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.
It’s hard to put your finger on it, but there’s definitely something about San Antonio’s South Side that inspires pride, reverence and loyalty among residents. Growing up here, I always felt like I was surrounded by family (which was often the case) because the people around me shared similar experiences and values, looked out for one another, and despite not having much, found joy in the small things.
I lived in what we called The Circle, which is the area around Division Avenue and Interstate 35, and always had cousins to play with because my family basically owned the block. Families buying homes near one another isn’t uncommon on the South Side and it makes for these great built-in communities. I have such fond memories of walking to Pik Nik with my cousins and grandmother when she was able to treat us to burgers. We would always order hamburgers — no cheese because there was cheese at home — and pool together whatever money we could get from our parents for drinks.
I went to Harlandale High School, which is where I met my husband. When we got married, we discovered we had so many connections that we didn’t know about because our families are both from the South Side. My tía and his tía were cheerleaders together, his stepmom was the nurse for my tía’s dad before he passed away, we had cousins who went to school together — so there were times when we were younger that we were in the same place at the same time and didn’t even know. That’s kind of how it is on the South Side, everyone’s connected to some degree.
It’s that connection that I think keeps a lot of us here. When my husband and I were looking for our own home, we knew we wanted to stay on the South Side. Our realtor, who was my friend’s mother, asked us, “Are you sure?” She knew of a lot of nice new constructions in other parts of town that she thought might be a better fit, but we had our hearts set on somewhere more familiar.
We found a house in Highland Hills on the Southeast Side and have been here for 10 years now. One of the reasons we chose this neighborhood was because most of the residents were older. Even though we were in our 20s at the time, we were the type to be in bed by 10:30 and up by 6:30. Our next-door neighbor is an older woman who is the original owner of the house. She lives alone, so we take her dinner once or twice a week and my husband helps her out with little things around the house. Some of our neighbors are now bedridden, so we don’t see them as often, and others have passed away. As older residents pass away and their families sell their homes, we are starting to see more signs of gentrification, which is definitely a concern.
We have a neighborhood association that meets once a month to talk about what’s going on and concerns that arise. While I try to make it when I can, I usually get my updates from the neighborhood chismosa down the street. I can always count on her to fill me in on the latest happenings.
Some of the challenges facing our community are challenges experienced in many parts of San Antonio. We have a lot of stray dogs and feral cats that keep multiplying. Our family has adopted two cats and gotten them fixed, but we definitely need more help, perhaps from a trap-neuter-return program, to get the situation under control. San Antonio as a whole has a homelessness problem, and we’re seeing that more in our neighborhood lately. I try to help by holding fundraisers for hygiene items and warm clothing in the winter, but I know there’s no quick solution.
Though it’s an older neighborhood, there are still families with kids our kids’ age. One of my son’s best friends lives down the street and comes over often. We’re close enough to our family on the South Side that we can visit each other regularly, but far enough to have our independence.
All the McCreless H-E-B curbside workers know me already because I’m there so often to stock up on groceries for my family, which includes two hungry teenagers. As a small business owner, it’s also important to me to support other small businesses in my community. You’ll find me at La Popular Bakery on Goliad Road at least once a week and at Fruteria La Mission #2 all summer. Big Lou’s Pizza, famous for their big (and I mean big) pizzas, is a family favorite.
Southside Lions Park is great for an escape and change of scenery. It’s a great space with a community center, swimming pool, softball fields, tennis courts, a lake where you can enjoy some fishing, and two miles of trails. I like to go hiking there and sometimes volunteer doing river cleanup.
But my favorite community space on the South Side has to be the Mission Marquee Plaza. The City of San Antonio’s World Heritage Office offers cultural events, the Farmers and Artisans Market happens every first and third Saturday of the month, in the summer we have the Outdoor Family Film Series, and we have other community initiatives like free zumba and yoga.
I like opportunities like these that help me stay connected to my community on the South Side. Like many other Southsiders, I’m proud of where I come from and eager to continue making this a wonderful place to live.