Up: Contents Previous: 2. TUCSON'S BARRIO LIBRE Next: 4. ECONOMICS

[page 47]

La Concha

3.1. The People, Their Attitudes

[page 48]

The first Europeans to come to what is now the southwestern United States were Spanish-speaking. These people came by way of Mexico before the Northern Europeans landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. In time, they concentrated around the presidio of Tucson (founded 1773) for protection against the Apaches.

The Anglos from the eastern United States also settled around Tucson for protection but tended to dislike the Mexican-Americans. The Mexican-Americans were usually part Indian and part Spanish, spoke a different language and had different customs. Furthermore, the majority of them were Catholic, whereas the Anglos were usually Protestant, and the traditional hostility between the two forms of Christianity developed. As a result, the two groups found it convenient to live apart--the Anglos within the presidio walls, and the Mexican-Americans in their "barrios."

As Tucson was then an agrarian community, land was the major source of all wealth; landlords being both Mexican-American and Anglo. The Spanish-speaking Mexican-Americans lost land because they were subjected to tax laws they did not understand. Thus they became tenants, and the majority became the minority.

"In short, the collapse of the social structure was due to lack of adequate planning and control of forces of exploitation when two cultures and two economies met at this frontier."


The language barrier has led to an inferiority complex which, in turn, has led to a search of identity. The Mexican-American is basically proud of his Mexican heritage when he understands it. There is a deep feeling of dignity and self-respect in those who have not been lost between the two worlds. Unfortunately, many younger Mexican-Americans educated in Anglo oriented schools have not been able to relate in a positive manner to either culture. In general, their parents have not been able to effectively communicate to them their linguistic culture and heritage. They live isolated in their barrios. Their dilemma is illustrated by the opening paragraph of an English

[page 49]

paper entitled, "Me", written by a thirteen year old Mexican-American girl education in an Anglo-oriented school in Tucson:

"To begin with, I am a Mexican. That sentence has a sense of bitterness as it is written. I feel that if it weren't for my nationality I would accomplish more. My being a Mexican has brought about my lack of initiative. No matter what I attempt to do, my dark skin always makes me feel that I will fail..."

It is difficult to improve one's self without initiative. As a result, the average number of school years completed (eight in a 1966 survey) among Mexican-Americans is lower than that of any other minority group.


The search for identity has brought the Mexican-American to find even more security in the social aspect of the "Familia" or Family. Family ties are very strong, and the family is the basic identifying unit. Even if the family is not together, there is a great sense of mutual respect. (The concept of "doing things together" varies from family to family. There is a great deal of respect for elders. One woman interviewed (about thirty-five years old) still lives in her mother's house. As she tells it, children, especially girls, stay with their parents until they get married. The children take care of their parents as both grow older.

"Familia" extends to include all blood relatives and doesn't stop at the Anglo "Mother, Father, Dick, Jane, and Spot" concept. They love to be near and with relatives. There is a sense of male dominance, but it is not as strong as in the past. Girls usually spend most of their free time at home, whereas boys are usually more free to roam where they please.

"A man's home is his castle," recalls a need to have one's own home, usually a detached house. For the Mexican-American this sense of ownership seems to stem from the loss of land experienced by their ancestors. There is a fear of being "pigeon-holed" into a housing project such as "La Reforma." Emphasis is placed on developing strong interpersonal relationships rather than on acquiring material wealth.


Today, a strong sense of community spirit is evident only in El Hoyo, south of Simpson Street. Not much visiting is done in private homes; it seems that people just don't "drop in." Instead, there is more of a desire for communal facilities. In the Barrio, this desire is fulfilled primarily by Carrillo School and also by Armory Park and the Wishing Shrine.

[page 50]

1. Central Business District 2. Tucson Community Center 3. Barrio 4. El Hoyo 5. Public Housing 6. Armory Park Area

Fig. 3.1 - Map of districts adjacent to Barrio.

[page 51]

Mexican-Americans in the Barrio area react as a unified community in their feeling about the rest of Tucson. They feel forgotten by city government. Unifying factors include topographical location of El Hoyo, language, limited income, and the concept of being "all in the same boat."


The Mexican-American sub-culture in Tucson is indeed different from the Anglo sub-culture. The people, especially the children, feel isolated, even if they live with thirteen other people in a three-room apartment. At present, there is a gap between the Mexican-American culture and the Anglo culture; the "forgotten people" are still forgotten. A symbiosis of the sub-cultures, however, can enhance the culture of the people as a whole.


  1. Burma, John H., Mexican-Americans in the United States, Schenkman Publishing Co., Cambridge, Mass., 1970.
  2. Galarza, Ernesto, Barrio Boy, University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, Ind., 1971.
  3. Sanchez, George I., Forgotten People, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, N.M., 1940.
  4. Interviews with 30 to 40 people in the Barrio area, some private, some in groups.

[page 52]


The following pages summarize information gathered mostly through interviews with the people living in the "Barrio" and in "El Hoyo," both of which form the Barrio Area (Fig. 3.1), and from data collected by people who have previously studied these areas or are directly affiliated with them. Emphasis was placed on interviews with Barrio residents, conducted both in individual homes and group interview sessions. Great care was taken to first interview people at random and then those in apparently different life-styles so as to obtain an adequate cross section section of the population in the Barrio area. Differences in attitudes between residents of any one area (i.e., between Blacks and Mexican-Americans in the Barrio) are also stated and classified.

Percentages in this report were obtained from interview sources outside of this study, and they relate to the entire study area rather than to the individuals interviewed. For clarification purposes, this portion of the report is presented in the form of brief summaries and is organized in the following format:


Length in residence is directly proportional to ownership. In general, those who own the property they inhabit have lived there longer than those who rent.

Location is a factor in the intensity of occupant ownership and, consequently, in length in residence. The majority of the people in El Hoyo own their homes, and their neighborhood has a more permanent character. The majority of the people in the Barrio rent their dwellings, with rents averaging $30 a month; this area is much more transient than El Hoyo, and there is an increased infiltration of Blacks (15% of the people living there).


Households range in size from one to 14 people.

The average number of rooms occupied as rental units is 3.5. The number occupied as owned units is 4.6. However, the density per unit is greater in the Barrio than in El Hoyo, with 43% more people per room in the Barrio.

[page 53]

There are three traditional types of residence structures prevalant in the Barrio (Figs. 2.14 to 2.21 and 2.24). Of these, the relatively narrow row house apartment consisting of three rooms, from street back to the patio, is most common. That life-styles are shaped by architecture is known; but people can also shape the architecture to meet the life-styles. As most homes in the Barrio antedate 1900, many modern conveniences are lacking, such as toilets and kitchens which often have been added to what was at one time an open back porch. According to the 1970 census report, a full 36% of the residences were found to be lacking all or part of basic plumbing facilities.


In 81% of the households the head of the family is employed. The majority of the male jobs consist of some type of labor, i.e., construction work, gardening, operatives, semi-skilled work, and other jobs which occur outside the district. The majority of women work only if there is no husband in the home. Even if there is not, many women do not work.

Many unemployed men in the Barrio occupy themselves by wathcing people on the street or talking in small groups. Some play pool, others watch television. Alcohol is apparently consumed by a large percentage of this group.

Many unemployed women do light housework or 'just sit.' Occasionally a good friend will visit, but as a rule visiting is not done from house to house. Women seldom, if ever, gather to talk in the street or anywhere in public as do the men.

Home life-styles have noted recurrences. Every room of every Mexican-American house has at least one crucifix. The sense of family is very strong; many pictures of relatives decorate every home. The people are friendly, humble and unpretentious. If a person has not been lost between the two cultures, he characteristically retains a great deal of dignity. The homes are well ordered and clean.

People living in the area do not prefer to leave the area as a daily activity and seldom do so unless forced by job location, etc. Many residents have only once a week to go shopping, usually in downtown Tucson.

Lack of transportation hinders many Anglo-type activities. The majority of families have no personal means of transportation. No families were discovered to have more than one vehicle. Those people who do have a means of transportation usually have either a pick-up or an old car.


The majority of people living south of Simpson in El Hoyo seem to know and be friendly with everyone in that area. A strong sense of neighborhood exists only in that area. Most of the people in El Hoyo also have relatives in the immediate area, and they are described as 'close.' In all other areas of the Barrio, the people know only the neighbors next door and across the street. They are friendly with only a handful of people scattered through the Barrio, the Armory Park area and La Reforma.

[page 54]

Fig. 3.2 - Barrio interior.

[page 55]

There are two distinct culture groups in the total Barrio area. Blacks and Mexican-Americans seldom associate to any great degree with one another. Residents of El Hoyo do not generally associate with residents of the Barrio


In most cases, people are not aware of the architectural character of their area. People are also not familiar with Anglo-style tract housing elsewhere in Tucson. Their present house, or one similar to it in Mexico, is all they have known.


Although some people admittedly 'don't care,' the large majority do not want to move because they know they cannot rent another place for the same price, nor buy another home at the price offered them for their property by the city. Of those that feel they might have to move, 69% stressed the importance of 'better' housing, although 45% would be satisfied with 'similar' housing. Although 81% of the residents in the proposed freeway corridor claim they do not plan to move in the near future, 72% stressed the importance of financial assistance in any relocation efforts. Thirteen percent said they definitely will not move. The only people interviewed who would like to move were those who considered the area the 'bottom of the world...slum of all slums.' The attitude toward moving to La Reforma or another housing project varied according to the location of the interviewee. Assuming that rents would remain the same, the majority of people in the Barrio would not mind moving to La Reforma. People of this opinion were generally young couples, Blacks, and/or people who have lived in the Barrio for just a short time. Many of the young couples who rent would actually prefer to live in La Reforma. Residents of El Hoyo detest the idea of moving to La Reforma, and many would refuse to do so. They are afraid of the racial problems of any kind in either the Barrio area or La Reforma. However, Mexican-Americans feel that the Blacks cause all the social problems in the Barrio.)

In many cases there is a strong feeling about owning a detached house, especially among the Mexican-Americans. This appears to be more of a psychological need rather than a physical need. People do not like being 'pigeon-holed.'


People in the Barrio are basically apathetic. They have not asked the city for anything, and, therefore, have had no problems with the city. Many residents of the Barrio, particularly those most poverty stricken and those who cannot speak English, do not know of the various services available to them, such as the Legal Aid Society, food stamps, Aid to Dependent children, etc. Many of those who do know about them consider

[page 56]

Fig. 3.3 - Barrio scene.

[page 57]

them 'too much of a hassle' to get. The majority of the people in the Barrio are on some limited benefit type of welfare.

The people interviewed in El Hoyo feel they are forgotten by the city and feel they should receive more help with such programs as Model Cities rather than being denied the benefits of these programs. They seem to be generally disgruntled with city government.


The majority of the people like the Community Center and are glad it is located where it is because it gives the Barrio area an added 'richness' it did not have before. Most feel the buildings are 'pretty'. However, they think it is a shame that the city 'tore down all those old homes and threw the people out.' Emphasis was placed on, threw the people out. Some people look to the Community Center as a means to a job. Most of them do not intend to use the Center because they feel the functions are too expensive, and they would feel out of place. Because they have always gathered for meetings in Carrillo School, they would rather continue to do so than use the Center's facilities. In general, the people are seated in tradition and do not like change.


The majority of people do not want to see the Butterfield Route pass through the area because they do not want to be forced out of their homes. The residents of El Hoyo are vehemently opposed to the freeway because they don't want to see their neighborhood atmosphere destroyed. Attendance at local citizen action meetings is largely composed of residents from this area. The minority in favor of the Butterfield consists of property owners (particularly absentee landlords) and street people. The property owners who want the freeway do so because they anticipate an immediate increase in property values. The street people are in favor of anything that would allow them to get out of the area. Many people of the Barrio, paticularly the poorest and those who cannot speak English, are not aware of the plans for the Butterfield. Seventythree percent know 'nothing' or 'very little.'


All people in El Hoyo consider this to be an ideal proposal because it would keep the Butterfield out of their area, and, hence, they feel their area could remain relatively unchanged or indirectly improved by having the 'slum next door' rehabilitated.

The majority of the Barrio residents would be in favor of historic preservation only if they can stay in their homes and get outside money to improve them. If preservation would force them to leave the area, they would consider historic preservation only as the lesser of two evils and would not be in favor of it.

Landlords, in general, seem to be in favor of whatever increases the value of their properties the most with the least amount of personal effort. This latter condition causes most landowners to be in favor of the freeway rather than historic preservation.

There has been some recent activity toward preservation with individuals coming from outside the area to purchase and rehabilitate buildings.

[page 58]


Mexican-Americans are a very introverted people, the 'family,' including all relatives, being the basic identifying unit. Emphasis is placed on developing strong interpersonal relationships rather than on acquiring wealth. This is why a sense of 'neighborhood' unified El Hoyo.

Barrio Historico is not unified this way, as it is much more transient and is being infiltrated with Blacks as Mexican-Americans move out. Indeed, there are two different peoples in the Barrio area with two different sets of values. The Majority of Barrio Historico's population rents, whereas the majority of El Hoyo's population owns. It is, therefore, not unnatural to find better care taken of the owned units of El Hoyo than the rented units of Barrio Historico. One by one the buildings of Barrio Historico are condemned, and too often the people are condemned as well--condemned to a life of even deeper poverty.

Poverty is prevalent in Barrio Historico, and with it there is melancholy and gloom as a result of overcrowded living conditions. In contrast, however, there is still a sense of pride and of dignity.

Jay White

George Sandoval

3.2. Image Study

Map of the Barrio showing Convent Street, Main Street and Stone Avenue.

Map of the Barrio showing Convent Street, Main Street and Stone Avenue.

[page 60]

This chapter attempts to demonstrate the relative importance of various features in a subject area bounded by Stone Avenue, I-10, 14th and 18th Streets, based on the approachof Kevin Lynch as outlined in his book, Image of the City. Individuals and groups were approached in the area and asked to draw a map of "their neighborhood." The major features mentioned were then organized into five categories used by Lynch to analyze urban areas: paths, nodes, edges, districts and landmarks. Paths are channels along which people customarily, occasionally, or potentially move; for example, streets or sidewalks. Nodes are important points in the city that people can travel to, through, or from; such as street intersections or distinct areas of activity. Edges are linear elements not considered to be paths, such as walls, ditches, or elevated highway rights-of-way. Districts are subareas of the city, each having a common characteristic. For example, the business district in downtown Tucson may be distinguished from the residential districts by the activities that go on in it. Landmarks are distinctive reference points, possible a building, sign, store, or mountain.

It was hoped that reassembling the features mentioned by the residents would help to identify the area's most meaningful features; i.e., those that were the most demanding of attention in any future projections for the area. The method and its accuracy depend on two assumptions. First, that people can communicate what they recognize in their everyday experience; and, second, that a truly representative sample of the population in the area is taken. Our sample was taken from two distinct sources: 63 sixth graders living in the subject area in one case, and ten adults residing in the area who were members of a community action group fighting the intrusion of a federal highway in the other. The adult group of ten was combined with a sampling of ten more adults selected at random from all parts of the area.

Admittedly, the short time available biased the study in favor of tradition/preservation conscious homeowners residing in the El Hoyo area between Main Avenue and I-10. We attempted to counter this bias by mapping the two sources--school children and adults, separately (Fig. 3.5 & 3.6). Any future studies of this type should concentrate on obtaining a greater random sampling. One possible method would be to grid off the subject area, pick an equal number of people to be contacted in each

[page 61]

quadrant, and then approach that number of people at random in the field. Despite the shortcomings of the method, some general conclusions were nevertheless reached during the course of the study. The first of these was that the adults seemed to metion more features outside and some distance from the immediate area. The downtown district, San Augustine Cathedral and Carl Hayden Community Hospital received mention on the adult's maps but were not brought up at all in the children's sample. The community Center node was the sole response common to both. This reinforces a general tendency for both groups to consider only the immediate area around their homes as their "neighborhood." Only a small proportion of the adults considered activities outside their immediate environment important enough to be included along with features more readily experienced.

Another general conclusion is that the adults seemed to be much more aware of the street patterns and street names than the children. This seemingly contradicts a bit of architectural folklore, i.e., that children know much more about their immediate environment than their elders. Adults often mentioned minor streets, especially in the El Hoyo district, to the extent of even indicating the alley running between Elias and Otero Streets. Both samples, however, rendered the block pattern of the Barrio Historico more or less accurately.

As expected, the most heavily built up street, Convent, received significant mention in both samples. Main and Simpson show heavy dominance in the adult map and are, in fact, two of the most heavily trafficked streets in the area. It should be noted, however, that 18th Street another heavily used artery was mentioned only in the children's sample. We do not consider the high frequency of mention of 18th Street or 8th Avenue to be of any real significance in itself because of a suspected numerical bias towards Drachman School, sited on that very corner.

Generally speaking, the schools were viewed as the major landmarks by both groups. The schools were, in turn, followed by the various stores, the La Suprema Tortilla Factory and the El Minuto Restaurant. The medium-sized grocery store on the corner of Meyer and Kennedy Streets was not mentioned in either sample. The only major node mentioned in both surveys was the Carrillo School playground. The drachman School playground turned up, as anticipated, in the children's survey, but the lack of mention of either the school or playground in the adult sample may again be the result of a biased sampling. Edge features mentioned in both samples included the railroad tracks, I-10, and one not expected, a drainage ditch between El Hoyo and the Community Center parking lot. This element might rate some design attention in a future master plan of the area.

Two features mentioned, the San Cosme Chapel and the Elysian Grove Market, both on Simpson Street, were unexpected because both have been abandoned for years. This seems to indicate a possible natural focus for the community and could suggest a direction for land use planning, i.e., a strong east-west axis along Simpson Street.

[page 62]

Mention of the wishing shrine, "El Tiradito," was, in our estimation, confined to the El Hoyo sample, again probably because of a bais in that subarea towards tradition/preservation types. Possibly, this fact could also reflect the more stable, Mexican tradition oriented nature of El Hyo, in contrast to the transient population of various ethnic extractions in the Barrio Historico.

Taken in all, the study, because of its obvious limitation, can only suggest directions for future planning. More definitive information could only be obtained through a study involving both more time and more highly sophisticated sampling techniques.

Kenneth Ethridge

Britt Ripley

[page 63]

Child Survey:  Paths, Landmarks, Districts, Edges, Nodes

Fig. 3.5 - Child Survey Image Map.

[page 64]

Adult Survey:  Paths, Landmarks, Districts, Edges, Nodes

Fig. 3.6 - Adult Survey Image Map.

Up: Contents Previous: 2. TUCSON'S BARRIO LIBRE Next: 4. ECONOMICS

© Arizona Board of Regents