Westside Stories

Historia de un hombre 

A young vaquero from Mexico wanted a better life for himself and his brother and youngest sister.  With the recent passing of their father, the family was left with next to nothing. The two brothers began their voyage to Texas to start their American Dream. The brothers took a cart, a boat and eventually a long train ride to the city of San Antonio, where they were dropped off and, walked with all their possessions for a few blocks to a boarding house on the Westside.  They found jobs to help bring their sister over from Mexico. One enlisted to fight in World War I.  As the story goes, he came back from the war, he met a woman and the rest is, well, history, my history.

These are the facts but the real stories are the stories that are not passed down on paper but the stories remembered and told over time.  Facts are easy to translate throughout time, but the emotions and the struggles shape the people, which then shape the families that make our communities.

Courtesy of Denise Trabucco
My great grandfather
Historia local: The importance of storytelling

The Rinconcito de Esperanza portrays the importance of storytelling of local family histories.  The Rinconcito de Esperanza tells the local stories because these are in fact tied to the local history of San Antonio.  From the old houses, which if only the walls could speak to stories of local elders. From the photos of nos abuelitos to the art para MujerArtes.  These are ways of Public History being put into action of the local histories of the Westside.

Walking through the main house and important figures and buildings from the Westside and never hearing of these left a strong impression on me personally and as a public historian.  Seeing all of the pictures on the fences and the timeline really stroke a chord in my heart porque people are able to remember family members and friends; it is esque to El Día de Los Muertos.  The physical people may no longer be present however they get a second life through the retelling of local histories.  I did not know such stories existed, just the stories of “Oh mija, make sure you lock your doors and use your Spanish when you go to that area.” and the other profiling images told over time about the West side.

Courtesy of Gateway photography
Graciela Sanchez explaining the murals behind her
…y la dieta?

Graciela Sanchez showed us the adobe house in back, which is the MujerArtes Studio.  MujerArtes Studio is a place that is led by women and helps women who are workers, the head of households and marginalized. Sanchez said that these women come in and say they do not know what to do or make and she tells them, “Tell your story, tell a story through the art.”  Looking at all the different work, I could tell that this is exactly what they were doing. From pottery with scenes for La Curandera to sculptures their family tree and traditional dishes.  What stuck out to me the most was the sculptures of traditional foods like empanadas and pan muertos.  Food and storytelling go hand in hand in traditional Latinx homes. When holidays are around the corner from Día de Los Muertos to Three Kings Day, food is HIGHLY important (ask about me dieta lol). Generations of families gather around the kitchen escuchar a chisme, to tell family stories (embellished or not who knows or cares) and to be taught the recipes that have been passed down for generations but never written. I remember when being told about my great grandfather and his wife, an indigenous woman born on land that was before colonization. This woman, Grandma Bella, is who taught my mom the tamale recipe that has been in our family for centuries.  When food is being cooked in abuelita’s kitchen, histories of many generations are being told by word-of-mouth and it is always important to listen.  I have never realized that food and storytelling were so interlinked especially in my own personal experiences.  The stories that are told during tamaladas have much more meaning because they are stories of family and local histories that teach the younger generations how to better the future.

Courtesy of Antonio n Bella Facebook
My relatives and their tamalada

3 Replies to “Westside Stories”

  1. Shine, your post makes me hungry! And sad! My abuelos have always lived far away from me, and I’ve only been able to visit them a few times in my life. I can’t help but wonder how my life would have been different if I’d been able to spend more time with them and hear the stories of their lives, and the lives of my extended family. It has always been through the generosity of my friends and mentors that I’ve been able to experience Mexican traditions even though my true familia is hundreds of miles away. Your post has me wanting to learn more!

  2. Shine,
    I agree with you on food and storytelling. I’ve heard that’s a phenomenon known as ‘food diplomacy’.
    You can have a good conversation with just about anyone about anything if you are willing to share food and stories.
    It brings down barriers and brings people together. I almost feel it should be a recognized strategy of engaging public history.
    As I read about your family traveling to San Antonio, I thought you have to take some time to visit the Texas Transportation Museum to reflect on what San Antonio must have been like stepping off the train.

    Your blog also makes me want to do two things. 1) Write a family blog for the history of my family.
    2) Start writing in the journal/diary that my parents gave me a year ago. I have been trying to decide what I would write in it and now I believe the purpose should be leaving it to my daughter one day decades from now.

    1. My mother wrote a diary for me as her first child and gave it to me to start writing my own stories once I turned 16. She wrote about all of her experiences before me and up until I was old enough to write my own stories for my children. Family history is a beautiful wonderful gift.

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