AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Mateo Lopez was an orphan born in Zacatecas, Mexico in 1880. During his time in Mexico, he worked as a horse trainer, fought with the Zapatistas and worked as a railroad worker. In the 20th century Lopez like many other Mexican immigrants found work at the Santa Fe Railroad, bringing him to Amarillo.
“Mateo Lopez came to Amarillo in the early 1900s. According to a book I have here, it says 1918. He worked for the Santa Fe Railroad for 45 years. He and a lot of the men in the community work for the Santa Fe railroad,” said David Rosas, Lopez’s grandson.
According to Rosas, like many other Mexican railroad workers, his grandfather lived in the railroad’s barracks until he saved enough money to buy a home.
“They purchased properties just east of the tracks. In fact, the house it was my grandmother’s house was built by it was built out of wood scraps that my grandfather and his sons would drag home every night,” said Rosas. “Pieces of wood from shipping containers they didn’t have cardboard boxes. So, everything came in a container and that’s how that house was built.”
Lopez would build his home on the 1400 block of S. Cleveland, making him one of the earliest residents of the Barrio.
“My grandfather and uncles purchased property at 1400, S. Cleveland, and they walked to work every day, walk home for lunch and walk back to work. Everybody had a house or even a shack within that block,” said Rosas. “Nowadays, in the Mexican American community, I see the same tradition where people who bought land 100 years ago, most of the family still owns that land.”
Lopez not only lived in the barrio neighborhood but also left an impact on the city’s Mexican-American community. Lopez also helped build Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church.
“My grandfather was a family man. My mother told me stories of how he would take care of the whole family during the Depression. Sisters and brothers, nephews and nieces, would go searching for food and stuff and work and he was a hard worker. And he was also very involved with the community,” said Rosas.
Rosas added that being one of Mateo’s grandchildren makes him want to be more involved in the community.
“You know, here again, the community was established 100 years ago. And now it’s time to reinvest, reinvent, polish it up and make it that shining spot in Amarillo,” said Rosas.
Rosas is following in his grandfather’s footsteps and is currently the Vice President of the Barrio Neighborhood Planning committee.
“I didn’t realize it then I was too young, but I was always recognized as being one of Mateo’s grandchildren. To this day, it makes me feel good,” said Rosas.