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I like to call myself the San Antonio Simp. 

Why? Because I am a born and raised San Antonian. Also, because I’m a politics and history buff which gives me a full perspective of what San Antonio has been and could be. Therefore, there are few neighborhoods in San Antonio I can walk through and mean it when I say, “puro.”

Luckily, I live in Palm Heights.  

Now, to be completely honest, I haven’t lived in Palm Heights for very long. I moved here last year, mostly to be closer to work. But a big part of the reason I moved was to be closer to what felt like home. 

As I walk down these poorly managed sidewalks past U.S. Highway 90, I catch a glimpse of what makes this place home. What feels like home is being able to walk to the local Collins Gardens Library, enjoy a book and wonder what I will pick up to eat from the two-story H-E-B right next door. What feels like home is being able to walk over to Tony’s Tacos and order a taco that tastes almost as good as my mom’s. What feels like home is knowing that the two men outside getting off work, tired from the day, will be having a beer with one another every day at 5 p.m. on the dot without fail. 

Palm Heights is full of “puro,” because of the locals. I see a man on a bike lugging a mini trailer from Raoul’s Liquor Store behind him with a full keg? Puro. I see a grandmother walking with her two grandchildren from Collins Garden Elementary School with traditional Mexican mercado bags? Puro. The neighbors are blasting tumbados and cumbias that my husband and I can get jiggy to while we work in the backyard? Puro. 

As much as I love to live here, my family often comments to me on how disadvantaged this community has been. I have no reason to disagree with them. Back in the age of racial segregation, Palm Heights was actually a class “B” neighborhood, which meant still desirable, but it bordered areas that were less desirable. Even now, the 78225 zip code can be socioeconomically classified as lower middle class with the median household income in 2021 being just under $40,000. This means that many of my neighbors, myself included, are working-class people. 

Uel Trejo-Rivera enjoys reading books from Collins Gardens Library Thursday.
Uel Trejo-Rivera browses the selection of books at Collins Gardens Library. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

The people who I see walking and biking are the same folks who bag up my groceries, who serve me my plate of chilaquiles, who fix my tire, or who open the door for me while I enter the library. When I think of my neighbors, and how at home I feel in Palm Heights, I can’t help but think how do we give back to these hard workers? How can we make the streets and sidewalks safer for them to get to work, school, or to have leisure time? How can we provide better services to those who struggle to make ends meet?  

Palm Heights feels real because the locals are just built different. The locals are working-class families trying to put food on the table and still enjoy the small moments in life. When I think of my neighbors, local business owners, and workers that contribute to our local amenities? Nothing can get more puro than Palm Heights. 

Uel Trejo-Rivera is a housing advocate and active in community discussions relating to housing and the environment.