printed La Voz de la Mujer. It was a fiery, aggressive weekly, which called itself “El Semanario de Combate,” written and edited by women who had no qualms about denouncing their political enemies as “eunuchs” and chist Praxedis Guerrerowho coined the phrase that is often attributed to Emiliano Zapata, “It is better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees,” published Punto Rojo out of El Paso in 1909. Silvestre Terrazas, the black sheep of the Chihuahuan oligarchic family who at one time helped smuggle weapons for Pancho Villa from El Paso, published La Patria between 1919 and 1924. It was one of the more successful Spanish language papers in the border city. Silvestre Terrazas had been sued 150 times, imprisoned 12 and had received a death sentence under the government of Porfirio Diaz for his writings. In Mexico, Diaz imprisoned Ricardo Flores Magni various times as well. Each time Magon and his fellow radicals got out of Mexican prison, they would stubbornly republish their old newspaper under a different name first as El Ahuizote, then El Hijo del Ahuizote El Nieto del Ahuizote El Bisnieto del Ahuizote \(The Ahuizote’s El Tataranieto del Ahuizote \(The Ahuizote’s Great-Great Things were somewhat better for journalists in El Paso. But that’s not to say that the U.S. was a paradise for free speech either, as Leon Metz would have us believe. Spanish-language editors were frequently harassed, censored, and imprisoned by the American authorities for what they wrote. Flores Magon was sued and arrested several times 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 13, 2006
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