Westside Historians in The Making

Please click here to learn more about Norbert “Geremy” Landin

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.”

Photo taken by Gateway Photography
As the students travel through the areas at the center, different pieces catch the eyes of future public historians and Director of Public History at St. Mary’s (Dr. Lindsey Wieck)

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.

Virgen de Guadalupe vela located next to the Guadalupe Center for Cultural Arts

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.

 

8 Replies to “Westside Historians in The Making”

  1. This was a really unique and rewarding experience for me as well. I’ve enjoyed listening to you share your knowledge about San Antonio and the local culture here, so I can only imagine how great and validating of your interests the visit yesterday was for you. The irony of having a museum of this sort across from a school named for a Confederate general was also quite interesting to me.

    1. Oh definitely! I absolutely love San Antonio and I thought I already enjoyed the history of San Antonio but joining this program has shown me that there is so much more to the narrative of San Antonio than I thought. I’m ready to fill those gaps as we move forward!

  2. Great post Geremy! I really enjoyed reading this blog, it was like seeing the night through your eyes. I think you expressed the feeling of the night perfectly. Graciela Sanchez is clearly very passionate about her work and I am excited to partner with her for our various projects. Thank you for capturing our journey on this field trip as well as throughout the course. You are an amazing photographer and I look forward to seeing your photo documentation of our Public History program.

    1. Thank you for that Sara! I did this piece while thinking of the book we started! The idea of claiming urban landscapes as public history hit hard while thinking of the types of topics to write about and then I realized that it is based on a few factors that many “urban-landscape-goers” probably don’t think much about. I’m excited to talk about this idea today!

  3. Thank you for sharing you experience and takeaway at Riconicito de Esperanza. Listening to others stories from the different injustices occurring on the west side to the experience had there is truly enriching. Your mentioning of the FotoHistoria made me think of your photography. Although different end goals, you taking our photos there and being able to capture the beauty of our tour can be a way destigmatize the negative energy directed towards the west side.

    1. Honestly, I was hoping that the photography portion of my life would help me with this idea of public history. I walked in not knowing more than a blurb that I read online and now I think that I could have a conversation about the topic. My engagement in the program focuses a bit on the photography that I have been able to incorporate and I am glad that is something that you and hopefully other students can benefit from! Thanks for the comment!

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