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1-11 L__11 L_ JL 1 La Villita, near the business district, was saved by the New Deal. Sa n An to n io Cham be r o f Co mme rce Returning after a long absence to live in San Antonio, where I was raised, I have found intact here much that I remember from my youth, but also more to cherish than I cherished before. Here the tracks of history, the tastes, sounds and sights of biculturalism, and the public works of the New Deal make for a Continental city that can satisfy the mind, the body and the soul. There is an ease here uncommon in American cities. Although the siesta is not a general custom, the relaxedness of Mexican lifeways is. When attorney Philip Hardberger told a Wall Street Journal reporter that “We’re not a getup-and-go city,” he meant that San Antonians don’t fret if somebody’s a little Ronnie Dugger late. Superboosters provoke horselaughs. The politics are split hazily between rich and poor, as in most other places, but here they are also divided \(and a bit pink called white. Mexican-Americans and blacks, together composing a majority, in justice control a city council that overall seems to be more occupied with the daily welfare of ordinary citizens than are the official governing bodies of other Texas cities. Braced from time to time by the idealistic COPS \(Comthe council has authorized some progress in the poorer sections of the city. A banker friend in a position to know tells me that there is, to be sure, a committee that hands down the word on what the moneyed interests have decided, eager to rule in the manner of the Dallas elite. One can reasonably hope, however, that San Antonio will never fall as snugly under the control of the local business oligarchy as Dallas has. Like most large American cities, San Antonio is smeared, in the mind’s eye, with the panderings of daily press screamers, but behind these bloodthirsty facades the dailies have some good qualities. The morning Express, while packaged in accordance with the Murdoch chain’s penchant for yellow, is the most informative paper in the city on serious matters. In the afternoon News, \(sister paper to the one is treated to ice-box murders and the cries of strangled women, but the News also has Paul Thompson, once a clever right-wing columnist who now takes out readily after Southwestern Bell or Coastal States Gas. The Light, which has erred in responding to Murdoch’s challenge by trying to match the News’s depraved interest in technicolor criminality, nevertheless has one of the state’s most promising reporters, Jan Jarboe. Although he is not one to linger under silver linings, attorney Maury Maverick Jr., who is the conscience of the city as much as any one person can be, believes that since the Australian press tycoon’s takeover of the Express and News, the two papers have been more independent of the local business leaders, with whom, after all, Murdoch need have little truck. When I grew up here” between 1934 and 1947, I did not know San Antonio was the oldest municipality in Texas, the provincial and territorial capital of Texas until 1824, a city that has paid allegiance to nine governments, but I knew about the San Antonio River, which flowed murky green between the Johnson-grass banks across from our house on Washington Street; I knew about the Alamo; I knew about San Fernando Cathedral because sometimes we went to church there. Our parents would take us on camping trips to the lakes and rivers within easy driving distance of the city. In those days you just asked a farmer if you could camp on his land. He’d say sure, and you’d drive to the water’s edge and set up camp. At home, I’d take my cane pole and go across the street to dig up worms and fish down between the bankside reeds. The excitement of the cork disappearing in the stream! I never caught anything but perch, yet sometimes, straggling home at dark after fishing in the tailrace below the Pioneer Flour Mills, my string of fish, slung over my shoulder, dragged behind me on the sidewalk. When; I was 13, I got on as a copyboy at the Express. After months of racing up and down the stairwell between the sec 4 DECEMBER 30, 1977