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Fronteras: ‘It comes from the community’ — Museo del Westside preserves the unique stories of its residents; Women of MujerArtes share their life stories through clay

Residents of San Antonio’s historic near-West Side had long seen its centuries-old culture erode as the city grew from the inside out. An area often underfunded with a lack of infrastructure led to deadly flooding, and urban renewal led to the demolition of historic structures.

Nevertheless, the near-West Side persevered.

Its stories are now being preserved in a new museum. The Museo del Westside will be housed in what was once the historic Ruben’s Ice House, a residence from the 1930s that became a grocery store in the `50s, then an ice house that closed in the 1980s.

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Texas Public Radio
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TPR's Norma Martinez interviewing Esperanza Peace & Justice Center's director Graciela Sanchez in the Casita at El Rinconcito de Esperanza.

Graciela Sánchez is the director of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. Sanchez explained the spark behind the Museo’s creation.

“We were doing oral histories, and although we started with one or two individuals, we had community gatherings with people from the West Side who did not know each other,” she said. “[They] started forming friendships and basically their own little community.”

The museo is expected to open in May 2023 with the exhibit “Historias del Westside,” a survey of Westside history from the 1880s to the 1970s.

The museo is currently virtual — you can view their exhibit “Women & Activism in the Westside" here.

Hear part 1 of our conversation with Graciela Sánchez here.

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‘This is an extension of myself’ — MujerArtes provides a space for women to share their experiences

Perpendicular to the soon-to-be Museo del Westside lies a compressed adobe structure home to the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center’s MujerArtes project — part of the Rinconcito de Esperanza.

It is a women’s clay cooperative that brings women of all ages, races, ethnicities, sexual identities, and ideologies together to learn, teach and create.

We spoke to some of the women about what they do at MujerArtes and how the act of working with clay — with the earth — touches their lives.

The Esperanza Peace & Justice Center will host Paseo por el Westside, a community gathering that celebrates the neighborhood's history with music, storytelling, and walking tours, May 7, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Marian Navarro produces for Texas Public Radio's Morning Edition and Fronteras.