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Fronteras: A different perspective to tales of murder, mayhem and vice on San Antonio’s historic West Side

San Antonio’s historic West Side has roots that trace back to indigenous people who settled near the San Pedro Creek — what is now the city’s center.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the area was home to a 22-block red-light district — it was also home to everyday families and people.

The book West of the Creek: Murder, Mayhem and Vice in Old San Antonio was recently reissued by Maverick Books, an imprint of Trinity University Press in San Antonio.

TPR hosted a Maverick Book Club event Jan. 24 on the new edition of West of the Creek, moderated by TPR’s Marian Navarro. It served as a launching point for a broader conversation about the history and importance of San Antonio’s West Side and its people.

Claudia Guerra, the former cultural historian for the City of San Antonio, wrote the forward for the recent reissue.

While crime was a prevalent aspect of the time, she emphasized that San Antonio’s West Side was a very diverse place filled with diverse residents.

“Even though (there) is this other idea of outlaws — which is very real — in between all that, there were people who were living,” she said. “This other stuff that gets thrust upon them is not their choice.”

Antonia Castañeda, professor emeritus of history at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, was also a panelist.

She said while the book examines the salaciousness of the time, she wanted to shift the perspective to focus on the stories of the people who used to live there.

“These histories are not written — they are in the memories of the communities, their families, their partners or great grandparents,” she said. “They are embedded, in my perspective, in the cellular structure of these communities and these people."

Other panelists included Graciela Sánchez, director of San Antonio’s Esperanza Peace & Justice Center, and Elaine Ayala, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News.

Listen to the second part of the conversation on March 1.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1