One of Tucson’s downtown neighborhoods, Barrio Viejo, is slated to receive National Historic Landmark designation by mid-2023.
Barrio Viejo is the largest barrio in the U.S. and exemplifies Tucson’s connectivity to Mexico. Built in the mid-1800s largely by Mexicans, it was considered a poor neighborhood, was undervalued, and fell into disrepair for many decades in the 20th century.
Then, in 1969, half of the neighborhood was bulldozed to make way for the Tucson Convention Center (which many people bemoan to this day). What saved the large, still-existing portion of the neighborhood was a small Catholic shrine called El Tiradito, dedicated to an adulterer who was, according to legend, murdered by his father-in-law.
The neighborhood pushed for National Historic Landmark status for the shrine and succeeded, keeping the remainder of the neighborhood intact.
Within the past few decades, there has been a renewed focus on Barrio Viejo and its historic buildings, including the restoration of Carmen Teatro, a 300-seat theatre, and the adjoining building, the one-time home of the Black Elks Club. The facades of these buildings will be restored, with renewed interiors slated for 2025.