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  • Writer's pictureSharon Gubbay Helfer

Soul of San Antonio

This is difficult to pin down and hopelessly presumptuous as we've only been here just over four days. But I have such a strong feeling that San Antonio is a city with soul, depth, character. There are layers of history, layers upon layers, deep roots of pain and conquest, spirit and drive, passion, luscious beauty, powerful mix of cultures. I'll mention here two things: Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla and the River Walk.


On the drive down Peter and I learned that San Antonio is a hub of Tejano music, a genre we'd never heard of. Though my ignorance remains quasi-total, I have learned that one key figure was Selena Quintanilla, who recorded most of her songs at the AMEN Studios in San Antonio. Bursting with life and creativity, Selena, "Queen of Tejano" was a force in music and also fashion before she was murdered at age 23 by her friend and the former manager of her Selena Etc. fashion boutiques. Selena's passion and joie de vivre shine through in this clip, just one of many available online.


When I first heard about the Riverwalk and its cafes and boutiques I imagined that it would be a cute development created recently to attract tourists. But I have learned differently. Now it seems to me that the Riverwalk carries a layer of San Antonio's soul.

Part of it is the look and feel of the river itself, slow, lazy, green. A big part of it is the way the whole thing began, with the ambitious plan put forward by San Antonio-born Robert H.H. Hugman in 1929. Drastic floods in San Antonio's downtown had led to a plan to pave over the river. Hugman, inspired by the preservation of the French Quarter in New Orleans, had an ambitious vision of "The Shops of Aragon and Romula,” a beautification and flood-control plan for the heart of the city. The realization of this project only came after many years of setbacks and persistence. It is a fascinating story characterized by vision, creativity and talent as well as setback, grit and persistence.

A few pics from the walk Peter and I took on our second day here. The weather was perfect. The tiling and many other artworks and surprises make this walk truly delightful.

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