Introduction by Author and Scholar Dr. Tomás Ybarra-Frausto:

 
Distinguished Guests, 
 
Buenos Días (good day and bienvenidos – welcome). As a constituent of District One, I am honored to introduce my District Councilman, Roberto Treviño.
 
I begin my remarks by reading the opening paragraphs of a canonical American novel, the bi-lingual Y No Se Lo Trago La Tierra translated into English as This Migrant Earth written by Tomád Rivera a Tejano writer from South Texas.
 
The novel begins “These things always begin when he would hear someone call him by name. He would turn around to see who was calling, always making a complete turn, always ending in the same position and facing the same way. And that was why he could never find out who it was that was calling him, nor the reason why he was being called.
 
He would even forget the name that he had heard. Once, he stopped himself before completing the turn, and he became afraid. He found out he had been calling himself.”
 
This call to self occurs to individuals, communities and nations at strategic and transformative moments in their history. In the cold indifference of the world, when people constitute themselves as historical subjects they pose eternal and foundational questions – Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? Questions of identity, origin, lineage, and future are relevant as we celebrate the tricenterary of the Foundation of San Antonio. In a flurry of art and historical exhibitions, publications, conferences and symposia. A basic theme is our pride in being a cosmopolitan city with a confluence of cultures. Yet the historical past is only a prelude to the social realities of contemporary San Antonio, a minority/majority city like many other American metropolis that are witnessing a demographic transition and many similar social, economic and cultural concerns such as the widening economic disparity between races and classes, the process of gentrification in historic neighborhoods. The digital divide in poor communities and across generations as well as daunting environmental and social justice issues. 
 
As we pause for a period of introspection and remembrance, the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves must also register the darker aspects of our historical past and collective memory. The blood and gore of battles, the pain and trauma of discrimination and segregation, the casualties and broken-hearts of war. 
 
Across time, we San Antonians have also shared the resilience, creativity and hope that inspires us to imagine a future cosmopolitan city striving to to be more inclusive, equitable and compassionate.
 
Downtown is “El Corazon” the historic core where the blending of cultures is evident in the tangible heritage of the built environment and the intangible “ambiente” or hybrid atmosphere defining the charm, enchantment and uniqueness of our Pueblo Querido (our beloved San Antonio).
 
Radiating out to the local district level, sensible and innovative projects for economic and cultural equity, affordable housing and the safeguarding of cultural heritage both tangible and intangible are all issues that have inspired Councilman Treviño, a barrier breaker with multi-dimensional strategies that are people and place centered. HIs programs give voice and agency to our culturally diverse community, heterogenous community.
 
One example is his leadership in multiple efforts to restore and re-activate programming of the iconic and historic Teatro Alameda as an integral part of the new San Pedro Creek Cultural Park.
 
With bold imagination and an inclusive vision Councilman Treviño has supported art and architectural projects that enhance the economic as well as the well-being of our citizens. HIs cultural endeavors are always attentive to sustainability and authenticity, cultural equity, and parity.
 
Supporting the images, visions and fresh social imaginaries of many inter-generational creative minds in all the arts will enrich and enhance the evolving story of who we are, where we come from and where we are going as a cosmopolitan city.
 
Such primordial goals sustain the quest that Roberto Treviño has undertaken. It’s an enormous challenge that merits our support, commitment and involvement. Please welcome Councilman Roberto Treviño to present the State of the Center City. 

Dr. Tomás Ybarra-Frausto

Author and Scholar

Welcome. Bienvenidos al Centro!

This is the 4th State of the Center City I have had the privilege of delivering. If you’ve looked out your window, you can see a lot has happened over the last four years. Many of the projects mentioned in my 1st presentation have come to fruition – HEB has opened a downtown grocery store, the Rand Building has undergone renovations, and the San Pedro Creek project construction is well underway.

It is in this spirit of reflection, I would like to express some heartfelt thank yous.

Can I have some thank you writing music please…

1.    Guayaberas – for being the cargo pants of shirts.

2.    Final Four – for proving it IS possible for 70,000 people to have a great time at a sporting event without having even 1 beer.

3.    Tacos – for making my decision about a “yes” carb diet a no brainer!

4.    Urban Heat Island Effect – for ensuring downtown is the HOTTEST place in San Antonio

5.    Pollen – for making everyone feel so miserable during the best weather of the year.

5.    Fiesta – for a memorable week of events I can’t seem to remember.

7.    Queso – for just being you…and proving there is no food you can’t improve.

8.   Mayor Nirenberg – for marrying a strong Latina from the Valley who gets these jokes.

In all seriousness – I would like to take a moment to sincerely thank Dr. Tomás Ybarra-Frausto for the kind words and the warm introduction. Ramiro Cavazos with The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Centro San Antonio – the hosts of today’s event. Centro has been a tremendous partner in the flourishing of our downtown and I’d like to especially thank Warren Wilkinson as he settles in to his position as Executive Director. I look forward to maintaining the momentum that we have created thus far. I’d also like to thank and express my appreciation to Darryl Byrd, Trish DeBerry, and David Adelman for their leadership at Centro over the last several months and for their pursuit of their goal of achieving the Center City that we all envision.

As we gather today, the Day of Reflection and the first day of Commemorative Week, I’d like to reflect on where our city is currently, how we got here, and what the future holds for us.

How did we transform from a small riverside community of Payaya Native Americans into the culturally diverse and vibrant modern city we celebrate? On this very day in 1718, the Mission San Antonio de Valero was established – followed by the formation four days later of the Presidio San Antonio de Béjar. In 1731 the fledgling settlement saw the arrival of fifty-five Canary Islanders – who formed the nucleus of the Villa San Fernando de Béjar. Our city has seen a lot over the last 300 years – six flags of governance, a myriad of conflicts, and a diversity of people who continue to come to San Antonio and call it home.

The drainage ditch Robert H.H. Hugman visioned into the Riverwalk provided us a foundation for the growing downtown we see today. The modern Riverwalk extension to the Museum Reach beyond the Pearl has connected our recent infusion of culinary arts to our historic core where we have for decades celebrated our food traditions – as exemplified by La Familia Cortez.

Just a stone’s throw away is Schilo’s, San Antonio’s oldest operating restaurant and a bastion of German cuisine since 1917. Our ability to embrace this diversity and to combine cultural influences is also evident in the arts – visual, performance, and culinary.  Our celebration of the arts downtown has cultivated a unique opportunity for place-making.

Where our arts are performed is where we gather – where we celebrate.

We can see a tradition of public art all around downtown – from Mexican architect and artist Juan O’Gorman’s “Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas” dating to Hemisfair ’68, to the work of Jesse Treviño on the west side in Zona Cultural, to the many art installations in Hemisfair Park, such as the wonderful piece by my good friend Alex Rubio.

Our arts and the places in which they are performed define what we value, and therefore mold who we want to be. The places we gather to celebrate build common bonds that shape our conscious identity. They give us a sense of who we are as a community and what makes us unique. As we continue to invest in celebrating our artistic and cultural heritage, we continue to make history of our own.

Our collective focus on downtown proves that we are undergoing a moment of self-actualization. This moment began when former Mayor Julian Castro inaugurated the renaissance of our downtown. I’d like to take a moment and thank everyone in this room for your ongoing support of our center city. You would not be here today if you were not invested in the building of our great downtown.

Together, we are bearing witness to monumental local events and projects – almost too many to mention. We just successfully hosted the NCAA Final Four – an event with a direct economic impact of $185 million dollars and an incalculable long-term effect. Over 140,000 people just experienced the pinnacle of college sports in our city.

As they arrived, thousands of these visitors from all over the world viewed the phenomenal new art installation, Adelante, San Antonio!, by Suzy González & Michael Menchaca, who are both here today, which celebrates the progression of aviation, architecture, and culture in our city, as told in a visual story in our newly opened Consolidated Rental Car Facility.  When visitors to our city see these images, they understand they are in San Antonio – not Austin, Houston, or Dallas.

Feeling welcome within a city typically includes an appreciation for how it is built.  I am pleased to announce a partnership is being formed between GoRio Cruises and the American Institute of Architects San Antonio, creating an architectural tour of our iconic San Antonio Riverwalk.

The hospitality our visitors experience creates long-lasting impressions, driving home the message that San Antonio is a warm and inviting place with people and experiences to match.

How have we cultivated this experience?
By not only embracing our differences, but celebrating them.

We are home to a thriving community of artists, performers, cultural ambassadors, and amazing chefs. Our culture includes world class art, architecture, and gastronomy executed and exported by San Antonians such as artists Bill Fitzgibbons, Jesse Treviño, and Vincent Valdez – chefs Johnny Hernandez, Jason Dady, and Andrew Weissman – musicians Flaco Jimenez and most recently Garret T. Capps – with his song “Born in San Antonio” featured in the season 2 opener of Showtime’s “Billions”, and places like Centro de Artes, ArtPace, Pearl, Majestic Theater and the Tobin Center.

San Fernando is one of North America’s oldest Catholic Cathedrals and marks the geographic and cultural center of our City.  When French artist, Xavier de Richemont’s “San Antonio – The Saga” is projected on its façade, we know our reach is global. This telling of our history in light, sound, and color by internationally acclaimed artist with installations around the world shows San Antonio is a world-class city. Thank you Bill Scanlon and the Main Plaza Conservancy.

Our international diversity is seen most dramatically in our food culture. In a recent USA Today article, San Antonio “could easily rest on the laurels of Tex-Mex,” but we are “currently reclaiming our indigenous, German and Spanish roots, too (with its increasingly international vibe, the city is calling its latest fusion Tex-Next). Through UNESCO’s lens, gastronomy is about a city’s culinary heritage — how it means to share it, sustainably, with future generations. The Creative Cities Network, which now totals 26 cities of gastronomy around the world, started in 2004 in order to promote cooperation and shared experience amongst culture-rich cities.”

A trio of restaurants guided by Chef Johnny Hernandez will provide a spark to La Villita as stories of San Antonio are told through food. Indigenous, Spanish, and German food traditions will be honored and explored by three unique chefs.

Being included on the Creative Cities list is just one reason why we understand, now more than ever, that San Antonio is where people from all over the country are choosing to work and live.

With thoughtful developments delivering quality housing for all economic levels, we are seeing a resurgence of interest in one of the most iconic of San Antonio’s throughways.  Houston Street is shaping up to reclaim its glory as the preeminent street of downtown. It is home to the Majestic Theater and countless restaurants – including the relatively new additions La Panaderia and The Range as well as the recently remodeled Maverick apartment building.

The San Pedro Creek project is under construction and is truly a nexus of art, culture, and nature. The first segment opens this week and is the first of many exciting phases of creekway improvements. Hemisfair is quickly moving forward on its mission to be “Where San Antonio Meets” with a variety of new tenants and legacy projects – the Zachry hotel and office development.

If downtown is about people and placemaking – Hemisfair is proving to be “THE” place to meet at great local eateries. As we all know, in San Antonio, food equals friends and family and Hemisfair proves we have a lot of friends…and a large, extended family.

Our diversity as a population is celebrated through humility and tolerance. Our embrace of our fellow man is a display of strength and hope. This was evident as we worked with Metropolitan Methodist Hospital to find a permanent home for the San Antonio Pride Center – which will soon officially open. Connecting people in need to services where and when they need them is a product of a compassionate community.  

Exposure to the arts has been shown to foster empathy.  According to the National League of Cities, “The arts and culture sector is often looked at through a very narrow lens. In 2017, the National League of Cities categorized the top economic development sub-topics and found that Arts and Culture plays a role in 9 out of the 10 most widely discussed topics of economic development – such as: public safety, infrastructure, budgets, housing, education, energy and environment, health, and demographics. We have risen to these challenges and are actively working to become a more equitable city. Our Community Cultural Centers, such as the Carver, the Guadalupe, and the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center celebrate how people in our community come together as one and demonstrates our interconnectedness. These places allow us to create and embrace partnerships to form community and culture-based institutions.

In the spirit of collaboration, with the help of Gordon Hartman, Harvey Najim, and HEB, the recent City Hall for All Design Competition was a great success.  The goal was to create a fully accessible entrance to local government for everyone in our community, and it yielded an outstanding winning design – one that beautifully and thoughtfully solved the challenge of inaccessibility.

Having access alone is not enough – we must continue to build trust with one another. The future SAPD police substation, approved in the 2017 Bond Election will not only serve our downtown and near downtown communities, but I am working to ensure it is an accessible location that can also function as a community center and a catalyst to positive community-police interactions. Public safety is a constant priority, but policing is only one component of a safe community.

By focusing on the how and why we illuminate the features of our downtown, we will ensure we highlight our most inspiring places and buildings while increasing public safety. The downtown lighting masterplan effort is well underway in its effort to inventory our lighting needs and make well-considered recommendations for appropriately lighting our center city.  As we become smarter about how our downtown activates, we will see more people in these places – creating economic opportunities for nightlife, transportation, housing, and business development. The masterplan focuses on the urban core but it also includes two adjacent historic neighborhoods – Lavaca and King William – which also exists as a cultural arts district. This is no coincidence.

This celebration of our heritage through the arts has given birth to local treasures such as Ruby City.  A passion project and a labor of love by Linda Pace and subsequently the Pace Foundation. We will, once again, be able to experience a new, world-class contemporary arts complex in our city. Ruby City is under construction on the banks of the San Pedro creek and will provide free access to all visitors, allowing all to view Linda’s personal collection of contemporary art. This sixteen-million dollar building was conceived to fit within the context of an arts compound – including CHRISPark, and the Studio at Ruby City with terraced access to the creek. It was designed by world-renowned Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye – who also designed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

That fact that world-renowned architects such as David Adjaye and Cesar Pelli, of Frost Tower note, design projects in our city solidifies San Antonio’s place on the map of global cities with world-class art and architecture. Ruby City and ArtPace are setting the tone for San Antonio’s worldwide reach – connecting us to global communities with a shared passion for life lived expressively. It is this interconnectedness that propels us forward into a future of our own creation.

Here we are. We’ve positioned ourselves in a way that recognizes and honors our diversity and heritage. We have taken our blend of people, experiences, and traditions and now relish in the composition of our city.

Our way of life is one of acceptance and tolerance. This is who we are – it’s in our DNA. Now is the time to be purposeful in our actions. We are creating what I call A City By Design – not by default. We are making conscious choices based on our well-informed position. We know what we value and how these values influence and shape our collective selves.

Our lives and experiences are enriched daily through the beauty and truth we see in the arts – a truth that allows us to recognize our role in the progress of our city. We must have a vision for downtown that includes our arts, our culture, and our history – all of which rely on us building together, as a community. Juntos, …avanzamos!

We can easily play a part through our approach to the built environment.  We can call for the construction of more provocative structures and innovative design that reflect our local values. I would like to thank the San Antonio Chapter of the AIA for their continued partnership and advocacy of design in our community. People are attracted to cities because they create shared experiences through social and physical environments. Encountering differences is something we in San Antonio do not fear. Let’s challenge ourselves by adapting our buildings codes and regulations to meet our values.

Gray Street Partners redevelopment of the Light Building on McCullough and Broadway will be a beacon for the adaptive reuse of historically and architecturally significant buildings. This project will lead the way for the rejuvenation of the downtown McCullough Avenue corridor. I anxiously await the results from the recent McCullough Avenue Design Charrette as the group of faith-based and private sector stakeholders continue the hard and thoughtful work of determining – with purpose – the future of the corridor.

This commercial gateway is bookended by transitions into neighborhoods with bold signals of the importance of art in our community –  the sculpture installation on the campus of – and funded by Metropolitan Methodist Hospital on the north end and the wonderful Alex Rubio and Lumenaria mural on the wall of the underpass as McCullough morphs into Nolan on the near East Side.

I have heard loud and clear from many leaders in our neighborhoods about their desire for MORE ART in their neighborhoods. The recent refurbishing of Light Channels by Bill Fitzgibbons beautifully reminds us that once forlorn spaces can become powerful places. Art on the edges of downtown creates a warm and inviting gateway from our neighborhoods in to our downtown.

We have a huge opportunity on our horizon as the roundabout on North Main nears completion, providing both a gateway connecting our downtown to our community, and a unique moment in time to commission an inclusive work of art that references and reflects our history, diversity, and authenticity. We have the potential to launch the career of an upcoming, young, LatinX artist whose work we will all enjoy for decades. We must be bold as we approach filling this space with artwork that represents a 21st century vision – one in which we choose to honor the struggle for civil rights and our indigenous heritage.  

We must discard the shackles of past ways of thinking as we plunge headlong into the future. With the creation of the Alameda Conservancy, and recommendations from Michael Kaiser – former president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, we are actively working to restore our downtown jewel – La Alameda, to create the premier the Latino performing arts facility in the country. It will also provide a new home for Texas Public Radio who will bring media and technology to the heart of the city while finding new ways to serve our community.

The Alameda is a direct bridge to the best of our past while simultaneously being the pathway to our future. The strength of the partnership between the City, County, Texas Public Radio, and La Familia Cortez will ensure the stewardship of the space well into its future. This revival along with the City’s continued activation and operation of Centro de Artes, with its focus on the breadth of Latino visual arts, will continue to be a catalyst for growth and renewal – all along the banks of the ever-evolving San Pedro Creek project.

I am proud to say the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture with the help of the Arts Commission continues to lead the way to create connection between our artists and the people they serve. Not only have they successfully curated eight exhibitions at Centro de Artes since September 2016, they also now curate the extensive collection housed in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The San Antonio “Public Art Garden” was just announced. Public art will be debuted, showcased, and then filtered to its ultimate destination – in our neighborhoods around the city.

We can see from the recent installations of art in the heart of our diverse neighborhoods that our city is responding to the desire to live with art in our lives. Art now surrounds us at the tech infrastructure hut in West End Park, in the new mural on the Fulton underpass in the Beacon Hill and Alta Vista neighborhoods, and in the modular exhibition space on walls of the CPS Energy substation on Blanco Road that will feature art from students at nearby Nimitz Middle School. These art installations throughout our city add to the vibrancy of our lives and make us a city in which people want to live and work. Not only is the Arts and Culture Department promoting arts and artists within our city, they are promoting our city and what we have to offer to those outside our city. San Antonio is the home of a new series – which will showcase our city and generate in excess of $5 milion dollars of economic impact. We are also on the list of cities being looked at as filming sites for other national network programs. With this synergy of effort already occurring, I would like to announce on behalf of the City of San Antonio and our Arts and Culture Department, the launch of our new Go See SA app!  Everyone, please help me out and take out your smartphones and download the app right now!

Thank you and I encourage you to start “Seeing SA” ASAP!

Our symphony is being revitalized and will be inspiring and educating the people of San Antonio for decades to come. The symphony is coming off a run of sold out shows and we can not celebrate our Tricentennial Year without their participation. The board, under Kathleen Weir Vale’s leadership, is busy planning the upcoming 2018-2019 Season – 20 performances that simply should not be missed. Season subscriptions go on sale next week – please show your support.

I am pleased to inform you that the Alamo Masterplan effort is moving forward with a team of individuals who bring a wealth of passion, personal and professional experience to bear on this project. This is a once in a lifetime project that will transform our downtown while preserving the most well known place in Texas. All of our stories will be told and the totality of our history will be honored in a world-class destination. The impact of this project will be felt throughout our community, both as a reflection of how we see ourselves and how we project who we are to the world.  It will truly reflect the importance we place on the people who shaped our city – past, present, and future.

While history is our greatest teacher, a quality education is the key to continued success for future generations of artists, leaders, and business people.

We are blessed to have an abundance of educational institutions in our central business district performing this very mission every day. UTSA’s Dr Eighmy is working towards the expansion of the downtown campus. The Southwest School of Art has recently graduated its 1st class of seniors. San Antonio College just hosted a phenomenal event with Cheech Marin discussing the importance of Chicano Art and San Antonio’s place in that movement. Central Catholic and Providence High Schools keep us connected to important traditions and their passion for education. CAST Tech High School blazes a trail connecting education to our tech community – preparing young San Antonians for the future. Efforts led by Café College and our very own San Antonio Public Library Main Branch – which houses the City’s Latino Collection and the entrepreneurial incubator, Launch SA – play an integral role in the effort of interconnected education.

As you can see, it’s been a busy first 300 years and we’ve got our work cut out for us over the next 300. I am confident in our ability to rise to the occasion – especially if we maintain our focus and choose our investments wisely. We are a product of our historiCity – Our diverCIty -And what makes us unique…our authenticity

When we invest in ourselves through this lens, we invest in our future. These investments pay both immediate and long-term dividends to our community – to both our souls and our bottom lines. Our personal experience is elevated and we continue to show ourselves to the world as a model for others to emulate.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that short-term economic gains should never be confused with sustainable economic development. As such, it is my belief that the fiscal benefit of hosting the current administration’s Republican National Convention in San Antonio does not outweigh the tremendous respect we have for our cultural heritage.

We are a welcoming city, but our kindness should not be mistaken for being naive.  As San Antonians and Americans, we will continue to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today. We will accept that our diversity in thought and flesh is what allows us to grow as a community, as a city, and most importantly, as people. It is my hope that we all recognize that the collective character of our city has never been, and will never be for sale.

San Antonio may be ranked the 7th largest metropolitan area in the country, but when it comes to authenticity, we set the bar. So, on this first day of our Tricentennial Commemorative Week, our Day of Reflection – Garrett T. Capps and I thank you all for remembering where we call home and for your combined effort to make us the most authentic place in Texas.

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