Westside community members celebrating the 16 de Septiembre during a parade on Guadalupe Street.
NOVEMBER 8, 2022 — The UTSA Westside Community Partnerships Initiative will use a traditional storytelling forum to raise awareness of this culturally rich, yet historically underserved community. The event, Pláticas y Encuentros: A Multigenerational Symposium about the Westside of San Antonio, will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on November 10 and 11 at the Buena Vista Street Building on the UTSA Downtown Campus. The symposium is free and open to the public.
The program will consist of several meetings, or encuentros—each featuring the stories, or platicas, about the people, traditions and struggles of the Westside.
“The platicas are a traditional way Westside families transfer knowledge and hand down wisdom and information,” said Roger Enriquez, executive director of the Westside initiative and an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice in the UTSA College for Health, Community and Policy.
The symposium marks one of the latest outreach efforts by the Westside Community Partnerships Initiative, and one of several neighborhood-based initiatives of the UTSA Office of Community Relations. The goal of the Westside Partnerships is to improve the lives of families living in San Antonio’s Westside by investing in preserving the rich heritage while also helping residents tackle their most tenacious challenges.
“It is important that UTSA, as a model Hispanic Serving Institution, look at the challenges and the opportunities in communities like the Westside,” Enriquez said.
The event is also aligned with the university’s commitment to ensure that the residents and business owners of this culturally rich community thrive, according to UTSA Vice President for University Relations Teresa Niño.
“UTSA is dedicated to amplifying the economic and cultural strengths of San Antonio’s historic Westside,” she said. “The university has an integral role to play in fostering the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of this community. We want to be the tide that raises all boats.”
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, along with Rep. Joaquin Castro, will speak at the opening session of the symposium.
Eighmy led the effort to establish the Westside Initiative and the Westside Community Center, both of which were launched in 2019.
The Center was created in August of that year to bring city stakeholders together and serve as a hub for community-based research. Meanwhile, the Westside initiative, launched that fall, has fostered meaningful relationships with Westside residents and business owners—thus sparking economic opportunity and vital partnerships in the community.
Both programs are also part of Eighmy’s strategic initiative to make UTSA an urban serving university, which requires that the institution deepen its ties with all areas of San Antonio—especially those areas that have been underserved historically.  
The symposium will be a prime opportunity for vital community voices to tell their stories. Participants will hear from activists of the Chicano Movement who fought against oppression for the people on the West Side and beyond. They will also hear about the West Side Sound, an enduring fusion of jazz, R&B and Tejano music that grew out of the community as early as the 1950s — as told by the artists at the forefront of the scene.
For many of these individuals, success was rooted in finding ways to make do when times were tough, Enriquez said.
The narrow, rectangular residences known as shotgun homes, for example, are a testament to the determination of Westside residents who couldn’t get a bank loan to became homeowners.
“They would buy a narrow piece of land and a lumber kit on credit, and the community would help build the home,” Enriquez said.
It is important that younger generations hear these stories. That is why the upcoming symposium is so significant, he added.
“We need to impart the wisdom of the generations. Young people need to see that this drive, this ingenuity still exists in the city,” Enriquez said.
Added Niño, “Hope and historical knowledge can both be powerful weapons as we fight for a better future.”
Tricia Lynn Silva
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The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property – for Texas, the nation and the world.
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