The Centro De Los Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos is an 8,000 sq. ft. facility sited on an odd shaped property near the Border Highway. This project is the only one of its nature along the US-México border. It was built to support and assist the border agricultural workers and their families, as well as the residents of Southside El Paso. This project is also the result of more than 10 years of struggle by the leaders and founders of Sin Fronteras Organizing Project.
A CENTER WITH SPIRIT
The building faces the south to reflect the historic movement of the migrant farm laborers who have come to this country to create its rich agricultural industry. The center itself is divided into two zones. The northern zone which is ordered by a strong circulation spine or gallery, houses administration and social services offices, work rooms, as well as a clinic and waiting areas. The second zone to the east houses two large multi-use areas, a kitchen and dining area, and restroom and shower facilities. One of the multi-use spaces is located on the second level to take advantage of the views of downtown El Paso and the Franklin Mountains to the north, and Ciudad Juárez to the south. This space opens out to a roof top terrace which looks down onto a landscaped plaza.
The exterior images were designed to reflect the cultural heritage of the farm workers while being sensitive to the delicate existing scale of the south side neighborhood. Forms were designed to make the Centro appear like a village that contained different buildings coming together to create a community.
A dominant feature of the composition is an entry structure to the courtyard. The image of this unique structure is both Mayan in character while maintaining the roots of farming and ranching cultures. A second dominant feature of the Centro's composition is a large circular wall which guards the roof. This wall is circular to represent a bridge that has fallen on its side and no longer divides the United States with the nation of México.
The Centro is difficult to define and changes during the day as the sun casts different reflections and shadows. The interest it evokes is a direct reflection of the participation that the leadership of Sin Fronteras communicated to its design. This dedication is documented in two floor murals which can be found in the Centro.
The first is found in the administration gallery in the form of a series of squares. The color combination in each square is distinct and each was selected by individuals to represent their walk through the journey to materialize this project.
The second is located on the first floor level multi-use room.This mural tells the story of a farm worker's day, but contains an overlaying tone of life and hope that farm workers experience as basic human beings. The story begins as a night-time scheme representing how the workers rise at 2 a.m. to wait for the buses that will take them to the fields. The moon and stars gradually turn to daylight showing a mountain range serving as a background for three children dancing around a tree. A blue river runs through the mural originating at the moon in the nighttime scheme and represents a river of dreams. This river passes through the head of one of the children representing the dreams we embrace as children.
The design of the center reflects the spirit of the struggle of the leaders of Sin Fronteras to bring dignity to the farmworker community.
The center provides various types of services to farmworkers and low income residents of the area, such as English classes, arts and recreation for both children and adults. The center includes a modest clinic and a cafeteria. It is open 7 days a week for "safe haven" from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. For the general public, the center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday and Saturdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 12 noon.
The center was built with HUD funds provided by the City of El Paso. The Department of Community Development of the City of El Paso, as well as the Engineering Department, were instrumental in the realization of this important project. The design was created by Guillermo Barajas and Pablo Bustamante. The Texas Society of Architects granted Barajas and Bustamante and Sin Fronteras the 1995 award for Outstanding Architectural Design. The construction of the center was done by Banes General Contractors.
STAFF OF SIN FRONTERAS
Carlos Marentes, Executive Director
Alicia Marentes, Director of Social Services
Elva Villanueva, Social Services
Enrique Ramírez, Maintenance and Janitorial
José Avila, Bookkeeping
Saúl Ramírez, Social Services
Ignacio Ibarra, Social Services,
Eloisa Valdéz, Cafetería
Francisco Cuevas, Helper
Farmworkers and their families, students and friends are part of a group of dedicated volunteers who help us keep the center clean and open every day of the year, and assist the farmworkers and the poor in need.
Our center collaborates with other local, regional and national groups and public institutions. We are members of the Homeless Coalition and other united efforts to address the plight of the poor.
You are cordially invited to visit our center, at any time, to see our work and learn more about our activities, and to participate in this cause to bring dignity to the border agricultural workers.
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