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.
Nuestra colonia pobre, as we affectionally call our neighborhood of Raymond Heights, is located south of downtown near Southwest Military Drive and Interstate 35. Fidela, our octogenarian neighbor, who lives directly across from us, waves as we step out of our home and hollers, “Hey, Guero!” I return the affection with, “Hola, Chula.” Danny starts a conversation with our next-door neighbor Becky, who is sitting on her front porch with her husband, Raul. They have been friendly and helpful from the first day we arrived in the neighborhood after purchasing our empty lot and building our dream home.
Five years ago we were living in a newer neighborhood where all the houses looked alike and a homeowners association hovered over us. Lacking was any sense of community or soul, as most neighbors arrived home from work, parked in their garages, and entered their homes without a word or a wave. After seven years there, we decided that it was time to build a new home that fit our needs and personalities.
We searched for several months before stumbling upon a quarter-acre lot on the South Side, which is more than enough room for our chihuahuas Luna, Lupe, and Nico to explore. The bonus is that the neighborhood is filled with soul, history, and great neighbors. Many of the neighbors have lived here for decades, with houses passed down from generation to generation.
After searching for a custom home builder that fit our needs and that would actually build on this side of town, we found Maku Home Builders. Our Realtor, John Zamora with Zamora-Orduna Real Estate Group, had experience with them and he nurtured the whole project from start to finish. He also became a friend who we still keep in touch with regularly.
It took 13 months from start to finish for our home to be designed and built but it was worth it. We were able to choose all the details and make changes all throughout the process. As construction progressed we would visit the site every afternoon to meet with the builder and stay behind with the workers to show them our appreciation with ice-cold beer to end the workday. Our neighbors kept an eye on the worksite and were just as excited as we were to watch it come together.
This May we celebrate three years in nuestro palacio and couldn’t be happier. It has the modern Spanish style that we wanted and loved from our extensive travel throughout Mexico. We finally have the right space to display all the folk art that followed us home from these adventures. The large lot allows us to have the vegetable garden and outdoor entertaining spaces that we dreamed of. Best of all we have no HOA to deal with. We believe in letting our neighbors enjoy their land and personal vision, and we will do the same while all respecting each other.
There are several flea markets on the South Side and we enjoy wandering and people watching on the weekends. We have more than our share of great Mexican restaurants to choose from. Our favorite is La Perla Bar & Grill on Southwest Military Drive. The tacos are huge and probably responsible for most of our pandemic weight gain.
We are near the historic missions and frequently ride our bikes on the trails near the river, usually starting at Stinson Airport or Mission San Juan and riding 25 or 30 miles each time. Sometimes we go north on the trails to the King William area and reward ourselves with a cold drink at The Friendly Spot. Other times we go south along the trails past Mission Espada and continue for miles until we reach Medina River Natural Area. This route requires us to pack snacks and maybe a few cold ones in our backpacks so that we can survive the long return trip to the truck. Along this route, you will find some of the most beautiful landscapes in South Texas as well as the occasional wild javelina grazing beside the river or trails.
Near our home, we have numerous grocery stores such as H-E-B, Culebra Meat Market, and La Michoacana where we buy our meat for our backyard kitchen that Danny and I built during all our pandemic time off. During this time, we also dedicated ourselves to xeriscaping our backyard and growing vegetables.
We designed our backyard space for entertaining, with several sitting areas on our deck and patio. Though the pandemic paused any entertainment plans, we’ve still enjoyed having a space to drink our morning coffee, eat meals, or just converse between the two of us. And now that most of our neighbors, friends, and family are vaccinated, we are ready to spend time there catching up and creating new memories. This August we celebrate our 16th anniversary together and plan on sharing it with all our loved ones.
Raymond Heights is a working-class neighborhood where barbecue smoke and music drift through the air on the weekends as the families who have been here for decades get together to celebrate birthdays and milestones. We refer to it as nuestra colonia pobre, but in reality, it is rich with respect, friends, and history.