More than 30 San Antonio business owners and residents erupted in cheers and applause in City Council chambers on Thursday after the unanimous vote to change the Enrique M. Barrera Parkway’s name to its previous one: Old Highway 90.

“Let me be clear, this request has nothing to do with discrediting the late Councilman Barrera,” said Councilwoman Melissa Cabello Havrda (D6), whose district includes the highway. “Today … we recognize the small business, the veterans groups, [and] the community that has preserved the … deep, rich culture that is historic Old Highway 90.

“… Today, my friends, after a long fight, you get your identity back,” Havrda added. “Viva Highway 90!”

Former Councilman Ray Lopez led the charge six years ago to change the highway’s name to Enrique M. Barrera Parkway and give it the memorial designation of “Historic Old Hwy 90.” Council approved a measure in 2015 which meant the formal addresses of dozens of businesses had to change, along with city street signs.

“Mom-and-pop businesses have enough on their plate to stay afloat, so when the street name changed, it really hurt our business,” said Michael Cooremans, a member of the Save Old Highway 90 Alliance and owner of 4M Auto Supply located on the thoroughfare. “You’re not going to find any big-box stores on Old Highway 90. What you’ll find is that old small-town look, that small-town feel.”

Taco houses, grocery stores, panadarias, automotive shops, car clubs, hotels, fruitarias and more line Old Highway 90, Cooremans said, noting that the city’s Historic and Design Commission designated the Westside route an official Cultural Heritage District in 2018

Dozens of businesses were opposed to the name change in 2015 and there were subsequent attempts to overturn it, but in 2017, council approved an ordinance that said “a street name change could not be altered for a term of 5 years from when it was approved by City Council.”

Cooreman’s latest request to change the name finally qualified for council consideration.

Old Highway 90’s development dates back to the evolution of original Spanish expedition routes. The road became part of the Old Spanish Trail, a historically vital commercial route, which overlapped with the Southern National Highway that stretched from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego.

Running between Highway 151 and Commerce Street, Old Highway 90 was once Highway 3, then became Highway 90 in 1925. It became Old Highway 90 when the new Highway 90 was constructed.

“It is my intention to honor Councilman Barrera in a different way,” Havrda said. “I would never want him or the Barrera family to be disrespected in any way and the community members here have been always very respectful in their fight to change the name back.”

Barrera died from cancer in 2007 at age 69, according to media reports.

He represented District 6 on city council for five-and-a-half years, and served on the Edgewood Independent School District board.

“I had the great honor of working with Councilman Barrera when he was a District 6 councilman and I worked in the mayor’s office,” Havrda said. “Councilman Barrera was a kind, respectful, honorable and modest man.”

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org