Hispanic Heritage Month is one of those months that starts in the middle of one month and heads into the next, from mid-September to mid-October. It begins with Mexican Independence Day, on September 16, in commemoration of the day the people of Mexico began their hard-fought battle against the Spanish monarcy in 1810. The war lasted more than 10 years, finally ending in victory for Mexico in 1821 with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba. Mexico’s history is full of political power struggles that have generated waves of emigrants fleeing to the United States, most often to those areas that were once a part of Mexico’s northern territory, the modern-day states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Texas.
With the arrival of railroads across Texas and into Mexico came easy mobility and the opportunity to travel. Some families took the opportunity to leave Mexico during the Mexican Revolution, a bloody struggle for power across Mexico which began in 1910. The era of Pancho Villa reverberated throughout Mexico and across its northern borders for more than a decade, causing many to leave behind the bloodshed and certain death. Many of those immigrants found their way to Dallas.
As Dallas industry and commerce grew, downtown residential areas became less desirable due to noise and pollution, which was also brought about in part by the proliferation of the automobile. In one particular neighborhood just north of the early downtown area, often referred to as “Little Jerusalem,” Eastern European Jews had settled there in the preceding decades, sufficient enough to establish not one, but two synagogues. When their families began to prosper, they chose to move away from bustle of the inner city to the more peaceful outskirts of South Dallas.
Adding to the undesirability of the neighborhood was its proximity to the railroad tracks, but that made it all the more affordable to a new generation of immigrant, and its growing Hispanic population earned it the name “Little Mexico.” While the people had changed, many of the original homes and buildings remained. What had served as a synagogue for the First Roumanian-Austrian Congregation became the Salon Zaragosa, a neighborhood school. The building still bore the Mogen David – the symbol of the star of David – in the upper windows of its street facade..
A short but more thorough history of Dallas’s Little Mexico is now available in book form, written by Dallas attorney Sol Villasana and published as a part of the Images of America series in 2011.