Opinion: We will fight for Pink Building on West Side
On April 1, 2002, the historic gas station, open-air dance space known as La Gloria was demolished.
Hundreds of community residents from the West Side and from all parts of San Antonio joined arms, hearts and minds for over two months to stop the destruction of this landmark building. But the owners of La Gloria, and their cronies at City Council didn’t listen to the community.
Y murio La Gloria.
Nine years later, community members found themselves in similar circumstances when they came out on Monday, Jan. 24, 2011 to give two-and-a-half hours of testimonies to the Avenida Guadalupe Association (AGA) board of directors so that they would join the community and save the historical “Pink Building,” at 1312 Guadalupe St.
Over 30 individuals signed up to speak and were given only three minutes to state their opinions about the Pink Building. Like previous community meetings, the majority of speakers told stories about growing up on the West Side, about the ongoing razing of their homes, their stores or “tienditas.”
They talked about entire neighborhoods on the West Side, about the importance of preserving our historical working-class Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhoods. They told stories about eating at Speedy’s in the 1980s or learning that the Pink Building was once the headquarters for the Adlai Stevensons’ presidential campaign in the 1950s, and that it was also the Poll Tax office, where Mexicans paid to have the right to vote.
Here's a video about the preservation of the Pink Building, produced by the Esperanza Center:
Some also challenged the AGA’s leadership of Oscar Ramirez. For two years, many of us felt deceived by Mr. Ramirez. He asked elected officials, neighborhood businesses, AGA tenants to support the Promesa Project, but neglected to let folks know that this would mean tearing down the Pink Building.
According to AGA promotional material, “the 2010 Promesa Project is an innovative and comprehensive neighborhood development in the West Side. It features a new 15,600 square foot “green” LEEDS building at 1312 Guadalupe Street for commercially leased office space and workforce development training…”
When such language is shared with the community, most would agree that they want to support getting new jobs into the neighborhood, building green and creating retail and office space. But the language shared about the Promesa Project never clearly explained that the Pink Building had to be demolished.
But since Oct. 11, 2008, when the AGA staff first shared their vision of the Promesa Project, we noticed architectural plans that required the demolition of the Pink Building. And because we didn’t want to see another historical building come down on the West Side, the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center worked to bring together community residents and non-profit organizations working to develop policy regarding historic buildings on the West Side.
We wanted to avoid having to save historic buildings one at a time, so we invited the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, Inner City Development, NALCAB, the Avenida, the Office of Historic Preservation, the San Antonio Conservation Society, community members, and the West Side Historic Preservation group came into existence.
In addition to developing policy regarding historic preservation on the West Side, we would “concientizar” the community and the power brokers of this city and we would work to stop further demolitions of peoples’ homes and communities.
And for two years, we responded to AGA requests to offer alternative solutions for the Pink Building. But time after time, we learned that AGA staff was basically ignoring the Westside Historic Preservation’s work.
Since 2008, AGA staff has applied for federal grants and have now received over $2.3 million for the Promesa Project. AGA staff has now told the board that if the board doesn’t immediately support a structural engineer’s report to demolish the building, the AGA will lose the millions of dollars dedicated to this project.
The pressure to do the right thing, support the president and CEO of the AGA or support the hundreds of community folks who want to preserve the Pink Building, came down and ultimately, the board decided to go with the staff recommendation to knock down the building.
One of concerns of the public forums called SA2020 that the City of San Antonio organized is to get community members to be more engaged in government activities and government accountability. And year after year, community folks organize against PGA, against nuclear power plants, against police brutality or the ability to march and demonstrate on the city streets.
And year after year, we are heard and ignored. So, we weren’t surprised about the vote to demolish the building. But we had hope, we had “esperanza,” that maybe this time, a few board members would actually join us to save our history, our neighborhood, our alma y corazon. And when the vote was taken, we got one board member, Lourdes Galvan, to side with the community.
And because people become engaged in discussions and actions hat affect their lives and then ignored, erased or made invisible by the people in power, that community or city council meetings. People stop voting. People stop believing in democracy.
But the Esperanza and the Westside Historic Preservation group aren’t giving up that easily
It’s not the end of the Pink Building. The community is getting ready to meet and strategize next steps to save it. We might organize demonstrations and marches, do door-to-door community education campaign, meet with city leaders to join our struggle, and/or chain ourselves to the Pink Building when the bulldozer shows up to 1312 Guadalupe St.
So, come join us and help us save our history and your history.For more information, go to the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center Web site at www.esperanzacenter.org or call (210) 228-0201.