Austin’s “Mexico”: A Forgotten Downtown Neighborhood

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 9, 2012
Contact: Kanya Lyons | (512) 974-7379

Austin’s “Mexico”: A Forgotten Downtown Neighborhood, a new exhibit that showcases a culturally significant Mexican American community in downtown Austin, opens on October 30, 2012 and runs through March 10, 2013. Presented by the Austin History Center and the Mexic-Arte Museum, in the David Earl Holt Photo Gallery at the Austin History Center, the exhibit features photos from the Austin History Center’s extensive photograph collection. The Austin History Center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12 noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The exhibit is free and open to the public. For more information please call 512-974-7480 or visit library.austintexas.gov.

In the 1870s, Austin’s early Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans created a vibrant business and cultural community just west of downtown Congress Avenue to the banks of Shoal Creek. Republic Square Park, then known as Mexican Park, was the cultural heart of the area, with Mexican immigrants settling just west, southwest, and south of the square. Diez y Seis celebrations took place at Republic Square Park from the 1870s until 1927. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, the first Catholic Church to serve the Mexican population, was established in 1907 just across from the square. On the other side of the square was Walker’s Chili Factory, a major employer for Mexicans in the neighborhood. Workers and their children spent leisure time in the park.

Mexican business enterprises were indicative of the surrounding area. In 1907, Ben Garza opened a meat market.Alberto Garcia, probably the city’s first Mexican doctor, opened his practice on Congress Avenue. Crescenciano Segovia opened Austin’s first tortilleria, Austin Tortilla Manufacturing Company, in 1922. Women had informal businesses such as tamale-making.

Life was not always easy for many of the Mexicans in the area. Mexicans struggled with inadequate housing, poor sanitation, lack of city services, and racial prejudice. This downtown Mexican community moved to Austin's eastside in the 1930s, largely a result of actions taken after the 1928 City Plan for Austin, prepared by consultants Koch & Fowler, suggested that the city segregate minority communities, and specifically African Americans, to this area.          

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