Communities

A New Project In San Antonio May Become the ‘Latino Highline’

by Araceli Cruz

May 22, 2018

Less than 200 miles east of the U.S./Mexico border, walls are being built in San Antonio, Texas — 60,000 linear feet of new walls, to be exact.

But this construction isn’t meant to divide but rather to unite and build the community around San Pedro Creek as people once did hundreds of years ago.

San Pedro Creek, which flows for about 4 miles parallel to the San Antonio River — through the Christopher Columbus Italian Society Hall, past the Alameda Theater, Spanish Governor’s Palace, urban residential housing, arts district, and south of downtown — is a subtle body of water that is often overlooked.

Archival image of San Pedro Creek. Photo courtesy of Muñoz and Company.

In 2013, city and county officials envisioned a change for the creek. It had mostly served as a drainage ditch and also segregated the Latino majority from the affluent white minority in the area.

In a partnership between Bexar County, the San Antonio River Authority, and the City of San Antonio that included $125 million in funding, new life emerged from San Pedro Creek and took shape as a cultural park.

On May 5, 2018 — the 300th anniversary of the founding of San Antonio – officials held a grand opening for the first phase of San Pedro Culture Park or as some people are calling it The Latino High Line, in reference to the influential New York project that turned an abandoned rail line into an elevated park. San Pedro Culture Park is slated to be completed in 2020, and when it’s finished, it will stretch 2.2 miles.

Photo courtesy of Muñoz and Company.

Its overall structure will consist of public art, architectural design, local craft, and historic preservation with engineering, ecosystem restoration, and native landscaping. The community can enjoy sitting on its benches and observing murals, including 26 pieces of art, historical texts, and poetry that are aligned by limestone walls, lush landscaping of trees, and aquatic plants.

The park’s creative designer is San Antonio native Henry Muñoz, who’s also serving as chairman of the National Museum of the American Latino Commission and is the national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

San Pedro Creek will be a national symbol for Latino and Anglo communities actually coming together to celebrate their shared values, history, and future.

“This isn’t just a park, but a place of cultural identity,” Muñoz said in an interview with Curbed. “I like to refer to the idea of mestizo regionalism. Pretty much every major community in the United States has become more mestizo, more blended, more Latino: Houston, Dallas, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles. They all have rising populations and Latino influence.”

Photo courtesy of Muñoz and Company.

From the first recorded expedition of San Pedro Creek in 1709, Fray Isidro Felix de Espinosa described the creek as “bordered by many trees and with water enough to supply a town. It was full of taps or sluices of water, the earth being terraced.” For centuries, the creek was just as vital a resource as the land.

According to a study, the creek community was displaced when the European settlers arrived in the mid-19th century. “The use of the river, creeks, and acequias changed due to the ever growing population,” the report states. “The San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek were reserved for bathing and washing, whereas the acequia system provided the town’s drinking water supply. The misuse of the acequia system as a waste disposal location and several cholera epidemics led to the need to develop a more sanitary way of obtaining water.”

Archival image of San Pedro Creek. Photo courtesy of Muñoz and Company.

In an interview with San Antonio Business Journal, Bexar County Precinct 2’s commissioner, Paul Elizondo — who has been instrumental with the development of the cultural park — recalled fishing there when he was a kid and discussed what the makeup of the neighborhood was like back then, which included immigrants from Italy, Lebanon, Germany, China, and Mexico.

“​It was quite a neighborhood,” Elizondo said. “We saw it knocked down and obliterated when they built the freeway. Now, we’re coming back to the heart of the community.”

Elizondo adds that the cultural park will serve a greater purpose, saying “It’s the restoration of economic vitality of an area of the community that has been long neglected.”

Rendering courtesy of Muñoz and Company.

The cultural implication of the rebuilding of this area, however, isn’t just a reminder that people want a nice place to sit and enjoy art in a beautifully landscaped park. It speaks to people who want to nourish a community that has been displaced and honor the history that has built this country.

“As the Trump administration boasts about building a wall between us and our Mexican roots, San Pedro Creek will be a national symbol for Latino and Anglo communities actually coming together to celebrate their shared values, history, and future,” Muñoz said in an interview with The Architect’s Newspaper, adding “[the restoration] exemplifies the community’s rich heritage and stands for a national dialogue playing out in nearly every city across the country.”

Top and share images courtesy of Muñoz and Company.

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A New Project In San Antonio May Become the ‘Latino Highline’