Austin’s Gentrification

By Savannah Garza

“What’s wrong with gentrification if it means you’ll get cupcake stores in your neighborhood?” is literally what somebody once asked me on the internet.

Growing up in Austin means topics like gentrification, congestion, and the annoyance of Californians moving to our city are things you hear about or talk about pretty often. Every time I log on to Facebook there is always some family member on my news feed posting a status about the traffic, the Californians, or sharing an article about recent developments in the city.

All of these things may seem like they’re just the typical “hustle and bustle” of any city, and without a doubt they are, but it wasn’t always this way in my city. There wasn’t always trendy cafes filled with yuppies and college students right beside impoverished neighborhoods, there wasn’t always a welcoming setting for cyclists, mopeds, and runners, and there definitely wasn’t always masses of rich people fleeing to these areas back then.

When I was younger the east side was considered dangerous and ghetto, I never grew up in the east side but I had a great majority of my relatives live there. As I got older I noticed more and more renovated houses and buildings on the drives to their houses and there is always developments and construction in the area. A couple weeks ago I went to church with my grandmother and on the drive back to her house she told me what it was like growing up in the central-east Austin area in the 50’s and 60’s.

Ironically enough, we were driving in the east Austin area at the time because that’s where her church was. So there we were, sitting in my grandparents car passing by all of the houses, new and old, run-down houses beside renovated ones all with chain link fences. We were on our way to my grandparents house on the outskirts of Austin, where they moved as the city started to get more expensive and too noisy for them.

“I wish that they had fixed up the east side when the Hispanic people were living there, instead of moving in rich people, then we could’ve stayed there. But we were not in good neighborhoods. It was better to just move out to a better environment,” she told me. “I used to live on East 9th street, close to Guadalupe Church. Before I was born my dad had a corner store next to our house where he sold homemade corn tortillas to the neighborhood with my mom. Where I used to live there are bike routes now, I am amazed at how there’s so many people riding bikes. Back in the day when we had bikes when we had bikes we didn’t have anything like that,” she said. “We had to stay off the streets as much as possible,” my grandpa jokingly added.

“It’s not fair that the people who lived there and want to keep their houses have to pay more taxes because these rich people are buying and renting and investing in houses and the area improves for them,” my grandma told me. “I think it’s sad that we couldn’t stay there for as long as we wanted. Being in a free country we are forced to move out of our neighborhoods to make room for the rich people that want to move in because of the location. The people who originally lived there could have made a better living for themselves if they had the money and the support from the city to help them out, and we could’ve been a better community if we had the sources for it. We are just as talented, if not more. They’re taking our identity away from us, they’re trying to be our culture, and we still have lots to give of our own culture that we could’ve expanded on in our own community if we had the resources.”

“In a way it’s good and in a way it’s bad,” my grandpa added as we pulled in to their driveway.

Colorado Nights

By Savannah Garza

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The best summers I ever spent were in Colorado. No hot, humid Texas summer will ever compare to the cool, breezy summer nights in the Centennial State. No sight can compare to the one I had on my dads backyard porch. My stepmom and I would sit out on lawn chairs with our cats with Cheyenne mountain in plain sight right before us. Straight ahead was the mountain range, no house or building could have blocked our view.

Every evening was a treat watching the purple and pink swirled skies fade as the sun set behind the big rocky landforms that towered everything before it. The weather was chilly like a Texas day in the winter time. The news in Colorado would talk about what a “scorcher” 84 degrees was. As we watched the sun set behind the mountains my stepmom and I would talk about anything and everything, we’d talk about her life in Germany, I’d keep her updated on my life and my friends lives, we’d talk about food, clothes, politics, boys, society, everything and everything.

colorado3After we’d watch the sun set, we’d usually sit together and watch a movie or make a pizza from scratch. Sometimes we’d drive around and search for bears and mountain lions since they were abundant in the area my dad and stepmom lived in. Other days we’d play laser tag and go for some gelato after. I remember one time my stepmom, dad, and I all went to this cute little town in the mountains called Manitou Springs.I love it a lot because it reminds me of the small town version of Austin. Before the sun set my stepmom and dad decided to check out the neighborhood, which basically led us higher and higher up a mountain. The nervousness and shakiness in my voice became more oblivious each time we passed another house and went higher up. I kept telling them we needed to go back down, but they didn’t listen. They didn’t listen until eventually we heard a screech come from the woods, it had to be about 80 feet away from us. It sounded like the startup of a dirt bike or fast car, but we all knew it was a mountain lion. It was then that my parents decided to scream and run as fast as they could down the mountain and back to safety. As scared and terrified I was that I was about to die in that moment, I can now look at that memory and laugh at myself and my parents and how foolish our decision was to go up the mountain alone. That’s another thing unique about Colorado nights, the locals fear of stepping outside of their own home at night in the case that a mountain lion or bear decides to show up and eat them.

I remember every night from every window you could see the NORAD center’s glowing redcolorado and white lights on Cheyenne mountain. It always freaked me out to see it through my window every night. The room was pitch black and the windows were open since air conditioning was unnecessary and all you would see are glowing red and white dots in the sky. I also remember how scary the roads were at night. One moment you see a house and the next you see the edge of the road and have no idea what would happen if you were to be ran off of the road that very second. I remember every afternoon looking out my dads backyard at this white medieval looking tower in the distance on the mountain that would ring at certain times in the day. I loved hearing the ring because it was very similar to the beginning tune of “The Handshake” by MGMT.

Colorado is one of the most magical places I’ve ever been to. Colorado nights are the most magical sights you will ever see. I would give anything right now to pack up and board an airplane this very moment and go back to when everything was okay.

Con Mi Madre

By Savannah Garza

securedownloadWhen I was in middle school I was asked if I wanted to join a new organization starting up in Austin called Con Mi Madre. Over the years the organization has gained more recognition as they help and empower young latinas to strive for success and make it to college.

When I was younger I didn’t understand why I was in the program nor did I fully understand how they were going to help me go to college or “empower” me. I didn’t understand any of these things fully until this year as my participation with them is coming to an end since I’m graduating and going to college next semester.

Every year when the school year comes to an end they have a special conference called “Soy Unica Soy Latina” for middle school and high school girls. This past conference made me realize, after all of these years, why I was in Con Mi Madre.

The conference started off with a Zumba session, everyone joined in for about half an hour securedownload-2and danced Zumba to different reggaeton songs. After, a talent show was held where girls in the organization could sign up to sing, dance, or whatever else they wanted to perform. I was astonished at how much talent such young girls possess at their age, all of the girls either danced or sang which was expected, but what surprised me was how good they were already at ages 12-16. When I was younger I was never able to break out of my shell and perform in front of 60 people the way they did. Con Mi Madre has always put an emphasis on not being shy, that we as Latinas shouldn’t feel silenced or less valid than others so seeing these girls express themselves and not caring what others think, made me feel so proud and empowered. After the talent show we broke out in to different sessions. My mom and I attended a session that put an emphasis on our identities. We were asked what we identify as, some said Latina, Mexican, Texan, Hispanic, and some jokingly said “Longhorn”. All of the mother and daughters then made art collages expressing who they are and what their story is. The fact that I love art and want to pursue it as a career along with embracing my culture more made this activity a really nice experience. After we finished the collages some mother and daughters shared their stories and collages. Almost all of us included how important avocados and Mexican food are to us somewhere in our collages. Most of the girls were first-generation children, their parents were from Mexico and came to the United States for their children. Every one of the girls and their mothers had a strong emphasis on going to college and how important family is.

securedownload (1).jpegThe last thing we did at the conference was listen to guest speakers, some were college girls who did Con Mi Madre in high school, the chief executive director spoke too along with two women who’ve played a big part in the organization for years. All of them had interesting stories, many of them lived in families with 3+ siblings and had single mothers trying to raise them. One woman went to an elementary school where speaking Spanish wasn’t allowed. Another claimed throughout high school she was never “Hispanic enough for Hispanics, never white enough for whites; never poor enough for the other kids on her street, never rich enough for the kids at her Catholic school”. One girl was a computer programming major who did Con Mi Madre in high school, it was empowering to see this successful, young Latina work in a field where not many women and specifically, Latina women, were in. She told us how hard it was for her to find internships and to get denied a couple times, but this year she finally got an internship with ExxonMobil. The guest speakers then told us, “if you can’t get in through the front door, go through the back door, if you can’t get in through the backdoor, go through the window”. They told us to no matter what, to be persistent, don’t give up and settle for failure but keep going until you are where you want to be. This stood out to me the most during the conference.

When I looked at these women before me, I felt compelled to find success just like they did. They all started with struggles and hardships and as I looked around the room, so did many of the other girls sitting in the room. Many are first-generation kids, first to go to college, only one in the family who speaks English, have single parents raising them, have financial hardships, or face oppression in their every day life. After 5 years of being in the program, it was that moment when I realized I am in this program because I am a Latina and I should have the same opportunities as others, I can be successful in life, I can do anything I want despite my background or how much money I have, I can set an example to other young Latinas and empower them too. At that moment I had never felt prouder to be Latina.