From Texas Public Radio:
On the west side of San Antonio is a museum without walls. Many say the exhibit brings a sense of pride and history to that unique part of the city.
To find it, head southwest from downtown then turn on Guadalupe Street. A big, colorful mural wishes you Bienvenidos a West Side–Welcome to the West Side. Nearby on a 4-foot fence hang the photographs of people who brought life to this neighborhood. Large, primarily black and white pictures, they’re fascinating. And a little haunting.
“The folks who lived there were the people who built San Antonio,” says Esperanza Peace and Justice Center‘s Graciela Sanchez. “They were the laborers, the crafts-people. When you see all the decoration in King William, the crafts-people lived in that neighborhood.”
Sanchez says the outdoor museum called En Aquellos Tiempos–In Those Times, Fotohistorias del West Side, runs a couple of long blocks along Guadalupe Street. They hung the first ones there a decade ago.
“They’re essentially photographs from the 1890s to 1959. What you get to see is how people dressed at that time, the houses in that neighborhood looked like,” Sanchez says.
These are the faces of the working class people who lived and died on the West Side, people whose lives have gone largely un-chronicled. Regarding Fotohistorias, Sanchez says the whole thing happened almost by accident. The Esperanza began collecting oral histories and they asked west siders to bring in their pictures to help tell their stories.
“But once we brought these photographs it’s like–what do we do with them?”
Then, an interesting idea emerged.
“Let’s put the photographs up on the streets! You know, and let it be a community museum,” Sanchez says.
Some were reluctant, thinking the displays would be vandalized.
“People said, ‘You know, the kids are going to destroy them,’ and we said, ‘No, you don’t know the kids, the kids are gonna love them.’ They’re gonna see them as family,” Sanchez says.