The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city by spotlighting its many vibrant neighborhoods. Each week a local resident invites us over and lets us in on what makes their neighborhood special. Have we been to your neighborhood yet? Get in touch to share your story.
My Denver Heights neighborhood often reminds me of my grandmother’s neighborhood in Villalba, Puerto Rico. Just like that neighborhood I remember fondly, Denver Heights is a community of people who care for each other.
My neighbor across the street works at a bike shop and has helped me fix my son’s and husband’s bikes several times. On either side of him, two abuelitas let my son pick oranges and grapefruit from their trees to eat and dehydrate for Christmas decorations. We often exchange plants to show each other our gratitude. Another neighbor is a welder and helped us fix our wrought iron gate and install our new fence.
At the onset of the pandemic, when masks were hard to come by, I sewed over 300 masks to give to my neighbors, friends, and family. During the winter storm, we checked on each other and made sure we all had essential supplies and water. Though I wasn’t born and raised here, this nurturing community lets me know that I belong.
Because my father was in the Army, I lived all over the country and abroad growing up. San Antonio was the last city where he was stationed, and it’s where I decided to finish art school after starting my studies in Puerto Rico. I am a muralist and a conceptual artist and fell in love with the local street art scene. My husband and I both attended St. Philip’s College on the East Side, where we eventually decided to put down roots.
We love shopping at Retro Modern, Sage Vintage, and stopping by to visit my sister and pick up supplies at her paint shop, The Paint Yard. Anthony’s Chicken has the best fried macaroni and cheese balls and Taqueria Vallarta #2 never lets us down with their fresh-squeezed lemonade. Our kids Adrian and Gabriel are always at the Davis-Scott YMCA, where they have taken swimming lessons and played in the youth soccer team that I coached.
The center of our social life (and my husband’s work life) is at The Dakota East Side Ice House. My husband Cristian works as a manager there, and I host a monthly plant swap. I appreciate that it’s an anti-racist, LGBTQ+, and immigrant-friendly safe space where all people can feel accepted. You’ll always find local vendors, poets, live art, musicians, good food, and beer. Events like our neighborhood cleanup called the Hackberry Sweep, plant swaps, poetry readings, karaoke, and toy swaps keep us connected. It’s wonderful to see how deeply invested our neighbors are in keeping Denver Heights culturally alive and an amazing place to live.
Our neighborhood is also in an excellent location only a short drive from the RE/MAX Unlimited office where I work as a real estate agent. I’m central to the urban core where I can stay involved in the arts and activism. My older sister Dane and I are part of the graffiti crew BNA from Puerto Rico that originated in Brooklyn in 1979 and we have painted and curated several murals and graffiti events in San Antonio. We also organized the demonstrations in solidarity with our fellow protesters in Puerto Rico calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló.
I have always been Boricua de pura cepa, but it’s in the last decade, with the birth of my sons, that it’s become even more important for me to preserve that connection and embrace my roots and cultural identity. Just like it’s important for me that my children know their cultural roots, I want them to be able to grow up in a neighborhood that likewise honors its history.
One of the highlights of my neighborhood is the annual MLK March that ends at nearby Pittman-Sullivan Park and is one of the largest marches honoring Martin Luther King Jr. in the whole country. It’s one of the city’s most inspiring traditions, and I can’t wait to attend and participate in person again.
Though there’s so much culture on the East Side, the area has long been overlooked. It wasn’t until recently, with the revival of downtown and development in neighboring areas, that it has become a prime real estate location. In recent years, growing interest in Denver Heights has brought investors into the area, inevitably driving up the prices of homes and property taxes.
In order to avoid the displacement of longtime residents and businesses, we need to find creative solutions, like grants for homeowners to help them maintain their properties and property tax caps. Yes, there are many improvements to be made in Denver Heights – like more and better sidewalks and more access to healthy food – but these improvements must put residents first. The East Side is what it is because of the people who have built community here and the small businesses that serve that community. Let’s make sure they can afford to stay here for generations to come.