Mi Barrio: San Antonio, Texas

I was thrilled to plan my first ever road trip to San Antonio, home of the Alamo and Girl in a Coma, an all-Latina punk rock band. All I needed was a full tank of gas, my trusty map, and a video camera to get started exploring the city.

As I entered the city limits of the historic town, I noticed quite a few shopping centers. Some were newer structures with upscale facades and paved walkways with people shopping. When I looked back, signs came up for the Alamo, University of Texas- San Antonio and the AT&T Center to tell me that I had arrived downtown.

When I exited the freeway toward downtown, the shops began to take on a new and uniform design. I parked and walked along Alamo Plaza listening to the sounds of memories being made. People taking pictures would call out, “farther back,” “wait, the sun is in the way,” and “let’s take another.”

After walking though the Alamo, I got back in my car and drove down Commerce Street, so that I could get a different view of San Antonio. Pink, green, blue and orange colored houses began appearing. On the side of stores were billboards painted on the walls. “The Flavor of West Side” was painted on the side of a burger shop. Eventually, I reached the heart of the West Side. Our Lady of the Lake University sits in the center of West San Antonio. Just one block away is Elmendorf Lake Park where people jog and walk their dogs along the trails.

Nearby, on Zamora Street, is Julio’s Mexican Café, a small eatery with multicolored lights at the entrance. I entered and took a seat at the counter. There were only two women running the restaurant that night. I ordered quesadillas and a cup of coffee off the menu on the wall, and then watched as they prepared my food. In the middle of my meal, the older woman offered me and my friends a plate of brown rice for free, which we gladly accepted. An hour later, I bid them farewell and headed back home.

Students from San Antonio frequently told stories about their hometown’s dangerous reputation. They would say that “the West Side is the bad part of town” and “stay away from the West Side.” When I visited, I realized that it isn’t necessarily true. The barrios of San Antonio have a culture and economy that is often overlooked.

By Andrea Zarate

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