One of the first things I did when I moved into my home in Prospect Hill was tackle the backyard. Overgrown with hackberry trees and a falling shed, I couldn’t even see the yard. I underestimated how much work it would be to clear the space in time for brush pickup. I was preparing for a long night of cutting and trimming. My neighbors, Sandy, Leti, and Alex joined me and we were out there all night.
We talked and got to know each other while we worked. As the night drew on, I played some music and sang some boleros. These women made my task a community project. They shared that many of the neighbors were happy to see me cleaning up and working on my home. Since moving in, neighbors all around have taken the time to help me and work with me. Through these experiences – with my neighbors and the community – I have fallen in love with the neighborhood.
I was born and raised on the South Side of San Antonio, but my interest in the West Side began in high school when I attended Fox Tech for the medical professions program. I made a lot of friends in school and grew fond of that part of town, so I decided to attend St. Mary’s University.
After completing my bachelor’s degree, I started my graduate studies program in public history, also at St. Mary’s. My graduate studies focus is historic preservation, especially related to Mexican art and culture. That program introduced me to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, where I learned more about the history of the West Side. I found out that my grandmothers lived here for years, and one of them was born in a house not far from where I live. Those realizations brought me closer to the culture of both the West Side and my heritage, so now my house showcases that.
You’ll see Otomi patterns, Mexican embroidery, and Mexican-inspired art on walls. My record collection, which consists of Amalia Mendoza, Lucha Villa, Trio Los Panchos, and Sunny Ozuna, was passed down from my grandfather. I listen to my records frequently and have even added a few current local artists to the collection, like Azul. That record collection is one of the first things you’ll notice if you visit.
One of the reasons I love this neighborhood is that it’s so close to one of the oldest record shops in the area, Janie’s Record Shop. I spent a lot of time there, so much time in fact that the Mama Janie has told me they’ve adopted me. Janie is in her 90s now and a blast to be around. Restaurants I frequent are El Chilaquil and Taqueria Atotonilco for great food. I go running at Elmendorf Park and like to visit murals closeby, area parishes, and my favorite events are the ones inside and outside at the Rinconcito de Esperanza.
My home was previously owned by a man who had been a VIA bus driver for years. He owned two other houses on my corner, which he left to his family. His relatives sold the other two homes, but I keep in contact with his nephew, the previous owner, to show him the progress I have made on my little projects. The house was sold to me in great condition, and I’ve had to do very little work to it. The original hardwood floors are in great shape, and there are even crystal doorknobs, which you don’t see much these days. The white picket fence outside, though it was incomplete when I bought the house, first drew me in, and finishing the fence was my first project. Over time I planted flowers, freshened up the windows, and had a friend build the shed outback after the previous one sort-of fell.
Though I’ve only been in this home since December, I have lived in the neighborhood for longer. I continue to look for ways to get involved in my community. Because of my graduate studies and my family’s history, my interest in historic preservation has grown. I moved here because the West Side has such deep, rich history, and I want to see that celebrated. I noticed that there is no one representing District 5 on the Historic and Design Review Commission. When I reached out to my local representative, Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales, I was told the staff would get back to me. I then applied for the commission and still haven’t received a response. Our community deserves that representation, but unfortunately, that seat sits vacant in a neighborhood that may need it most.
This was discouraging, but someone suggested I get involved with the neighborhood association. I learned about their goals and have since joined the Prospect Hill Neighborhood Association. I’ve been able to collaborate with neighbors on goals for our community. Residents here are so deeply rooted in this neighborhood through generations of families, and they need to be heard and taken seriously.
Some of the challenges that face the neighborhood are safety in alleyways, public transportation access, and the availability of food. The safety issue in our alleys is one my neighbors often bring up, and it can quickly be addressed with the simple installation of streetlights to ensure visibility. Although this is a quick band-aid, all three of these issues – and many more – will take more comprehensive solutions.
The homes in Prospect Hill are not always the most charming when you look at their physical appearance (according to others), but what they do have is a lifetime of stories. Not everyone is fortunate to have a home with extensive repairs done like mine, but programs like the Under One Roof program created by Councilman Roberto Treviño have affected so many homes. The smallest adjustment can make the most significant difference. This program also helps many reduce electric bill costs, which at a time like this is so important. I hope we see investment in more programs like this. Sometimes a new roof or a fresh paint coat can turn someone’s perspective right around.
There’s been talk about bike lanes in San Antonio, but I don’t see focus on the West Side. You’ll see someone on a bike with an ice cream cart or pulling a lawnmower behind them, so it’s not just transportation, it’s their livelihood in some cases. There’s so much more need for mobility here. We have wide roads to accommodate bike lanes and more frequent buses for our residents. Many of our residents are essential workers depending on these modes of transportation to get to and from work. It’s important to expand these modes of transportation and not reduce them, and we have a chance to do that come November with the one-eighth-cent sales tax vote.
I have so much love for the West Side and want to see it thrive, so it was important for me to get involved in any way I could. If I had to describe my neighborhood with two words, they would be: historical and generational. The history and culture of this part of town run deep, and the people here, myself included, are proud of where they live.