Blackwell block party celebrates borderlands culture, National Historic Site designation

MARFA — A lively block party centered around regional music, food and education will take place this weekend from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 22, on the grounds of the Blackwell School and Blackwell Park, 501 South Abbott Street. 

The community festival is free, family-friendly and open to all. “It’s just going to be a really momentous occasion for everyone,” said Daniel Hernandez, board member of the Blackwell School Alliance, and Blackwell descendant. “We want Marfa and all of our surrounding communities to come out and celebrate this really special time with us.” 

The Blackwell School, which served as a segregated school for Mexican American students from 1909 to 1965, was officially designated as a National Historic Site when President Joe Biden signed the Blackwell School National Historic Site Act into law this past fall — signaling a new chapter for the site after decades of advocacy and prompting the block party celebration. 

“I think the Blackwell block party for us is partly the homecoming, for folks that have been involved in these efforts for a long time, whether near or far, giving them an opportunity to come together in community to celebrate this really big milestone,” said Hernandez. “I think it’s also another step in catalyzing what is going to be next for the Blackwell School Alliance.” 

The alliance — which originally formed around 16 years ago and remains the school’s primary caretaker — is strategizing next steps as the site transitions from operating as a locally-run museum to a federal-run historic site. The transfer of the property, which is owned by Marfa Independent School District, to the National Park Service, is still ongoing, said Hernandez, but they were hopeful some National Park representatives would be present for the block party and will continue to have a positive presence in the community. 

“We’re really excited for them to start making a presence in the community and for folks to be familiar with the brown hat and the brown uniforms and seeing those folks in town more often,” said Hernandez. 

Borderland music by Mariachi Santa Cruz will kick off the event at 11 a.m., followed by lunch at 11:30 a.m. — tacos with a toppings bar, agua frescas and more. Marfa ISD’s Ballet Folklorico will perform at 12:30 p.m. along with a speaking program featuring special guests. Music, museum talks and loteria will round out the afternoon from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Children’s activities will take place throughout the event from noon to 4 p.m. in the park. 

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