David Romo and Antonia Morales: Where Are Duranguito Residents Now?

Antonia Morales

As ‘God Save Texas’ delves into Texan social and political intricacies, explored by State natives, the documentary series’ third and final episode brings the story of Duranguito, a neighborhood sat on the border between sister cities El Paso and Juarez. Accompanying Iliana Sosa, the audience is taken on a journey to understand the historical and contemporary significance of the neighborhood. The woman remains in conversation with a number of people to highlight topics of immigration and border control to instate the importance of preserving the culture that thrives within Duranguito’s boundaries.

In doing so, two individuals, David Romo, a local historian, and Antonia Morales, one of the oldest local residents, share invaluable knowledge about the neighborhood. Their stories particularly remain tied to the context of Duranguito’s resistance against the city’s plans to turn a portion of the neighborhood into a Stadium, sacrificing a chunk of the historic area. Therefore, after hearing their accounts, viewers must be curious to learn Romo and Morales’ current whereabouts.

David Romo Remains Devoted To His Activism

Dr. David Romo, an El Paso resident, is known for his professional accomplishments as a scholar and a historian, sporting an interest in the U.S.— Mexico borderland studies. The man is also an activist who has been fighting in favor of historic barrio communities for a long time. In 2006, he stood as one of the founding members of Paso Del Sur, an activist group that corralled behind the same cause.

David Romo

As a result, once the city of El Paso decided to take the initiative to turn a part of Duranguito, a neighborhood that hosts century-old buildings, into a convention center, Romo became a part of the conversation arguing for the area’s conservation. Citing the neighborhood as a historic spot, Romo, alongside fellow activists, attempted to fight for the area’s protection.

“It’s [Duranguito is] a microcosm of who we are as Fronterizos [border people],” said Romo while standing with Antonia Morales, an older woman whose refusal to give into the city’s lucrative offers stood as a stone in the city’s plans. The fight for Duranguito remained a long and arduous battle, involving years of protests, Texan courthouses, and research into hundreds of historical documents dating back to hundreds of years, to the time of the Apache and the Spaniards.

Romo remained a constant through it all. Eventually, in January of 2023, a change in elected council members led to the city abandoning its plans to raze the Duranguito neighborhood in favor of a stadium. Paso Del Sur continues to advocate for the Duranguito community, promoting a plan to revitalize the area, a process that Romo continues to be a part of.

Outside of his advocacy for Duranguito, Romo continues his activism through other channels, perhaps most notably through his latest book, ‘Borderlands and the Mexican American Story,’ which discusses the history of Mexican Americans and fronterizos. Alternatively, the man is also part of a multilingual spoken word with world jazz fusion band, Los Liminals, who recently toured last year. Viewers interested in Romo’s multiple branches of activism and music can keep up with the latest updates on his life through his various periodically updated social channels, including Instagram.

Antonia Morales Won The Fight For Her Neighborhood

Antonia Morales has an age-old relationship with Duranguito, a neighborhood she once only visited at the behest of her friends back when she used to live in Segundo Barrio. Eventually, in 1965, the woman moved to the neighborhood, settling into an apartment in 1967, and gradually came to be known as the “grandmother of the barrio.” When the city won its federal grant for the beautification of the neighborhood in 1999, Morales was one of the people who led the community’s clean-up campaign.

Therefore, when city officials came looking to buy out residents in order to clear the neighborhood and turn it into a sports stadium, Morales denied their request and became one of the only people, alongside homeowner Romelia Mendoza, standing in opposition to the city plans. While Morales stood her ground, even in the face of threats to cut out electricity and water, she never resented those who gave in to the city’s offer. “When poor people are offered money, of course, they’ll leave,” she said in a conversation with the Los Angeles Times. “I told them to think about it, but I understood.”

For Morales, the fight was about preserving her neighborhood, whose historic buildings told the story of her and her community’s culture. “Now that we created a clean and safe community, they want to tear down our neighborhood?” said Morales. “That’s not right. We did it so that the children of the neighborhood could have better lives. Now, the City is throwing away all of our hard work. They want to destroy our history just so that a few billionaires can get richer at our expense.” Ultimately, Morales, in her 90s, fought against forced displacement for the sake of her community— and won. While the woman has no social media of her own, she can be spotted on a post shared on Romo’s Instagram, commemorating their big win.

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