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.
San Antonio feels like the largest city in the country that still maintains its small-town atmosphere. In part, this is a result of the strong community bonds and deep roots within our culturally driven neighborhoods. This is especially true for older neighborhoods, like the Palm Heights-Collins Garden area. These communities impact every aspect of our upbringing, including our education, our culture, and our values.
My family has lived in this Palm Heights-Collins Garden neighborhood for generations. My great-grandmother lived three houses down from my grandparents’ current home, and my aunt and her family live just a block away.
My grandparents’ house in Palm Heights has always been the de facto meeting point for my family. Pretty much everyone in my immediate family has lived in the apartment behind my grandparents’ house at one point or another. My mother and I lived here when I was in elementary school until she married my stepdad. My cousins lived here when they were in college to save money. I lived here for my final year of college at Trinity, and continue to do so in order to stay close to my employer’s office.
Although I live in an apartment separate from their house, I still spend most evenings with my grandparents. I will usually go over for dinner and watch Exatlón Estados Unidos with them. Though I don’t speak Spanish, I can follow along enough and root alongside them for their favorite contestants. On the weekends, we typically get curbside meals from Rosa’s Tacos To Go or Gyro’s Drive Inn, both local food staples in our community.
One of the area’s bedrock local businesses is Rudy’s Feed Store. Every weekend for as long as I can remember, they’ve provided free shots for dogs. It was always exciting to drive by and see all the dogs, and it’s so cool to see that the feed store is still thriving and giving back to the community. Seeing all of the cute dogs lined up with their owners is definitely a highlight during this pandemic. I want places like this to continue to prosper in our community without the threat of being pushed out.
My grandmother, Julia Alvarez, worked at the Collins Garden Library for over 20 years. She would always pick me up from elementary school and take me to work with her. I spent countless hours in the library and, eventually, I got to know all the staff there. I’m pretty sure I read every book in the children’s section. Growing up in a library had a huge influence on my passion for reading. Even now, I try to read one book per week and document it with my friends on Instagram.
In the past few years, the library has been updated to be more modernized. They also built a community garden and updated the Collins Garden Park to include a beautiful walking trail and playground. The library isn’t the only thing in the neighborhood to get an upgrade since I was a kid. When they redid the H-E-B on Nogalitos Street, I remember that was such a big deal for the neighborhood. I love telling people I live right by the two-story H-E-B (even though the first floor is technically a parking garage).
Another perk to living in Palm Heights is that the Blue Star area is just a 10-minute drive from us. I remember going to local concerts there when my cousins performed in their bands. The performances were held in the parking lot and there was nothing else around. Now it’s one of my top spots in town to view artwork and grab food.
My favorite restaurant in the city would have to be Hot Joy on South Alamo Street. On the weekends, I like to grab brunch (and mimosa flights) at Halcyon Southtown and walk along the river toward downtown playing Pokemon Go with my friends and boyfriend.
As a Southtown enthusiast, I love my neighborhood’s close proximity to it. However, with the development of Southtown comes the possibility that developers will start looking toward Palm Heights. In this predominantly Hispanic part of town, many of the residents, like my grandparents, have been here their whole lives. In some cases, these homes have been passed down over generations. We have deep roots here and certainly don’t want to see our neighborhood fall victim to gentrification.