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Long nights, slow burn

A partial map of San Antonio from 1888.
University of Texas Libraries
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
A partial map of San Antonio from 1888.

San Antonio was once home to one of the busiest red-light districts in the country. But exactly how big was the city’s red-light district? And how did it get that way?

Some historians, like Jennifer Cain, think the district didn’t have enforced boundaries. She wrote her master's thesis on San Antonio's red-light district, and now teaches at Sandra Day O'Connor High School.

"I don't think there's anything that says that the women had to be here (in the district). I don't find anything legally," Cain said, recalling the research she did for her thesis. "And so that’s really what I kind of worked around, is the theory that it wasn’t really relegated. That it was more a de facto area that women went to, and it kind of just blossomed from there."

That de facto area was on the West Side of downtown — in a Mexican American neighborhood called Laredito. Edgar Velasquez-Reynald researched the historic West Side under the City of San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation. He says that this area was more than just a place where sex workers worked.

"There was a community here with, you know, families. Children were raised here and this violence and vice businesses encroached upon their neighborhood. That was done on purpose by the Anglo elite, because vice businesses were lucrative for the city, but they wanted them away from more proper forms of tourism in San Antonio," he said.

Please reach out to us with questions or comments at redlights@tpr.org.

Full transcript of episode 1 below

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Bri Kirkham can be reached at bri@tpr.org or on Twitter at @BriKirk
Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon