This evening the students from the St. Mary’s University were welcomed to one of the sites of the Esperanza Center in San Antonio Texas. The Director, Ms. Graciela Sanchez, quickly grasped the attention of all 10 students present.
“The people of Esperanza dream of a world where everyone has civil rights and economic justice, where the environment is cared for, where cultures are honored and communities are safe.”
-Graciela Sanchez; Director of Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
This part of their mission and vision is truly shown in the work that is done in and around the Rinconcito Center. In the past, I know that several of the students in this program (including myself) have been to museums and art exhibits. During a recent museum course there was talk about the different places that have been visited but I don’t quite think that this experience matches any of the ones that were mentioned in the past.
When entering the Rinconcito Center there is a drastic difference in what we are used to seeing in homes and apartments and visitors can quickly delve into the history from the time of the “Casa De Cuentos and Casita.” The center has owned the building and property at 816 Colorado St. since 2001 and since then, great work in preserving the housing and developments that surround the area has been done in hopes of saving that history that as Sanchez said, “is gone once they’re gone.”
The students continued their walk down the street with a main focus on the structures and projects following the path towards The Guadalupe Center for cultural arts. “Fotohistorias del Westside” mark the path along the South side of the street lining the fence of J.T. Brackenridge Elementary School (a school named after Confederate veteran and bank president, JT Brackenridge, who was born in Warwick County, Indiana and passed in 1906). This school is one of San Antonio ISD’s 90 campuses.
The tour ended at the Plaza Guadalupe over at 1327 Guadalupe St. but the conversation did not. Conversations on the way back to the starting point of the tour led to ideas of projects with different shops, councilmen, and locals about oral history and community activism.
Sanchez is passionate about the work that she does and was excited to show us the public history aspects involved in her work. Having visited places on the westside and knowing the stigmas and negative energy that is posed towards the people and areas surrounding made it easier to want to learn and absorb as much information as possible. The connection that we have made as a course and cohort is tremendous and will continue to be a great source of energy and program development for public history at St. Mary’s and in San Antonio in general.