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.

My husband Jacob and I are both transplants – he from Houston, and I from Dallas. We met as students at Our Lady of the Lake University, where our relationship blossomed and where we forged friendships that remain important to us to this day. It’s these bonds and our love for this city that kept us in San Antonio after we graduated and got married.

We lived in Midtown and Olmos Park Terrace before looking for a home of our own. After months of searching, we felt like we’d reached a dead end. But my mother, who was visiting from Dallas, found the perfect house in one day. It was a beautiful, one-story house with ‘60s architecture and a spacious yard in Shearer Hills.

The Shearer Hills/Ridgeview neighborhood is shaded in red on the map.
The Shearer Hills/Ridgeview neighborhood is shaded in red on the map. Credit: Courtesy / Google Maps

After we moved in, we learned from our neighbors that the house once belonged to Rabbi Emeritus David Jacobson of Temple Beth-El. They told us about his involvement in the civil rights movement and how he would invite Black San Antonians to his home for dinner on a weekly basis as an act of rebellion in this once redlined neighborhood. As advocates – my husband works in homelessness and we’re both HIV advocates – learning this history was a sign that we had found the right home for us.

The neighborhood, too, is the perfect fit. It’s as eclectic as we are. Up the street we have the Oblate School of Theology, then we have taquerias, a tattoo shop, piercing shop, SAMMinistries, an elementary school, Oblate Cafe, and the little bodega on the corner. 

Where I Live: Shearer Hills by Janeli Saucedo-Castrejana. Photos taken on February 25, 2021.
Oblate Cafe. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

The Oblate Cafe is our spot. It’s iconic to San Antonio. Even during the pandemic, you can’t keep San Antonians down. We would go, pick up our tacos, and tailgate (socially distanced) with friends in the parking lot.

I love being down the street from Oblate School of Theology. When you’re there, it feels like you’re transported to an entirely different place. You forget that you’re in a city. It’s a serene, peaceful place for meditation or just getting away for a bit. It’s one of the city’s hidden gems and I’m grateful to have such easy access to it, not just for myself but for my children.

Where I Live: Shearer Hills by Janeli Saucedo-Castrejana. Photos taken on February 25, 2021.
Oblate School of Theology. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Shearer Hills has been a great place to raise our children Octavius, Maximus, and Ezri. Our neighbors are a mix of young couples with kids they can play with (in non-pandemic times) and older, retired folks they can learn from. Our neighbors across the street are Salesian sisters who converted their home into something of a second convent. They’re so sweet and always sharing treats with us.

Now that our children are all out of diapers, we have more of a chance to think about what updates our home needs. The first thing we did is convert a loft space in our attic into a classroom for the kids. We’re so fortunate to be able to provide this space to them and to have a big yard for them to play in during this pandemic. The whole family loves spending time outdoors, even if we’re just lounging around the yard. We have enormous oak trees that feel like guardians of the house and of the neighborhood. 

During the pandemic, we converted our front yard into a display space to keep spirits up in the neighborhood. My first display featured a giant 10-foot inflatable alien with a sign that said “don’t panic.” I also brought out unicorn and astronaut blow-up toys with a sign that said “smile.” I knew it was silly and almost chaotic but nothing as crazy as what we were going through. I would see pictures of my house on Instagram and that made me happy. When I took on this project, I knew it was a little weird, a little unconventional, but people enjoyed it, and that was the best part.

A display in Janeli Saucedo-Castrejana’s Shearer Hills front yard designed to keep neighbors’ spirits up during the pandemic. Credit: Courtesy / Janeli Saucedo-Castrejana

Then when George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed by police, we changed our silly display to “Black Lives Matter.” That one got fewer Instagram shout-outs, but neighbors went out of their way to tell us they liked that sign too. 

As much as we love Shearer Hills, our neighborhood is not without its problems. We’ve seen more homeless people in the area recently, which shows how big of an issue homelessness is in San Antonio. And we, as a city, have to acknowledge that it’s a complex issue that existed far before the pandemic. 

Because we’re right between McCullough and San Pedro, we get a lot of traffic on our street and people speeding through. We wish it were safer for our kids to play out front and hope that the City will install speed bumps soon. The road infrastructure as a whole could use an update for the sake of safety, particularly for the children who walk to and from school.

A lot of homes in the area are being flipped, which I have mixed feelings about. I’d like to think that people are recognizing how great the homes are and what a special neighborhood this is, but we’ll have to wait and see.

When people visit us in San Antonio, they’re often surprised by how cool it is. I think people either expect it to be like Market Square everywhere or some honky-tonk town, but there’s so much more to this city. We have such a rich culture, delicious food, authentic people, and an energy that can’t be replicated. San Antonio is where I’ve chosen to have my kids and raise my family, and I don’t plan on going anywhere.

Janeli Saucedo-Castrejana is HIV-positive.

Janeli Saucedo-Castrejana

Janeli Saucedo-Castrejana is a communications professional and HIV advocate. Born in El Paso and raised mostly in DeSoto, Janeli came to San Antonio in 2007 to attend Our Lady of the Lake University, where...