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Tyrant’s Foe: Renewing Big Spring’s North Side

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Nati Saldivar
Nati Saldivar

Last May, lifelong Big Spring resident Nati Saldivar noticed a worn fire hydrant outside her home in the West Texas town of 27,000.

“It was the most pathetic-looking thing,” she said. “It was all rusted out.” So she decided to paint it—and she didn’t stop at that one. Saldivar called Big Spring City Councilmember Carmen Harbour to gain permission from the Fire Department, and within five days had not only painted her hydrant but organized a community hydrant-painting contest complete with judges and prize money from local sponsors. The contest ran through the summer, and the result surprised Saldivar.

“I was thinking if I get 20 hydrants painted throughout town, that’d be awesome, and I had over 215,” she said. “I was extremely pleased and taken aback.”

Her success with the hydrants pushed Saldivar to start a group to improve her community. She called it the North Side Movement. Saldivar had already been an informal community activist, pushing the city to fix problems, and was tired of feeling like she was getting nowhere.

Her complaints to the code enforcement division were met with roadblocks and excuses, and she’d report the same problems six months later. “Weeds weren’t being cut, our streetlights weren’t lighting, our potholes weren’t getting filled, but they were getting bigger,” she said.

The north side of Big Spring had long been neglected. It sits between Interstate 20 and railroad tracks, which wall off the north side from the rest of the town. It’s a low-income, largely Latino section of the city.

Saldivar’s family has lived on the north side for more than 100 years. She says her parents, who owned a restaurant called Casa Blanca’s, instilled in her and her five siblings the importance of giving back to the community and being politically active.  Her family members all still live in the area.

For Saldivar, the north side is “the jewel of the town” because its placement—along I-20 and Highway 87 between Dallas and El Paso—means it’s the first section of Big Spring that travelers see as they enter town.

Yet, she noted, the north side lacks many basic services and stores—like a pharmacy, grocery store or post office—which makes life difficult for elderly and disabled residents.

“She’s become a spokesperson for people that are a little bit more timid, and [she’s] not afraid to call the city inspector or any organization and talk about any issues,” said Big Spring City Councilmember Marcus Fernandez.

But her passion for the north side didn’t gain an official name, logo and application for nonprofit status until late July, when she teamed up with five other community members to form the board of the North Side Movement.

Dale Avant, treasurer, and another lifelong north side resident, said the group in its short existence has been extremely well received by the community. More than 800 residents attended the group’s first outreach event, a Labor Day bash.

“We’ve had just an awful lot of people come to us and say, ‘You know what, I’ve never seen something like this in our community,’” Avant said. “A lot of people want to do something, but they just don’t have any direction.”

The group is quickly seeing results. Recently, the City Council allocated $25,000 to clean up the north side’s Roy Andrews Park. The group is also planning a community Monster Mash for Halloween and a Thanksgiving dinner.

But perhaps the group’s biggest project is seeking to connect the north side to the rest of town by restoring a bridge over Highway 87, one of the barriers that has historically segregated the city. Saldivar said the bridge, which is used by thousands every day, has no lighting and is wide enough for only one pedestrian at a time. The North Side Movement gathered more than 500 signatures to send to Austin, asking state representatives and senators for funds to revamp the bridge.

Saldivar said taking on so many projects is difficult, but she credits her determination and success to the support of her daughter, husband and board members.

“Our mission statement at the North Side Movement is ‘Moving forward,’” she said. “We want to restore. We want to clean. Renew retail business and restore pride in the north side.”

  • Victor Edwards

    Wonderful article about an extraordinary person — and community. Indeed, the north side of Big Spring was the first part of Big Spring that I saw as we moved into town for a few years as I finished my USAF commitment after returning from overseas in 1963, just days before JFK was assassinated in Dallas. We were a bit chagrined that the city looked dismal from that north side, but we learned later that is was not just that part of town that had been neglected but some of the west side, too.

    Were we still in Big Spring, I would be calling this lady and enlisting in her endeavor. My wife and I have always like Big Spring, and our first child was born at Webb AFB, 1965. We often travel back to the city on vacation trips to West Texas. We also like San Angelo, where I was based for a time at Goodfellow AFB.

    I wish Nati good fortune in her efforts to make north Big Spring a more pleasant place to live.

  • 1bimbo

    tell the real stories, not this fluff piece….they forgot to mention the dozens of homeless crackheads you have to step over to paint the hydrants. the real story in big spring isn’t about aesthetics. the town sits on one of the most active drug corridors in the state. there is a federal immigration prison, two quasi-state contract prisons and a state mental health facility – all in the city limits. those people serve time, get out, move in (on the northside mostly), commit more crimes, sell drugs, rape children, beat their wives and knife each other at birthday parties.

  • Al Olmstead

    1bimbo’s comment doesn’t even scratch the surface of the cesspool of political and legal corruption that Big Spring, Texas has become over the past 25 years since the Air Force pulled out. With only two exceptions, every judge and house legal counsel is a white male from he elite South Side. They openly commit major felonies that are arrogantly documented in court and county records. The only justice that Blacks and Latinos get comes from sucking up to white men, like that buffoon Justice of the Peace Bennie Green, who openly runs a “verdicts for votes” bribery scam and practices law without a license. The problem with Nati Saldivar at North Side Movement is that she has no guts and sets a perverse example to other Latinos by doing her own version of sucking up to blatantly criminal white men like Judge Timothy Yeats (stolen car scam out of City Hall with city manager Todd Darden) and even her old boss, attorney Drew Mouton, who recently forged documents needed to steal a $50,000 home from an elderly Hispanic lady and sold it to me for $500 in falsely claimed delinquent taxes. Like the two Hispanic city council members, Nati Saldivar amounts to a “storefront wetback”, a fraud whose job is to strut around pretending that North Side Blacks and Hispanics have equal access through the rule of law. There is no rule of law in Big Spring, there is only the rule of white male lawyers and judges who commit crimes at will. These accusations and much more will soon be documented in a federal lawsuit against Judge Yeats and the entire legal establishment of Howard County, Texas under 21 USC 848, operating a continuing criminal enterprise.