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Liberty/Pix Theater

Texto en español.

Built prior to 1915, this three-story brick building is an example of the Commercial style of architecture. Beginning in the late 1930s, the movie theater within the building provided an important cultural connection for Latino families living and working in the Yakima Valley.

Outside of taverns, familial festivities, and annual Fourth of July parades, there were few recreational opportunities where Latinos felt welcomed. Perhaps for that reason, Leobardo Ramirez was the first person to begin to screen Mexican movies at local theaters in Sunnyside and Toppenish. On Sunday afternoons in Sunnyside, the Avalon Theater opened its doors to long lines of Latinos eager to enter to watch popular films from the golden age of Mexican cinema (mid-1930s through late 1950s). Scripted around a nostalgic adoration of Mexico’s past and tradition, these movies were a big hit among the local farm working population. Similarly, movie fans from Wapato and surrounding communities and labor camps attended Mexican movie day at the Pix (Liberty) Theater, located on the main street in downtown Toppenish and just around the corner from the El Paso restaurant. Of course, young Latinos also patronized theaters at other times, sitting among the general (white) audience. The older members of the Latino community, however, still carried memories from Texas and places like Worland and Wheatland, Wyoming where theater managers segregated movie goers by assigning “special seats” to the “Mexicans.” (Embajada de Mexico to Col. Philip G. Burton)

Images

1938 image of downtown Toppenish, showing the Pix Theater.

Courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society, image 2014.1.62.

2016 image of the Pix (Liberty) Theater building.

Image by Artifacts Consulting, Inc.

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