From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
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Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher

Article first published in Vol. 26, 2007/08.

By Belinda Alvarez

Faculty Editor's Note:  Student author Belinda Alvarez is the great granddaughter of Rómulo Escobar Zerman  and researched his contributions to Mexico with great enthusiasm.

Rómulo  and Numa Pompilio Escobar, agriculturalists and engineers from Juarez, MexicoA visionary. An engineer. A teacher. Rómulo Escobar Zerman dreamed of a Mexico rich from its own resources. He left to his students and family a legacy of agricultural instruction and a lifelong love of the land. He traveled throughout the Mexican Republic planting his seeds of wisdom, always leaving a trace behind him, giving life to his favorite poem, “Sembrando” (“Sowing”), by the Spanish writer Manuel R. Blanco Belmonte. Below are lines from “Sembrando” translated into English:

We must fight for all those who do not!
We must ask for all those who do not!
We must make those who do not listen hear!
We must weep for those who cannot weep!

We must live to sow! Always to sow!

Image caption:
The Escobar brothers, Rómulo (left) and Numa Pompilio, were well known for agricultural advances established by the agricultural school they founded in Juárez.  Photo courtesy of Dario Hernandez Navarro, Presidente de la Asociación Nacional de Egresados de la ESAHE-AC.
 
Rómulo Escobar Zerman was born in Paso del Norte (Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico), on February 17, 1872. At 12, he traveled to Mexico City to study at the Escuela Nacional de Agricultura (National School of Agriculture), present day Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo in San Jacinto. He received a degree in agricultural engineering in 1891. From that moment, Escobar became an indefatigable laborer for the benefit of Mexico.

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In 1894, Escobar presented a project to the governor of Chihuahua, Miguel Ahumada, to establish an agronomy station in Juárez, but Ahumada rejected the plan. Never taking “no” for an answer, Escobar patiently waited for the right moment. In 1905, Enrique Creel, who was now governor, approved of Escobar’s plan to establish the station and agricultural school.

With Creel’s backing, Escobar traveled to Mexico City in hopes of receiving support, but all he found was governmental bureaucracy and red tape. He wrote a letter addressing this issue directly to the president of Mexico, General Porfirio Díaz. The president questioned Escobar’s reasoning behind opening a school in such an arid region, pointing out that the school would only be able to plant and teach about a few of the local crops, according to Abelardo Escobar, Rómulo’s grandson, and Hector Olave, authors of the book Una Ventana al Pasado (A Window to the Past).

Escobar explained that if students could learn how to make infertile land productive, they would turn out to be excellent agricultural engineers. President Díaz responded, “Governor Creel must have understood immediately the importance of your project.” Escobar had been given the “yes” he had sought for so long. With the aid of his brother Numa Pompilio Escobar, Rómulo established the Escuela Particular de Agricultura (Private Agricultural School) or EPA in Juárez, Chihuahua, in 1906.

Rómulo Escobar Zerman’s ideals came from his parents, who passed on a strong work ethic to all of their children. In a speech during a Mexican Independence celebration, Rómulo told his students, “My sons, do not remember only me, but think of the present moment you are living in and see what you can do for the nation.” His patriotism was instilled in him by his father Don Jesús Escobar y Armendariz, born in Chihuahua City in 1836.

Don Jesús studied at the Colegio Mexicano and later became principal. At age 23, he came to the United States and enrolled in the Jesuit College of today’s Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., graduating with a degree in education in 1860. In 1861, Don Jesús became an attaché with the Legation of Mexico and attended congressional sessions in Washington.

In 1863, on behalf of the Mexican government and liberal presidential hopeful, Benito Juárez, Don Jesús traveled to Europe where he lived for a year. In 1864, his search for support against the French invasion of Mexico took him to Turin, Italy, where he met his future wife, Adelina Zerman. Don Jesús returned to Chihuahua in 1865, where he was arrested for his anti-French activities. Abelardo Escobar, current Secretary of Agrarian Reform in Mexico and great grandson of Don Jesús, wrote that the punishment for defying General Brincourt, who represented Maximilian I, consisted of sweeping the streets of Chihuahua for one month.

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A beloved citizen of Chihuahua, Don Jesús willingly swept the city streets as residents threw flowers at his feet. General Brincourt witnessed this act and transferred the activist to Mexico City. Don Jesús made the trip by foot and earned the respect of the general. Back in Italy, Adelina waited for her fiancé to return.

Adelina Zerman de Escobar of Juarez, MexicoAdelina was born in Florence, Italy, on December 8, 1848, and was formally educated in Richmond, England. She and Don Jesús were married on July 2, 1868, in Chester County, England. The trip back to Mexico took a month, and Adelina’s life changed forever.

In Italy, Adelina Zerman had grown up surrounded by beautiful, strong marble walls. When she arrived in Mexico, she was alarmed by the adobe buildings that were the predominant architecture of Chihuahua. There is an anecdote about Adelina pushing on the adobe walls of her house. She feared that the walls could not support the ceiling. Alberto Bonifúz wrote in the book celebrating the 50th anniversary of EPA, Jubileo de Oro (Golden Jubilee), “Time went by, and Adelina Zerman de Escobar gave birth to Mexican sons. Then she understood that the adobes made of Mexican soil and straw could raise walls as firm and as strong as those blocks made of the hardest Italian marble.”

Image caption: Adelina Zerman de Escobar was a source of inspiration and support to students and alumni.  Photo courtesy of Dario Hernandez Navarro, Presidente de la Asociación Nacional de Egresados de la ESAHE-AC.

Adelina Zerman was the example of love and devotion for her children and the students at the school. After the  EPA was established, Mamá Nina, as she was known, would reassure students who were not from Juárez. She said to each pupil, “I am here to help you. … When you need something, I stand for all the mothers of the boys who are here.” Professor Moisés Rincón Rangel, a first generation EPA graduate, commended Mamá Nina: “It is impossible to describe Mamá Nina because all the good things that could be said about her would truly be insignificant compared to all the goodness that she holds within her – intelligence and beauty, energy, kindness and an excessive, boundless love.”

In September 1896, before the doors of EPA opened, Rómulo Escobar began publishing El Agricultor Mexicano (The Mexican Agriculturist), a monthly agricultural magazine. In addition to practical advice on farming, Escobar expounded on current events and politics in Mexico. The magazine would continue for the next 49 years, reaching Central America and the southern United States.

In one section of the magazine called “Eslabonazos”,  Escobar discussed agricultural, economic and political issues with a satiric touch, using the pseudonym Proteo or Proteus, referring to the Greek God known for changing forms. His articles carried a strong message of Mexican patriotism, always ending with a moral lesson.

According to Juárez historian Rebeca Gudiño, one of Proteo’s “Eslabonazos” was the apple of discord between Escobar and Justo Sierra, Minister of Public Instruction and Fine Arts. Proteo criticized the establishment of a Fine Arts Ministry instead of a Ministry of Agriculture. Proteo asked, “How can we convince gentlemen of Mexico that we need schools of agriculture and jobs, practical instruction, nixtamal mills, and things like this, not very artistic, instead of poems and songs?” Escobar excoriated the officials who made decisions behind desks in Mexico City without really knowing the problems in the provinces.

Rómulo Escobar authored many other publications. He wrote one of the most complete agricultural encyclopedias, Enciclopedia Agricola y de Conocimientos Afines (Encyclopedia of Agriculture and Related Subjects). The encyclopedia is a set of three volumes with 3,220 pages and 1,559 illustrations. So thorough was the set that Mexican President General Avila Camacho requested 30 encyclopedias to be given to the leaders of all South and North American countries including U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Vice President H. A. Wallace, who pronounced it “monumental.”

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Rómulo participated in several international fairs that brought the attention of the world to Mexico. He was an agricultural delegate with the Mexican commission at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas. This fair exhibited emerging technology such as the first elevated electric railway, a moveable sidewalk, the Ferris wheel, invented just for this occasion, and the Thomas Edison kinetograph, a precursor to the movie projector. In his Web site on this fair, Bruce Schulman adds that the exhibits of foreign and domestic agricultural products and the booths of experimental stations were deemed as the more notable exhibits.

Escobar also participated in the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., where he submitted his “Elemental Treatise on Agriculture.” In 1904, he contributed “Rainfall in Mexico,” for the Universal Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri. When Theodore Roosevelt invited Mexico and Canada to the White House in 1909 for a Conference of Natural Resources Conservation, Escobar headed the Mexican delegation.

Escobar was an adherent of the dry-farming technique in Mexico. In a 2006 University of Barcelona journal article, Pere Sunyer Martin reviews Escobar’s belief in this technique which was based on deep knowledge of the soil. It was necessary to adequately prepare soil in order to store and conserve the greatest amount possible of moisture coming from scarce rainfall. This technique would be very useful in the desert where rainfall is almost nonexistent. Escobar wrote in his texts, “We will conquer the desert.”

original Escuela de Agricultura Hermanos EscobarThe School of Agriculture in Juárez was the most significant contribution of the Escobar brothers to Mexico and to agriculture. Rómulo Escobar once asserted, “We do not pretend to educate office workers but agronomists, field laborers. Granting the necessary preparation to perform these duties is our school’s goal.” The EPA was the first school of higher learning in northern Mexico. Courses began February 22, 1906, with 17 students and 12 teachers, including agronomy professors Rómulo and Numa Escobar. While Numa was the kind, quiet one, Rómulo was strict and believed in proposing problems for his students to solve. By 1908, the EPA had more than 100 students.

Image caption: The original Escuela de Agricultura Hermanos Escobar was built in the early 1900s.   Photo courtesy of Dario Hernandez Navarro, Presidente de la Asociación Nacional de Egresados de la ESAHE-AC.

Although the school was private, there were times the school received subsidy from the federal government. While taking courses, students also learned and experimented at the college’s agricultural stations, using the latest French agrobiology and actual livestock. By the 1940s, the predominant teaching techniques were taken from U.S. agronomy.

In 1909, the first students who enrolled in 1906 packed 6,000 trees they had grown at the college and distributed them throughout the state of Chihuahua. It was the first time Juárez had exported instead of imported trees. By 1910, the school had 150 students and graduated its first agronomists. Rómulo said, “My beloved school has come to fruition. Let it be for the good of my nation and for the good of these boys.”

The EPA encountered difficult times with the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. In 1913, the school suspended activities when General Francisco Villa took the buildings and used them as a hospital and military headquarters. In 1914, the EPA was temporarily relocated to the Military Institute of El Paso, Texas, located on Fort Bliss, returning to Juárez in 1917 with only nine students.

By 1940, EPA had reestablished itself to its former status and in that same year the Escobar brothers were recognized with the Medal Ignacio Altamirano, the highest distinction Mexican professors could receive. By 1955, 817 students attended classes and in 1963, the school changed its name to Escuela Superior de Agricultura Hermanos Escobar (The Escobar Brothers Agricultural College) or ESAHE. The college participated in various projects such as a study of the effects of air pollution on the environment in 1982 with the University of Texas at El Paso and three other universities.

However, in the 1980s, the maquiladora industry overran great agricultural areas of Juárez, playing a part in the demise of agricultural studies and the ESAHE. Although the school had been plagued with a series of strikes since the 1950s by students petitioning for subsidization of tuition fees, the school lost its foothold when Juárez was declared an industrial zone in the 1980s. The ESAHE closed its doors on May 13, 1993.

Gudiño wrote that Hermanos Escobar is not only the name of a street in Juárez that runs east to west. The Escobar brothers, Rómulo and Numa Pompilio, should be remembered as two distinguished Juarenses who with their smallest deed acted on behalf of their city. The agricultural school no longer exists, but the seeds the brothers planted are still producing fruit for the Escobar family and for Mexico. Shops now occupy the classroom and laboratory buildings. However, the Asociación de Egresados  has plans to establish a museum of agricultural history and the story of the Escobar brothers of Juárez at the former college.

Don Jesús y Armendariz, Adelina Zerman, Numa and Rómulo Escobar Zerman all rest in the Tepeyac Cemetery in Juárez. Rómulo’s marble headstone has the inscription: ¡Hay que vivir sembrando! ¡Siempre sembrando!

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