Probe: June 18, 2002

June 18, 2002

QUESTION: If they want to name a street after boxing champ Manuel Ortiz, explain what he has done for the community.

Paul Rodriguez is one of the largest contributors to the El Centro Police Athletic League youth center. The center keeps kids involved in sports, off the streets and safe. Mr. Rodriguez actively supports it with his time, talent and money. The children who benefit are not political powerhouses. Neither are their parents, Some come from broken homes and desperately need role models. — Street Namer, El Centro

We hope El Centro will not sell the naming of its streets to the highest bidder. If the city changes Fourth Street to Paul Rodriguez, we hope it's not because Rodriguez donated close to $200,000 in time and money in the seven years he's been supporting the youth center. That sounds so sleazy. There's a better reason.

You can't put a price tag on Ortiz's contribution to Hispanics. In the heart of the Depression, he won the world bantamweight championship, giving Hispanic pride — and hope. He was the first Mexican to hold a world boxing title.


Not knowing what to make of him, big city sports writers called him "the little man with a hoe."

Why would a bigtime comic zero in on El Centro? Because like Ortiz, he used to live here. Born in Mazatlan, Rodriguez's parents moved to Mexicali when he was a toddler. Eventually they made it to the Imperial Valley, where his parents worked in the fields.

When Paul Rodriguez was 12, his family got resident alien cards and moved to Salinas, where Rodriguez' mother still lives. Now there's a connection many Hispanics know well, Imperial Valley and Salinas. In Salinas, if you say "Valley," farm workers know you mean Imperial Valley.

That makes Rodriguez a hometown boy who made good — and that may be good enough to name a street after him. El Centro has lots of streets. There's no need to choose. It could have a Paul Rodriguez Boulevard and a Manuel Ortiz Avenue.

LAG, LAG, LAG — Villa Street, which is north of the railroad tracks, was a county road until it was annexed into the city a few years ago. It was not dedicated by the city but by the county. Even if it were (which it was not) there is still a lack of Hispanic streets in El Centro.

We noticed this after someone mentioned the lack of Hispanic names and we checked the maps. With a population 80 percent Hispanic, and no streets with Hispanic names, we have a need for some new street names.

We checked other Valley cities to see how El Centro stacks up against them. We lag, lag, lag. — Proud and Hopeful Hispanic, El Centro

A QUESADILLA SNACK — I have a friend in the Antelope Valley who would like to know the name of the other former Imperial Valley residents in the Antelope Valley. She's hoping they can get together and share a quesadilla. — Salud, e-mail

Send us your friend's telephone number or e-mail address and maybe the expatriates can get together. In the meantime, we'll pass on your e-mail address. Our Antelope Valley reader has a subscription to this newspaper.

OK, Antelope Valley, if you would like to share a quesadilla with another lonesome exile, e-mail the above reader at who can put you together.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles