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Border & Immigration

Fronteras Extra: What's Left Of Barrio Laredito?

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Michael Barera / http://bit.ly/2OOgeP0
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Casa Navarro State Historic Site in 2017. The Casa Navarro is one of the few remaining structures of the Barrio Laredito.

Barrio Laredito was established in what’s now downtown San Antonio, just west of San Pedro Creek. Though the small neighborhood disappeared due to gentrification in the 1970s, its nearly three-centuries-old culture lives on.

Binisa Zentella, a folklorist researching the music from Texas and its ties to Spain and Latin America, said the cultural resilience of Barrio Laredito allowed its residents to express themselves in a way that they couldn’t outside the neighborhood.

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Credit Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio
Jorge Luis Garcia Ruiz of UNAM-San Antonio; cultural anthropologist Citlali María Zentella, Binisa Zentella.

“(Music) really allows for people to move forward — especially music that is rooted in the creation of the people,” she said. “Folkloric (music), not something that’s created in the studio, but created by the mind and the heart and the spirit of the people.”

One song popular in Barrio Laredito was “Hay Unos Ojos,” Zentella said.

 

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Ana Gabriel sings 'Hay Unos Ojos.'

“Our ancestors have played it throughout the generations, but it’s something that really speaks to the people from San Antonio — it speaks to the people from Tejas,” she said. “All those forms of expression allowed for the people to maintain their sanity. The cultural psyche of the people of Barrio Laredito remained intact because they had these artistic forms to rely on.”

Zentella’s mother, Citlali Maria Zentella, is a cultural anthropologist who has been studying Barrio Laredito.

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Citlali Zentella talks about what remains of the Barrio Laredito.

“The Mercado we have in San Antonio ... it’s part of what was left,” she said, “but it didn’t take the real soul of people who worked there in Plaza de Zacate. It was destroyed and converted into Milam Park.”

Zentella said even though most of the physical structures are long gone, the spirit of the nearly 300-year-old neighborhood lives on through the street names and the old Mexican movie palace, the Alameda Theater.

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Credit Joey Palacios / Texas Public Radio
The old Mexican movie palace, the Alameda Theater, stands in the footprint of the Barrio Laredito.

  “Those are basically the landmarks that are there in Barrio Laredito. It’s not dead,” Zentella said. “It’s still alive in the young minds of the descendants of Barrio Laredito.”

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1, and Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter @terrazas_lauren