Denise Hernández didn’t mince words in her Oct. 5 commentary criticizing the naming of the Botánica Music Festival, a viewpoint that drew more than a few comments from readers, on the site, and on social media – some in support, some in opposition.

Some readers thanked Rivard Report editors for publishing the opinion piece, while others criticized us.

In a world where too many people only consume media that conforms to their political, cultural, and social viewpoints, we believe it’s important to give readers a range of content that reflects the diversity and, at times, the deep divisions among the many communities that make up our city.

It doesn’t always make for easy reading, but it does make for important reading. Hopefully, it leads to dialogue and a goodwill effort among all sides to respectfully disagree while searching for common ground.

We take pride in being the only local news platform that regularly publishes articles and commentaries submitted by people from all walks of life in the city. Some of the people whose names appear on our site are well-known, while others are not. They all have a place on our home page.

In the same week that we published Hernández, we also published a commentary advocating higher homestead exemptions by City Councilman Clayton Perry (D10). In an ever-sprawling city where geography has defined and deepened economic segregation for decades, Hernández and Perry are very different people. They come from very different backgrounds and they live in two very different worlds. We work to connect those worlds.

That’s why we published both of their submissions. Some of those submissions come to us at the initiative of our readers, while editors often invite individuals with strong viewpoints on a subject of interest to write a commentary. We don’t base our publishing decisions on the individual’s viewpoint. We look for clarity and relevance, and we try to strike a balance between giving freedom to the writer and making sure they respect others with whom they disagree.

We don’t always get it right, but we try.

Some members of the Rivard Report team agree with what Hernández wrote, while others disagree. All of us defend her right to express and publish her views, even if doing so discomforts us or others in the city, including donors and supporters. She certainly started a conversation.

In this instance, Hernandez makes some broad generalizations about the Botánica Music festival organizers, some of whom  are major supporters of the Rivard Report. Those individuals are accustomed to being in the public eye and do not need us to defend them. I hope the public conversation over the festival’s name leads everyone to listen a bit more closely to one another. If that happens, people will find they have more in common in their shared love for San Antonio, and desire to see all who live here prosper.

Love or hate the name of Botánica, most of us probably agree this city could use a major music festival that attracts people from all sides of the city and brings in people from elsewhere. San Antonio needs new events that people anticipate with energy and enthusiasm.

Perhaps it’s because I am in Washington, D.C., this week, ground zero for political polarization, posturing, and divisive rhetoric, that I am moved to write this column.

Our society seems to be self-dividing into thinner and thinner slices of self-identification in ways that too often are exclusionary to others. Historical injustices are cited as proof of contemporary guilt. People who spend their time constantly pointing fingers at others are never able to join hands in common cause.

No one needs to apologize for who they are or how they were born. The most productive people, in my experience, are those who find ways to move beyond our respective differences to come together.

When I study people of significant accomplishment, I see a common thread. That thread is one where people have driven themselves, usually through education, sometimes by sheer talent, often by both, to achieve and to create. They seem more inclined to collaborate than to exclude. People who open themselves to future possibilities are the same people who do not allow themselves to be limited by labels affixed by others.

Is Botánica a good name for a music festival in San Antonio? Don’t ask me, but I will say that even as this city is becoming home to more good live music, we need to keep building. I hope the festival turns out to be a success for everyone. And I hope that people from the many communities that make San Antonio a complicated yet beautiful city will be found in the audience, maybe even dancing together.

Robert Rivard, co-founder of the San Antonio Report who retired in 2022, has been a working journalist for 46 years. He is the host of the bigcitysmalltown podcast.