Preserving the Character of San Antonio's Near West Side

Latino activists look to preserve a 'Chicano epicenter,' recently given the designation of a UNESCO site.
September 13, 2017, 9am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio's Westside
Joe Diaz

"The Westside alone, where 95 percent of the population is Hispanic, stands as a rare condensate of history, unseen elsewhere in the city or in other Chicano epicenters like Los Angeles or east Austin," Johnny Magdaleno writes for Next City. Activists in the area are looking to protect and maintain the area's culture in a growing San Antonio.

Holding on to that culture presents an interesting challenge because, as Claudia Guerra of the city's Office of Historic Preservation put it, "It's more difficult when you have a place whose significance comes not from the architecture but the people or the culture that's associated with it.”

In one way, historic preservation can be used as a tool, not just to maintain historic buildings, but also to slow gentrification. "In San Antonio, houses that receive historic designation have their pre-designation property tax rates frozen for the following 10 years if homeowners invest in rehabilitating the structure — a medium-term approach to slowing tax hikes if nearby real estate markets turn hot," Magdaleno reports. Residents hope that the neighborhood can maintain its character better than other hot property markets like east Austin, where Blacks and Latinos were largely displaced.

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Published on Monday, September 4, 2017 in Next City
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