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.
Though I lived on the North Side of San Antonio as a child, some of my most cherished memories are from spending time on the West Side with my grandparents.
I remember how my grandparents took pride in their home, that my grandfather always had something growing in his garden, and platicas out front with the sweet neighbors. I remember riding around the neighborhood listening to oldies in my grandfather’s truck and my grandmother’s teal Thunderbird. She was so proud of that car because she had worked to save up and buy it with her own money.
We would go eat at Panchito’s off of Zarzamora, to feed the ducks at Woodlawn Lake, to ride our bikes at Kennedy Park, or hang out at my tía’s beauty shop.
I later left San Antonio to participate in the City Year program in New York and then to teach in Hawaii. I was able to gain some perspective through those experiences and return to my hometown with a greater appreciation for where I came from and a drive to find community here.
I ended up living with my grandparents on the West Side for some time while I worked in the Edgewood school district, and it reminded me of how much I loved it as a kid. So when I started looking for a home of my own, I decided to stay in the area.
When I found this house in Jefferson, I knew I had to have it. I even wrote a letter to the owners describing my connection to the area and my commitment to preserving the history of the home. Since moving in, I’ve grown to appreciate the layout of the house where the communal spaces are separated from the bedrooms in such a way that, even if we have people over and there’s a lot of activity in the communal areas, the bedrooms can stay quiet. This has become especially important since my husband Charles moved in and we had our baby, Ofilia.
There’s so much beautiful natural light in the house, which means a lot of windows to keep clean, but it’s definitely worth it. The windows in the dining room are crank windows, which is one of the cool features of the house that we’re happy to preserve. Another one is a huge fireplace that we’ve added our own touches to by painting the wall emerald green and hanging a gold mirror above it that my husband’s grandmother left to him. It’s become a focal point in our home, and every time I look at it it makes me happy.
When I was younger, I saw so much beauty and a strong sense of community on the West Side – and I still see it – but now I also see the inequities that the West Side faces. My dad grew up here and he remembers a bullet going between the bunk beds he shared with his brothers from a drive-by that hit the wrong house. He didn’t want that for us, which is why he moved away when he started his family. I understand that decision and appreciate what he did for his family.
But there’s much more to the West Side. There are so many wonderful people here and such a rich history. People here really take pride in where they come from, and I understand why families stay here for generations.
My parents still live in the same house on the North Side, but they visit my neighborhood often. My sister lives nearby and, while my grandparents have since passed away, my tío now lives in their home. It’s nice to still have that family connection here and to be able to do little things around the neighborhood to honor my grandparents.
Cool Crest is one of my favorite spots in the neighborhood. I remember going there when I was younger and love that it’s still around for people to enjoy. I like the retro vibe and how colorful it is, not to mention all the really beautiful greenery. And it’s kind of tucked away, which makes you feel like you’re the only one there, even on a busy day.
On that same stretch of Fredericksburg Road, you’ll find places like Deco Pizzeria, El Paraiso Ice Cream, and the Original Donut Shop – businesses that have been around for a long time and have become part of the community. I remember going to watch plays at Woodlawn Theatre and even seeing some of my friends from high school acting in the plays.
Places like Jefferson Bodega, the Koffee Kup, and Barrio Barista, especially, foster a sense of community in the neighborhood. They’re places where you can go and see familiar faces, where the staff knows your name and cares about you. We’ve gotten to know the owners at Jefferson Bodega, which is such a unique place in San Antonio. They have a selection of snacks and beer you won’t find at your typical corner store. I’ll even see friends who don’t live nearby making the drive out here for specific items, like a limited edition beer.
I love my neighborhood and am protective of it. When people come to Jefferson, I want them to understand that this is a community to be appreciated, not exploited. I want them to think about the history of the buildings, like the gorgeous Jefferson High School building and those in the Deco District. I want them to especially think of the people who have been here for generations and have built something special here.