I grew up on the South Side and have always thought of this as home. I was born in Mexico, and when I immigrated to the U.S. with my family, we first settled in Quintana. I went to Miguel Carillo Elementary School, Dwight Middle School, then South San High for two years. Then we moved to the Harlandale district where I graduated from McCollum High as valedictorian in 2010. I was blessed to receive the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship to attend the University of Texas at Austin.
I lived in Austin for eight years while I was completing my undergraduate studies and later my pharmacy studies. I always knew that I wanted to come back to San Antonio, I just didn’t know when. After we got married, my husband Jesus and I started thinking about where we wanted to settle down, and we realized that we wanted to be back home, close to family and the community where we both grew up.
My husband Jesus and I met in sixth grade at Dwight Middle School. We both attended Sunday school together and started a youth choir at St. Joseph’s Church, and our relationship blossomed from there. We both went to UT, and when I was in my second year of pharmacy school, he proposed.
In life, there are certain things you can’t control, like where you’re born, the color of your skin. Coming back to our neighborhood, was something we were able to control. There’s a lot of potential in this neighborhood. If you look at the statistics, you might think otherwise, but I have so much respect for the place that has helped build me and am happy to be able to come back to help build on the potential of this neighborhood. I owe it to our neighbors to make this area better.
We started a nonprofit called Building A Purpose, which is a mentorship program that connects students with professionals. When I was in school and wanted to become a pharmacist, I had no idea what that entailed. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I had someone who could help guide me down that path? And that’s where the idea came from to come back to our neighborhood to help students see the potential they have by connecting them with professionals who can show them the possibilities. We want to help students find their purpose by connecting them with people who can help guide them. The students that we’re helping have so much potential, they just need someone who believes in them to show them the way.
It’s been great to settle back in here in Quintana and to get to know our neighbors. We have a lot of hardworking, humble neighbors, many of them are Spanish-speaking, and we all look out for each other and help each other out. One of our neighbors is Andy Castillo, the Quintana Neighborhood Association president and an architect. In getting to know our neighbors, we get to know their talents and see all the hidden talent that’s in this neighborhood.
I don’t have a formal leadership role in the neighborhood association, but I do try to attend meetings and events when I can. There was an event recently organized by the neighborhood association called Echale Gas, which was for entrepreneurs who want to start small businesses.
A lot of my memories growing up in Quintana are tied to St. Joseph’s. That’s where Jesus and I got to know each other, where we got married, where we baptized our daughter and our two goddaughters. We just saw our friends get married there. And now I’m a Sunday school teacher there, so it’s come full-circle. Going through all the struggles of being new to a country, we relied on our faith a lot growing up.
Chinese Mexican Grill on Somerset is one of our favorite places to go eat. The owners are so nice and the food is great. It’s the only place you can get Chinese food around here that’s not Panda Express. We visit Pearsall Park quite a bit with our daughter Autumn. Another one of my favorite places is the laundromat by Leal Middle School.
Growing up, we never had a washer at home, so we had to go to the laundromat. It was special to me because it was time I spent with my mom and sister. After we finished washing all the clothes, my mom would buy us a soda or a treat. That’s where I learned that different quarters had different states, and it became my mission to collect them all. Years later, I found my collection and told Jesus about it, and it turned out he had collected the state quarters, too.
Though I know how amazing my neighborhood is, one of the big challenges of living on the South Side is feeling overlooked. Growing up, I always wanted to live on the North Side, or somewhere where I could have a better chance, go to a better school. It was hard feeling like we didn’t have the same resources as other areas. And that’s just how San Antonio was built. Something as simple as better street lighting would go a long way for our neighborhood. A lot of people rely on public transportation, and just getting to a bus stop can be hard because they have to walk through areas that aren’t well-lit.
Coming back, I see a lot of the same challenges that I saw growing up here, but I also see all the potential. When Jesus and I were thinking about where to settle down, we of course thought about our daughter and where we want her to grow up. Despite all the obstacles and statistics, there are opportunities to be more resourceful and resilient. This is where our family is, where we were raised, and we feel there’s no better place for her to grow up. I’m grateful to be able to raise Autumn around family and our church and all these special people and places I’ve grown up with.