Book chronicles role of Scottsdale Mexican Americans
Associated Press
Jan. 16, 2008

Skimming the pages of black-and-white photos that fill Jose Maria Burruel's inaugural book feels at first like looking through an old family album.

But read deeper and you'll find the many faces - young and old - against the retro Scottsdale sights in Burruel's "Mexicans in Scottsdale" (Arcadia Publishing, 2007) are more than just a collection of memories.

These people, Burruel said, helped make Scottsdale what it is today.
Yet, Burruel said, not many know anything about them.

"The Mexicans who helped Scottsdale and ensured its survival have been totally marginalized by other authors," said Burruel, a retired academic, who in 1990 decided to start documenting the photos and stories of his fellow Mexican Americans so others can learn of their long-standing Scottsdale roots.

"I wanted to validate their contributions to the development and sustainment of Scottsdale," he said.

Burruel, a lifelong Arizonan and longtime Scottsdale resident, was born in the area now known as Scottsdale in 1925.

He was the youngest of three children born to Mexican-born parents Carmen Valenzuela de Burruel and Jose Maria Burruel Sr. Burruel never knew his father. He died in a smelter accident in the then copper mining town of Hayden, Ariz., just before Carmen gave birth.

Burruel describes the early days of Scottsdale in the 1900s as a "Mexican labor camp."

He said the area, known for its fruit and cotton farmland, was mainly populated by Mexican workers migrating from northern Mexico and southern Arizona.

"They were the first people to live in the neighborhood that now makes up the center of Old Scottsdale," said Burruel, in his book, of the quarter-mile strip of land known as the "Eskatel Barrio" that he and other Mexican Americans called home.

Burruel said before Eskatel Barrio area real estate was sold to these new Mexican immigrants, "Mexican farm workers had lived on the farmer's property in makeshift tents."

Burruel said he interviewed a dozen families, documenting their stories and collecting their photos.

His wife, Frances, who collaborated with him on the book's research, said she was inspired by these people, many of whom left Mexico for Arizona during the Mexican Revolution.

"They were pioneers entering into the unknown, strong and determined to make a new life here," Frances said.

The book mentions a number of early Scottsdale Mexican Americans ranging from the Corrals, who opened and still run Los Olivos restaurant, to Don Miguel Ochoa, who had a wash in the Scottsdale Mountain Preserve named after him for being one of the area's pioneers.

Burruel himself became a local success story. After returning from the U.S. Navy as a disabled veteran in the late 1940s, he went on to earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Arizona State University, where he later returned to earn his Ph.D.

South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing contacted Burruel at the suggestion of the Arizona Historical Foundation, to put his research in book form.

Burruel said he thinks the book, distributed throughout Scottsdale's schools, is one of a kind.

He said documenting the immigrants' stories in print and on video was a mission he couldn't give up on.

"Their accomplishments needed to be recorded," he said.

Proceeds from some of the book sales will be donated to the Old Adobe Mission Church in Scottsdale and the Scottsdale Prevention Institute.