The Las Palmas Library in San Antonio, TX, hosted StoryCorps for three recording days from August 15-17, 2010. My co-Facilitator Yazmín Peña and I facilitated several San Antonians’ interviews, including one between Jesse Treviño (L), nationally renowned local artist, and his friend, Gabriel Velasquez (R).
Jesse remembered car clubs from his childhood in the Westside. Their hand-painted posters and colorful jackets inspired him to pin stripe his friends’ cars. He was a serious young artist, and with his diploma, he moved to New York City in 1965. He painted portraits of Greenwich Village roamers and tourists, chasing his dream to succeed as a painter.
A Vietnam War draft notice came in 1966-his dream had to wait. He thought about art throughout his training and service, and took moments for himself to sketch his fellow soldiers on scraps of paper. In Vietnam, he got a care package from his mother and made a painting with its brown paper, brushing bits of color of a woman holding a baby. He avoids remembering the horrors of the war.
A mine destroyed Jesse’s strong hand and hospitalized him for weeks. I asked him how the war changed his art. “It made me more passionate,” he said. “It shook me and I started to look at things the way they really were.” Losing his hand did not stop him. “I’ve created more art this way, after losing my hand,” Jesse continued. Be it his foot, mouth, or prosthetic, he would paint with anything if he had to.
93-year-old Lucy Hofmann and her sister 91-year-old Alice Lowry came to share their stories when StoryCorps visited The Haven Assisted Living Residence in San Antonio, TX. Lucy and Alice shared about their family and a unique slice of American history.
Lucy talked about how Emperor Dom Pedro Segundo of Brazil encouraged southerners following the Civil War to come to Brazil and become Brazilian citizens. He wanted agriculture and cotton to be developed in Brazil. William Hutchinson Norris, one of the first original Confederados known to arrive in Brazil was Alice and Lucy’s great grandfather. Many of William’s sons had fought in the Civil War for the South, and one of these sons, who joined William in Brazil, was Robert Norris, their grandfather.
Lucy said that their grandparents picked their land by choosing a spot that reminded them of the fertile land they left behind in Alabama. The town that formed around this land where Alice was born, Villa Americana, is now the city Americana in Brazil.
Lucy and Alice attended a Methodist boarding school called Colegio Peracicabano that they remembered fondly as well as the picnics held every four months by the descendants of the southerners who came to Brazil. These gatherings always had two things: southern dancing and good southern food. Alice remembered the tables piled high with fried chicken, stewed corn, lemon pies, and of course, biscuits and cornbread.
After traveling much of the world throughout their lives with their husbands, Lucy and Alice are settled back in Texas. Lucy is pictured here listening closely to her interview on the laptop in The Haven Parlor.
MobileBooth West was privileged to be in San Antonio during the city’s first annual Arts Night Event, Luminaria. Video art and colored light projections, singers, street performers, dancers, glass blowers, muralists and other visual and craft artists, in addition to thousands of spectators, filled the streets, galleries and theatres of downtown San Antonio. People came to see the city aglow and celebrate its artistic heritage.
There was a time when Ginger Purdy (left), one of the most powerful advocates for women in San Antonio today, wasn’t even involved in the women’s movement. She was too busy raising her daughters on her own and working as a freelance fashion artist. She told her daughter Melissa Stoeltje (right) in their visit to MobileBooth West: “Back when the women’s movement started in the 70s, I knew it was going on, but you know I was so busy working all day and then I would come home and draw shoes at night just to make sure you kids got orthodonture, swimming lessons, writing lessons and all that. I knew that the women’s movement was going on, but it was not at the forefront of my mind. My three kids, you know, being the single mother, that was the thing”
Ginger’s story is of a woman who grew into the political force that she is today after being what she called a “traditional woman.” Though she had been involved in women’s groups before, the women’s movement hadn’t, as she put it, “come into her t.v. screen yet.” After attending the National Women’s Political Caucus at the St. Anthony Hotel–where she saw Sonia Johnson speak about how she had been excommunicated from her Mormon Church for supporting the Equal Rights Amendment–Ginger was a changed woman. She described that day:
“As I walked in the San Anthony Hotel, there was a big banner across the stage and it showed two little women; you could tell they were down in a hole but they were on a pedestal, and they had their arms around each other. And they were looking up, and at the edge of the top of that hole, you could see what looked to be the pointed tips of two boots. And the words said, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’ve had just about all this pedestal stuff I can take.’” (more…)
On Sunday, Rose and Yuki recorded at the Casa de Cuentes, a small shotgun house owned by the Esperanza Center for Peace and Justice in San Antonio’s historically Hispanic and Latino Westside neighborhood. The house is also called Casa de la Misericordia because the woman who lived there during the Depression gave food to impoverished people who passed by. Back then, people in the neighborhood ran businesses from their front porches. “The neighborhood was self-sufficient,” explained Amanda, our contact from Esperanza, and it’s this kind of community spirit that Esperanza is reviving in the Westside.
The Casa had a warm, comforting feeling, and participants often stayed late after their interviews or came early to sit and talk in the kitchen. Old black and white blow-ups of beloved places and people from the community hung in each room of the house.
Esperanza is piecing together the history of the Westside by speaking with elders and recording their experiences. Through word of mouth, they found that Ruben’s Ice House next door to the Casa (pictured in the last two slides) was once a popular gathering ground. Esperanza plans to use the now abandoned building to house the oral histories it has collected, including those recorded by StoryCorps. One of the organization’s missions is to preserve historical landmarks, like Ruben’s, from demolition by the city. “Just because they are poor people’s monuments or they’re not big monuments doesn’t mean they’re not important,” said Amanda.
Harry J. Perez and his daughter Dana visited MobileBooth West to share their family’s history in the field of aviation. It all began with Harry’s father, Joe Perez, a former pilot in World War II. Today Harry, Dana, and one of Dana’s brothers are all pilots. (The other brother is a skydiver!)
During their stay in San Antonio, Texas, facilitators Yuki Aizawa and Rose Gorman were treated to a walk in the clouds by Dana at Stinson Municipal Airport.
Last weekend Yuki Aizawa and Rose Gorman drove 1,400 miles on Interstate 10 from Los Angeles to San Antonio, Texas. Our Silverado transported us through breathtaking Joshua Tree National Park – whose strange landscape brought to mind Dr. Seuss and The Flintstones – dust storms in New Mexico, and along the border past sprawling Texas cattle farms. On day three, we met up with our Mobile Coordinator, Terry Scott, and our pro driver, Joseph Priest (pictured last two in slide show), who safely delivered the MobileBooth to its new location, steps away from The Alamo in downtown San Antonio.