La Placita Village opened in 1974 with over 200,000 square feet of mixed-use space. The development was a failed attempt at an urban renewal project which ultimately displaced hundreds of barrio citizens and caused the removal of historical structures. The entire complex encompasses several buildings and structures with historical significance. Among the historical features are the Flin Building and stables, La Plaza de la Mesilla, and Samaniego House.
Photo by Arizona Daily Star
Tucson’s popular El Charro Café was originally established in 1922 by Monica Flin, and is the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family.
The Flin Building in La Placita Village was once not only the location of El Charro Café from 1935-1968, but also the home of Monica Flin.
Famously, El Charro is where the Chimichanga was invented. According to Monica’s great grandniece and current El Charro owner, Carlotta Flores, “We were in the kitchen, and she was making a snack for all the kids. The fryers were still hot. One of the kids pulled on her nightgown or robe, and she dropped the burro into the vat of oil.” Monica wanted to say a curse word but, with children present, quickly changed it and instead said “Chimichanga.” The new deep-fried creation was so delicious, it’s been called a chimichanga ever since. The historic stables occupy a space tucked behind the Flin house.
La Plaza de la Mesilla was used for community celebrations and gatherings for nearly a century, from the 1860s to 1960s. The Plaza de la Mesilla’s 15-foot-wide gazebo was built in 1955.
The exact date of La Plaza de la Mesilla origins remains uncertain, but it appeared in the first map of Tucson commissioned by the Union Army in 1862, only six years after the final evacuation of Mexican troops. After the Gadsden Purchase, which made southern Arizona part of the United States, this plaza became the social hub of Tucson’s Mexican community, who represented the majority population until the turn of the century.
La Plaza de la Mesilla also marked the final stop of a wagon trail route that connected Tucson to Mesilla, New Mexico. Typically, La Plaza de la Mesilla marked the end of the trail that drew people to the area to meet passengers, hear the latest news, gossip, and speculate why each new arrival had chosen the desert town as their destination.