So, why do you study history again?

Important moments

I get this question all the time. There are actually many good answers but today’s answer is simple. It’s all about important moments. You have them often. Think of birthdays, baptisms, graduations, funerals. Your hope is to share these moments and keep them alive. What happens when these moments pass? Do you save photos? Do you write down your stories for the future? Where is your family history safeguarded?

House of Stories

Recently, my class visited the Casa de Cuentos that is a part of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. As part of this class we began to learn the lost history of the west side of San Antonio. Much of this history is told in oral histories and photos. While some of this history is on display in a recent exhibit at the Casa de Cuentos, much of this history is lost in photos that have yet to be cataloged and shared with the greater community. As part of our class, we walked the Guadalupe area and saw large photo banners that are proudly displayed throughout the neighborhood.

Conversations about history

As people ask questions about my class, I have found myself having some thought provoking conversations. Within my own family, I was able to find out that some of my family’s genealogical history had already been dug up online at I’ll share more on this later! As I came home and shared my story about class I learned that my wife’s family grew up right around the corner from the Casa de Cuentos in the Guadalupe area and may even be in some of the photos proudly displayed throughout this historic west side neighborhood. Today, those conversations resulted in digging though photos in the garage where we found some hidden treasures. Here is a photo from the Guadalupe neighborhood of my wife’s grandmother who grew up in the Alazan Apache Courts.

As we looked over the photos today, we started the conversation over what life was like for my wife’s grandmother and great grandmother in the neighborhood and what stories have been lost and what can still be recovered. Here in this photo, she is most likely a student at Lanier High School just around the corner in the 1950’s. The place where this picture is taken remains remarkably similar to this day. This neighborhood also raises a difficult conversation between maintaining a neighborhood and gentrification.  Last year the San Antonio Housing Authority proposed mixed-income housing development to replace the original housing development.   

As we looked through these photos, many questions came up about my wife’s history and I shared the history I found out about my family.  As I talked to my Mom about my family history, she told me about the initial research she did about my maternal grandfather’s side of the family. We signed in to and found out that a distant cousin of mine in the Rio Grande Valley had continued the research back ten generations all the way back to the early 1600’s!

Random book buying

As I mentioned in my first blog post, I often pick up random books on history and decide which one to buy. This last weekend was no different. I went to the Twig Book Shop at the Pearl and while I already had multiple history books in hand, I kept walking past the front of the store where they were having a book signing. I was curious and I felt it was one of those moments that I couldn’t let pass by. I stopped and asked about the book they were signing, called the Canary Islanders of San Antonio.  As I asked questions about their book, I let them know that I had some questions about my own family history who founded current day Mission, Texas.  I decided to buy their book and add it my list of books to read during this 300th year of San Antonio history.  I’ll let you know as I read it what I think.

Three opportunities

As I started this post, I talked about important moments. You have one or rather three right now. Are you going to let this opportunity pass you by like a Delorean on the highway or are you going to chase it? Do you have photos gathering dust in a garage or storage unit right now? When was the last time you talked to your parents or grandparents and asked them ‘why’ questions about your family’s history? You can also go to an independent bookstore and pick up three local Texas history books that strike your interest and then buy just one.

If you take a few minutes out of your day, you might just find out something about your own history that you didn’t know. This was my first attempt at asking questions and I already have three great leads! I already know why I study history. What are your important moments that you hope to share or uncover?


2 Replies to “So, why do you study history again?”

  1. Much of family history dies with those that experienced it, which is why its so important that photos. videos, and oral histories are preserved. Heck, that’s why its so important to post a thousand pictures of your kids on Facebook! Our modern technology is making it that much easier to preserve our histories. Even if no one ‘likes’ your posts now, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and far-off future descendants will surely take joy in seeing what life was like in the ancient world of 2018.

  2. Often times in school history is presented in such an impersonal manner that we often forget how close it can be. We make trips to the Alamo and to Independence Hall, but forget about the corner drug store whose lunch counter was the social center of the neighborhood. You don’t have to go far to appreciate history, and that is something that most people could understand better.

    That is awesome that you have such a close connection to the neighbor we looked at last week. We as public historians need to inspire others to take that look and make those connections to themselves.

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