Maybe it’s because I’m sentimental, or maybe because I’m so used to being around my parents and the neighbors I’ve come to see as family, but I’ve never even considered living anywhere but in Denver Heights.

The house I grew up in is the same one my mother grew up in. It’s the house where her parents, who moved here from Mexico, put down roots, and the house that has since then seen so many lively family gatherings.

Growing up, I was one of the only children in the neighborhood, which back then was home to mostly older folks. My neighbors were all so happy to have a kid around, they would call me mija and look after me. I felt like they were all my grandparents.

Karla Vasquez’s mother’s home, or the home she grew up in, in Denver Heights is just around the corner from her current home. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

That kind of bond is hard to break, so it was always in my mind to buy a home in the neighborhood when I was able to. I had been looking for a house for two years when it just so happened that a developer picked up a house a block from my parents’ home. I passed by and asked to see it. At the time, there wasn’t much to see. I was walking through beams and didn’t even know what the interior was going to look like. But I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I said, “I’ll take it!”

That was about six years ago and now I’m all settled in with my fiancé and loving having a Denver Heights home to call my own. One of my next-door neighbors is my aunt. She also grew up in the neighborhood and, like me, couldn’t bear to part with it. We both bought our houses around the same time, and I love having her as a neighbor. On the other side, there’s a cute, young family I talk to every day.

Though many of the same neighbors I grew up around are still here, over the last 10 years a lot of new people have moved in. It’s refreshing to see the evolution of this area. Now that more young professionals have moved in, we’ve had little neighborhood parties. They’ll invite us over for drinks, and it’s been a great way to get to know everyone. I also host a Friendsmas at my house, and I like to have wine nights with my girlfriends when I can.

The Denver Heights neighborhood is outlined in blue. Credit: Courtesy / Google Maps

My parents have a New Year’s Eve party every year with family and neighbors. We’ve always had big family gatherings at my parents’ for Thanksgiving. The whole family will come out, so there will be 40 to 50 people in the house at once. That’s always a lot of fun and I have so many special memories from those times.

I’m used to going over to my parents’ house pretty often, popping in around dinnertime when I know my mom is cooking up something delicious. These days, we’re more cautious, so I’ll wave when I pass by their house when I go for a run.

There used to be a little taco place we could walk to before school called Pepe’s Tacos where they knew our names because we would go there so often. My dad and I used to bike everywhere, and we still do. These days, the neighborhood looks a lot different. We no longer have Pepe’s Tacos for a quick breakfast, but there have been a lot of great updates and additions.

Lone Star looks much nicer than it did 10 years ago, and we love to go to Blue Star and The Friendly Spot. My favorite spot is The Dakota. It’s nice to have something like that that brings the neighborhood out to interact with one other (when we can) and adds pride to the East Side.

When Essex Modern City has their events, my fiancé and I like to go check it out since it’s within walking distance. We also go to events at Freetail and like to venture out for First Friday. Having such easy access to downtown, the River Walk, and all that the urban core has to offer is one of the best things about living in Denver Heights.

Murals adorn the side of the future Essex Modern City.
Murals adorn the side of Essex Modern City. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

One thing I’d like to see is more kids in the neighborhood. I didn’t have that growing up, so it was a bit lonely. But if this is a forever home for me and my fiancé, I would love for our kids to have other kids to grow up with.

Denver Heights is an older neighborhood and one with a lot of character and charisma. I know that the East Side gets stereotyped a lot, but it’s always evolving and growing. I’m very proud to be from this wonderful neighborhood and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Karla Vasquez is a native of San Antonio and graduate of the University of the Incarnate Word. For over 10 years, she has worked in event planning, marketing, and communications for nonprofit, government,...