Presidio celebrates 340th anniversary with art, food and fun

On Saturday, Generation X from Ojinaga closed out Presidio’s 340th Anniversary street dance celebration. Photo by Hannah Gentiles

PRESIDIO — Last week, Presidio celebrated its 340th anniversary with a spread of activities from Thursday through Saturday nights hosted by both the Convention and Visitors Bureau and locals got to enjoy a wide array of homegrown talent, from poets and painters to musicians and street vendors. 

The festivities kicked off on Thursday night with an art show at the Bean. The event, hosted by the La Junta Arts Council, was billed as a tribute to Laurie Holman and the Ferguson family — though the show also included work by Jorge Avena, Yosdy Valdivia, Andrei Rentería, Alouy Martinez, Anthony Carrasco and Ramon Deanda. 

Holman — a former Presidio ISD art teacher of more than two decades — was initially confused by the term “tribute” to describe the event. “Isn’t that something you do for people who have passed away or retired? I’m still working!” she said. “[The organizers] said, ‘We don’t have to wait to celebrate you.’” 

The festivities focused on her work and the indelible mark she’s left on generations of Presidio artists. She insists that she couldn’t take credit for the boom in young working artists from the area — Presidio and Ojinaga just so happen to be a hub for creatives. “I’ve had so many students go on to be designers, art teachers, artists,” she said. “There’s just an incredible amount of talent.” 

Though Holman isn’t originally from the border, she tells people who ask that she’s from Presidio. The local culture — with its Indigenous, Spanish and Mexican influences — has found its way into her work. “It’s the longest I’ve ever spent in one place in my life,” she says. “Presidio feels more like home than any other place.” 

On Saturday, the Presidio Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted a street fair to cap off the weekend, featuring performances by local favorites, including Chihuahua City’s Generación X. Around 150 people braved the fog and chilly weather to dance in the streets. 

While the celebration ended on a festive note, Arian Velazquez-Ornelas — president of the Convention and Visitors Bureau — hoped that the event would inspire locals to take pride in their own history. 

She explained that the anniversary didn’t mark the first settlements in the Presidio-Ojinaga area, considered one of the oldest continuously-farmed regions in North America. 

Instead, the celebration focused on the year that Juan Sabeata, a Jumano leader, traveled to El Paso to petition the Spanish to establish a mission where the Rio Conchos and Rio Grande met. “He was a messenger — he would travel far and wide to update the different cultures in the region, all the different groups of natives,” she explained. 

Sabeata’s story represents the literal meeting of the local Indigenous and Spanish influences that make Presidio and Ojinaga special. “It’s not really something that Texas teaches — it’s not in our textbooks, it’s not our schools,” Velazquez-Ornelas said. “To understand our culture you need to understand how so many people have had an effect on this region.” 

She hopes that Saturday was just one day of many that Presidians will honor the past. “This community has always had a sense of family,” she said. “We can preserve [our history] and continue to show and educate what it’s all about so that it’s not forgotten.”