Hallease Narvaez sits at High Street Wine Co. at the Pearl. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The Where I Live series aims to showcase our diverse city and region 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.

Something that a lot of people experience in returning to a city where they grew up is the initial resistance to going back. I know I felt that when moving back to San Antonio. But that resistance soon gave way to curiosity about a place that was familiar and new at the same time. So much of the city had changed while I was away.

First, the city seemed much bigger than I remembered it. I grew up in the Northwest Crossing neighborhood and attended Fernandez Elementary School, Zachry Middle School, and Communications Arts High School, so that was my world. I didn’t really know San Antonio outside of these places and the typical field trip spots. 

Communications Arts High School is where I found my calling to produce videos that eventually led me to study at the University of Texas at Austin. Something that was a culture shock to me when I moved to Austin for school was that the city and university are predominantly white. I was so used to a minority-majority city. Now that I’ve lived outside the city I recognize the caliber of my public school education and how much of a privilege it was to have the opportunities I had, especially as a Black woman.

Downtown San Antonio is outlined in red. Credit: Courtesy / Google Maps

In 2016 I moved back to San Antonio when my husband got a job with one of the hospitals here. Coming back I realized how much I missed the diversity of this city and the sense of community that comes with that. Once we were downtown and living in an apartment complex, which was so different from my childhood in the suburbs, it really opened me up to a whole new experience of San Antonio.

I love how walkable the neighborhood is and how close we are to the River Walk. If you go north on the river you can go all the way to Brackenridge Park. If you go south you can get to Southtown and beyond. Before the pandemic, I was starting to buy passes for the river barges as a means of transportation, and that was such a cool way to get around.

My favorite coffee shop nearby is Scorpion, from the same owners of Indy Coffee. I go there at least once a week. Another weekly stop is High Street Wine at the Pearl. Some of my fondest pre-pandemic memories are of meeting friends at High Street for revelry over wine, cheese, and artisanal meats. Even now, we still stop by to pick up a bottle of wine to have at home.

Hallease Narvaez waits for her coffee at the takeaway window of Scorpion coffee shop. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Living downtown is great because, even though I work for myself as a YouTuber and running my creative production company StumbleWell, I get to be a part of a lot of the entrepreneurial things happening. There are so many businesses and people here who are quietly brilliant. The Impact Guild is a coworking space just a bit north of downtown where I do a lot of my work. Just by being in the space, I’ve been able to do things with San Antonio Entrepreneurship Week and collaborations with businesses and nonprofits. I appreciate that the owner of the space is a connector who is interested in bringing people together. Having a foot in all these little moments that are happening in the city is really cool.

The Impact Guild resides in a building with a lighthouse marking a corner of the Beacon Hill neighborhood.
The Impact Guild resides in a building with a lighthouse marking a corner of the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

I also love being part of the art community here, whether it’s the bigger names like the McNay or smaller local galleries. Ruben Luna is a Latinx artist featured at the McNay right now. He does portraits of his family members representing them as everyday items inside little briefcases. One of them is of his abuela, and in it is a broom for cleansings and an egg to treat mal ojo. I love it because it gives you a sense of who the person is and is such an interesting approach to portraiture. Then there’s a Black photographer, Anthony Francis, and he does more traditional portraiture photography. His work was also recently at the McNay. I first met him at an art show in Austin and later ran into him at the McNay when he took his family to see his work.

There’s a vibrance to San Antonio that Austin likes to think it has. For artists and creatives, San Antonio is more accessible in terms of being able to work on projects and figure yourself out without the kind of financial pressure that comes with the cost of living in places like Austin.

San Antonio is always going to have interesting flair because it has so many people from all over the country and world coming into the area because of the military. It also has a lot to do with our neighbors from the south. My husband’s family is from Laredo and his family comes up from Mexico as well, bringing with them their culture and prosperity. I think that’s starting to have long-term effects on who sticks around and what culture they bring with them. And it’s this mix of cultures and communities that makes San Antonio such an exciting place to live right now.

Hallease Narvaez is a video producer, editor and digital storyteller based in Texas.