(From left) Enrique, Graciela and Mark Olivares in front of their home in Los Jardines. Credit: Stephanie Marquez / San Antonio Report

My parents bought our house in Los Jardines in the early ’90s, before I was born. It was a quiet neighborhood, because fewer people lived in this part of town, and it was lonely. Now that we have more neighbors, there’s more of a sense of community.

In my elementary school years, I remember there were farmhouses and fields in my neighborhood. My church, El Buen Pastor Apostolic Church, was a few blocks away, and the neighborhood seemed empty compared to how it is now. I had a childhood friend who lived across from my house, and we hung out every day. We biked around our neighborhood and watched the fireworks from Wolff Stadium on Thursday nights.

Over the years, fields and farms were replaced by homes and apartment complexes. The quiet was disrupted by the Kelly Air Force Base planes flying over the neighborhood.

In March 2008, my older brother passed away in a shooting east of Kirby. It was a painful time for our family, but our next-door neighbors, my mother’s friends, and especially our church community, comforted us. My mother knows my brother is in heaven and is glad he is somewhere where she’ll meet him again.

My street was once full of potholes, and when it rained, my front yard would flood. The issue with my street and several other surrounding streets was brought up in every neighborhood meeting. Our councilwoman at the time, Delicia Herrera, was able to get the city to repair our streets. Around late 2008, my street was repaired and drainage was added.

I began to care more about the appearance of our house after taking architecture classes at San Antonio College, where I became especially interested in landscape architecture. I started to take on some small projects around the house and, a couple of years ago, I built a pond in the front yard. My parents loved it, but, since I was still an amateur at the time, it didn’t last.

Graciela and Enrique Olivares water their plants every morning.

During the school year, I drive to and from school or take the commuter bus. Early in the morning before school, I love to pick up tacos from Panchos on Old Highway 90. After church on Thursdays nights, my mother and I go to the McDonald’s on 36th Street with a few of our church friends and chat until midnight. 

Just recently our house got a makeover and looks prettier now than it did before. An organization called San Antonio Work Camp came over and painted our house. They were so nice, prayed for us, and gave us a lovely Bible. Now our house is bright blue and can be noticed on the street. I love the fresh new look, and my parents are very happy with the update.

As much as I love my neighborhood, I know there’s a lot of room for improvement. I wish there was more business here, perhaps an H-E-B or another grocery store. Every time we go to the H-E-B at Las Palmas, it’s packed because it’s the only H-E-B in the area. I also wish we had a library here as a resource to the community. Since I am close to becoming an architect, God willing, I have a vision for my neighborhood.

The uncovered bus stop where Mark Olivares catches the bus to San Antonio College.

My vision is to bring community centers, grocery stores, better biking lanes, sidewalks, parks, and other improvements for my community. I began to design a library for my community on the corner of Acme Road and Old Highway 90, which is surrounded by schools like Alamo Colleges Westside Education and Training Center. Next to the Amazon Distribution Center, I envision a nice H-E-B Plus to serve this area.

This is a neighborhood I love and care about and want to change for the better. Even though I love my city, I don’t think my city really sees our issues on the West Side. We’re often overlooked because we are labeled as the poor side of town. My neighbors want this to change, and I want to be part of that change for Los Jardines, for Edgewood, and for my parents.

Mark Olivares is a native San Antonian who lives on the West Side with his dear parents. He's an architecture student at San Antonio College and hopes to work for the City of San Antonio once he graduates.