Social Justice Linked to Historical Preservation at SAPL Event

Photos by William Timmerman - Photographer, SA Sentinel.

May 22, 2019 - Downtown San Antonio

Article By: Lindsay Summerville - Contributing Writer, SA Sentinel

On May 22nd, the San Antonio Central Library held an event in honor of Historical Preservation Month entitled Historic Preservation as a Social Justice Imperative. The evening began with an introduction from moderator Dr. Sarah Gould, Director of Museo del Westside (a project by the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center) and co-chair of Latinas in Heritage Conservation. Dr. Gould described how communities with large amounts of People of Color are often excluded or incredibly underrepresented by historical preservation policies. She stated that, while this is a systemic issue, it is also fostered by communities not fully understanding their rights to preservation, which combines into the problems that they are now facing.

Attendees listen to the speakers in the Central Library. Photo by:  William Timmerman  - Photographer- SA Sentinel.

Attendees listen to the speakers in the Central Library. Photo by: William Timmerman - Photographer- SA Sentinel.

Dr. Gould then introduced Dr. Fred L. McGhee, an anthropologist and president of the Montopolis Community Development Corporation located in Austin, and Graciela Sanchez, Executive Director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. Ms. Sanchez led the discussion first, detailing her first-hand experiences during the urban renewal project in the 1970s which razed the neighborhood she grew up in. “Guadalupe Street to Laredo Street, from Trinity to Zarzamora and everybody just disappeared,” described Sanchez. “Everything that was my history and my culture disappeared.”

This experience inspired Ms. Sanchez to action in 2002. With more urban development on the horizon, she spoke up with other Westside residents to save the La Gloria, a prominent dancehall and gas station in the Westside established in 1908. However, despite her effort, the building was torn down on April 1st, 2002.

Towards the end of the discussion, Dr. McGhee summed up the subject matter with a broad statement describing how he sees social justice and historical preservation as inherently linked. “If you destroy the physical environment, you’re going to destroy the culture,” said McGhee. “If you do that, then you destroy the people. It's just that simple.”