Deluge, destruction, and decision making:

The roots of Community Organized for Public Service (C.O.P.S.) in West Side San Antonio

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Westside San Antonio: Taking it Public Conference 2022: Taking it Public

Westside San Antonio: Taking It Public

Public History and Community – 2022 Conference Schedule

Co-sponsors: St. Mary’s University and Esperanza Peace and Justice Center

This conference, “Westside San Antonio: Taking It Public,” is a collaboration between St. Mary’s University’s Public History Program and the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. St. Mary’s prepares students to research and disseminate history about the Westside while Esperanza’s grass-roots activism is committed to community-based historical research and preservation. Engaging multidisciplinary topics, both institutions are inherently humanistic and focused on people and their journeys. Such collaboration brings together individuals with diverse knowledge, interests, skills, and talents in a joint commitment to telling the much-neglected histories of the Westside. The historical research will find its way into different venues such as St. Mary’s Public History’s Westside San Antonio Humanities website and the Esperanza Center’s La Voz de Esperanza publication and Museo del Westside, as well as scholarly articles and books. Our goal is for students, grass-roots community members, and scholars to learn from each other and encourage continuing collaboration in the interest of public history and historic preservation.

The conference is funded by the O’Connor Chair for the History of Hispanic Texas and the Southwest, an endowment gift of the Thomas M. O’Connor Family of Victoria, Texas. St. Mary’s University is grateful to the O’Connor family for ensuring that since 1983 Hispanic history of Texas and the Southwest has enjoyed a prominent place in the History Department’s academic focus.

Registration for this event is free and open to the public. We highly encourage community members with Westside stories to share to attend this event.

Masks will be required at the Esperanza Center and recommended at St. Mary’s University — since we’re bringing together communities, please consider masking to help take care of each other.

Friday, April 8, 2022

St. Mary’s University
Sarita Kenedy East Law Library, Law Alumni Room
One Camino Santa Maria
San Antonio, Texas 78228

Opening: 12:30-12:45 p.m.

Leona Pallansch, Ph.D., Interim Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, St. Mary’s University


Introductory Remarks
Gerald E. Poyo, Ph.D., O’Connor Chair for the History of Hispanic Texas and the Southwest, St. Mary’s University

Graciela Sánchez, Director, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center

Session 1 – 12:45-1:45 p.m. The Westside:  Communities and Demographics

Gerald Poyo, Ph.D., O’Connor Chair for History of Hispanic Texas and the Southwest, St. Mary’s University, “The Multiplicity of Westside Neighborhoods and Communities”

René Zenteno, Ph.D., Professor of Demography, College for Health, Community and Policy, University of Texas at San Antonio, “Westside Demographics”

Session 2 – 2:00-3:15 p.m. Cultural Preservation:  The Making of Westside Cultural Institutions

Malena González-Cid, Executive Director, Centro Cultural Atzlán, “Centro Cultural Atzlán, 1977”

Juan Tejeda, musician, writer, ex-jefe Danzante Mexica-Azteca, arts administrator, educator, activist, publisher, “The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, 1984”

Graciela Sánchez, Executive Director, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, “The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, 1987”

Session 3 – 3:30-4:45 p.m.  Doing Westside Neighborhood History and Preservation

Graciela Sánchez, Director, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, “Preservation and Social Justice”

Donna Guerra, Director, Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word Archives;  Esperanza Archives; Westside Preservation Alliance (WPA);  Museo del Westside; “Museo del Westside”

Antonia Castañeda, Westside Preservation Alliance (WPA), Professor Emerita, St. Mary’s University, “WPA: Concentización, Policy, and Preservation”

Reception 5:00-6:30p.m. – National Archives of the Marianist Province of the United States (NAMPUS); located at St. Mary’s University, near Culebra entrance.
Reception courtesy of Mary Kenney, Archivist, NAMPUS.

Featuring an exhibit: “Faith, Education and Charity: Marianist Origins in San Antonio, 1852-1927” 

SATURDAY, April 9, 2022

Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
922 San Pedro Avenue
San Antonio, Texas 78212

Session 4 –  9:00-10:15 p.m. Westside Water, Politics & Environment

Lindsey Wieck, Ph.D., Director, Graduate Public History Program, St. Mary’s University, “The Westside Flood of 1921”

Victoria Villaseñor, Community Volunteer Ambassador, Mission San Jose, National Park Service, “Deluge, Destruction, and Decision-Making: Cops-Metro”

Evelynn J. Mitchell, Ph.D., Professor of Environmental Sciences, St. Mary’s University, “Recent Developments in Westside Creek Management”

Session 5 –  10:30-11:45 a.m.  Recovering Community Stories and History: Multiple Methods; Multiple Perspectives

Rachel Delgado, lifelong Westside resident, WPA member, “Stories from the Grassroots”

Claudia Guerra, Cultural Historian, Office of Historical Preservation, City of San Antonio, “Conocimiento: Searching for Spirit of Place and People on San Antonio’s Westside”

Gilberto Hinojosa, Professor Emeritus, University of the Incarnate Word, “Westside Memories, Histories and other Sources”

Lunch Break: 11:45a.m.-1:00p.m. 

Session 6 – 1:00-2:15p.m. Mexican Americans at St. Mary’s University

Edgar Velázquez, Smithsonian Latino Museums Study Program Fellow and Library Assistant, San Antonio Public Library, “Radical Rattlers” (1960s)

Christopher Hohman, Public History graduate student, St. Mary’s University, “Embracing Chicano Identity” (1970s)

Gerald E. Poyo, Ph.D., O’Connor Chair, St. Mary’s University, “Contextualizing 1960s and 1970s at St. Mary’s”

Session 7 – 2:30-3:45p.m.  Westside Story:  Business & Entrepreneurship in Film

Amanda Hill, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communications, St. Mary’s University, “Films and Public History”

Student films about Avenida Guadalupe businesses
V. Gwyn Hartung, St. Mary’s University alumna
Cristal Rose Mendez, St. Mary’s University alumna
Natiebe A. Nanda, St. Mary’s University student

Panel discussion with business owners
Richard C. Alvarado, RCA Paint & Body
Rudy Davila, Davila Pharmacy
Abobaker Mused, Alamo Farms

Session 8 – 4:00-5:15p.m. Westside Music Over the Generations

Justin (Rambo) Salinas, manager, Friend of Sound Records
Juan Tejeda, musician

Closing Reflections & Discussion – 5:30—6:00: Doing Public History on the Westside: What have we learned and what are the challenges?

Lindsey Wieck, Ph.D., Director, Graduate Public History Program, St. Mary’s University

Antonia Castañeda, Westside Preservation Alliance, and Professor Emerita, St. Mary’s University

Reception – 6:00-7:30p.m. at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

“For Mexican Children in Particular”


“For Mexican Children in Particular”

The Marianist educational mission in San Antonio, 1852-1927

Gerald E. Poyo and Christopher Repka

To view this storymap in full size, please click here.

The 1968 Edgewood Walkout & Education in San Antonio


“The Edge of the Woods”

The 1968 Edgewood Walkout & Education in San Antonio

Victoria Sanchez

To view this storymap in full size, please click here.

Radical Rattlers


Radical Rattlers

A Narrative of Latino Students at St. Mary’s University in the 1960s

Edgar Velázquez Reynald

In the 1960’s, St. Mary’s saw an increase in Latino enrollment and a shift in student political attitudes from confidence in established politics in the early 1960’s to radical activism at the end of the decade. The transition occurred as students engaged with the Civil Rights Movement and then the Chicano Movement. Using the St. Mary’s University student newspaper, The Rattler, this project chronicles the events of the 1960’s from the perspective of Latino students, using editorials and campus coverage to understand the evolution from traditionalism to radicalism.

To view this storymap in full size, please click here.

Water and Structural Inequities in the Westside: Remembering the Flood of 1921

Water and Structural Inequities in the Westside

Remembering the Flood of 1921

Lindsey Wieck and Victoria Villaseñor

On September 9, 1921, a series of heavy rainstorms moved across south Texas which grew intense in the late hours of the night. The torrential wind and rains overwhelmed San Antonio’s weak Olmos and San Pedro tributaries which burst and buried downtown, North, and Westside districts of San Antonio. The flood resulted in at least $3 million in damages, destroying the city’s electricity, communication, and infrastructure, leaving citizens scrambling for resources. This year marks the centennial anniversary of this devastating natural disasters, one of the worst in Bexar County’s history. For the past year, Dr. Lindsey Wieck and Victoria Villaseñor have been researching the history of water and infrastructural development in San Antonio in response to the events of 1921. Throughout their work, they have found that while the downtown business and northern districts received most of the news coverage and infrastructural development in the aftermath of the flood, it was the Westside experienced the greatest devastation yet received little help from the city government. The floods ravaged through an already structurally unsound and neighborhood, which magnified the poor, unsanitary conditions, and inhibited the Westside from fully recovering before the next flood.  Through firsthand accounts, environmental data, historical narrative, this project walks audiences through the inequities of the Westside and the tragedies that unfolded as a result during the flood of 1921.

To reach a full webpage of the information above, please visit this external site.

Black in the Barrio: African American History of San Antonio’s Westside

Black in the Barrio

African American History of San Antonio’s Westside

Teresa Van Hoy and Harold Johnson & Gerardo Nino Pozos


Mexicanidad on the Westside: Tracing the Legacy of Incomparable Servingness at Our Lady of the Lake University

Mexicanidad on the Westside

Tracing the Legacy of Incomparable Servingness at Our Lady of the Lake University

Rick Sperling and Micaela Cruz

The Hispanic-serving Institution (HSI) designation is a statistical-based identity given to colleges and universities with a 25 percent or higher Latinx student population. While HSIs are eligible to receive federal funding based solely on that designation, there are no definite guidelines to ensure that the money is spent in a culturally responsive manner. However, Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) continues to provide high quality education to their Latinx students. In this presentation, we traced historical events that influenced OLLU to develop a Latinx-conscious identity and then compare their institutional behavior to that of another university located on the Westside of San Antonio: St. Mary’s University (StMU). Aspects such as campus ecology, the influence of gender, and ethnic identity are observed and elaborated upon within the project. Through this project, we aim to contribute to the Westside community’s perspective of the historical higher learning institution known as “The Lake.”

The slideshow above about provides introductory information regarding this research. To provide further information, the authors included audio of themselves explaining the project. Be sure to raise your volume and hit play to listen to that audio.

Bilingual, Biliterate, and Bicultural: Dual Language in Westside Schools

Bilingual, Biliterate, and Bicultural

Dual Language in Westside Schools

Meghann M. Peace and Yamilet Munoz

Dual language programs, in which classes are given in English and Spanish, have exploded in popularity within San Antonio. In the school districts of the historically Mexican American Westside, there are 23 dual language programs, ranging from early childhood to high school, and including Washington Irving Academy, an entirely dual language campus (EISD, 2019; SAISD, 2021).

Dual language programs seek to promote bilingualism, biliteracy, biculturalism, and high academic achievement, and to empower students by recognizing their cultural identity (e.g., Malik, 2019; SAISD, 2019). The idea of empowerment is essential, as U.S. Spanish speakers suffer from insecurity. While they believe their language is an important part of their identity, they also tend to see it as deficient, incorrect, and useless outside of the family (e.g., George & Peace, 2019; Villa, 2003; Zentella, 2007).

This project presents the story of Spanish on the Westside, its diminishing over time, how the school system historically limited its reach, and how schools today are fighting to give it a place of importance in society. Included are articles, statistics, and interviews with multiple generations of Westside residents and students. We showcase the great work that dual language programs do and encourage other educators to recognize their students’ culture, identity, and language.

To view the research above on a larger page, check out this link.

The Effect of the Housing Crisis on Westside Community Health: A Focus on Historical and Present-Day Epidemics/Pandemics

The Effect of the Housing Crisis on Westside Community Health

A Focus on Historical and Present-Day Epidemics/Pandemics

Sue Nash and Angely Noriega Baron

The Effect of the Housing Crisis on Westside Community Health:
A focus on historical and present-day epidemics/pandemics

San Antonio’s Westside boasts one of the oldest public housing developments built between 1939 and 1942, the Alazán-Apache courts. The Westside, due to redlining, is made up of predominantly Hispanics (93%) who are of lower socioeconomic status (40% poverty rate). Residents in the past were vulnerable to disease due to poor public health infrastructure. For example, Westside neighborhoods lacked clean water and adequate sewage system. These were breeding grounds for disease. Deplorable living conditions made it more likely for residents to contract various diseases.

San Antonio, has experienced its fair share of outbreaks. In 1849 San Antonio witnessed a cholera outbreak which resulted in approximately 600 deaths. Lack of adequate health care contributed to the high death count. In 1866, another cholera outbreak resulted in 292 deaths. This prompted the city to consider its infrastructure and implement ways to remove and drain stagnant water. In 1913, San Antonio’s Fourth Ward Health Auxiliary recognized the impact of poor sanitation and worked with city council to put measures in place for garbage disposal. In 1939 First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt commented on the high tuberculosis rates in San Antonio and the need for public housing which initiated the building of the Alazán-Apache courts. In 1946 San Antonio experienced the polio epidemic and in 1970 a diphtheria outbreak. Many of the cases of the diphtheria outbreak were in the poorer Mexican American neighborhoods. The high infection and death rates were a result of inadequate public health infrastructure.

Poor Mexican American neighborhoods, including San Antonio’s Westside, have experienced several public health crises. Many of these crises are due to poor housing conditions. A past and present burden on Westside communities is the shortage of affordable housing. As it was with past epidemics, today, with talk of demolishing Alazán-Apache courts, it means, many Westside citizens may find themselves displaced from their communities. The stress of displacement often leads to social problems such as: depression, drug abuse and increased risk of teen pregnancies. It also highlights how housing policies contribute to racial segregation and social inequalities. Continued research focuses on how social interventions (eg. housing) may alleviate or exacerbate inequalities in the way people experience epidemics.