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it is a story about the sources of power that remain outside the pale of the centralizing forces of San Antonio’s economic power base. More than any other Texas city, San Antonio is what urban philosopher Kevin Lynch terms an “imageable” city. For the most part, its 270 years of growth and development have been based on the importance of human interchange. It has a center that can be “read” by both inhabitants and visitors as a center for commerce and cultural activity. Where the diffusion and confusion of Houston life is most aptly symbolized by its loop, where life is spent in transit and on the periphery, in San Antonio the dominant symbols are still found though this is endangered downtown. While Houstonians locate themselves in relation to each other and to centers of activity in terms of the loop \(inside or outside, southeast orient themselves in terms of the city’s center. This orientation is not simply geographical. It is as much psychological, with South Side, West Side, North Side, and East Side fanning out from the downtown nexus as quadrants of identification that are at once cultural, ethnic, historical and economic. The last two decades of San Antonio’s history have been marked by a struggle for control of the image of the city. \(Again, here “image” means more than a superficial symbol concocted by the Chamber of Commerce. It is more than the appropriation of the Alamo, for instance, for the purposes of tourism and super-patriotism. It is the psychological map a city imprints on its inhabitants, which to various degrees influences their in most major cities, particularly as they have ridden the waves of boom and bust. In Austin, for instance, during the same period there has been a battle between developers and environmentalists. But where in Austin the battle rages over one source of power centered in City Hall in San Antonio there are other sources of power besides those located in the Chamber of Commerce, City Hall, and the County Courthouse. When most of the population has been cut off from sources of civil power for more than a century, when it is left to its own devices for that long, tied to another source of symbolic power in the Catholic Church and to another network of relationships in the parish and the community, then it comes up with a different answer to the question, What is San Antonio?, than would be found at City Hall. It is the fact that there are at least two answers to this question that makes San Antonio what it is. It is the tension between these two answers that has marked the civic struggles of the last two decades. 0 N THE ONE HAND, there is the answer provided by the culture of the center the moneyed, white, business interests. San Antonio’s tallest building for four decades, the Tower Life, symbolized the nexus of its power. It could be seen from almost every part of what once comprised the city. At its base the WPA reclaimed the river winding through the city’s heart and the original settlement in La Villita. The city’s Ur-road, St. Mary’s street, followed the river’s course from north to south through the city, from Brackenridge Park, past the Tower Life, to \(though under a different Mission San Jose. Where St. Mary’s crossed Houston Street in the middle of town was the hub of business activity: the hotels, the high-toned stores, the banks, the best theaters. Most roads led to Rome, and all bus routes did. There was no way to get from west to north or from south to west without passing through the city’s center, without having to change buses at, say, the corner of Presa and Houston streets. Downtown was a diagram of power drawing commerce to itself and distributing labor as it saw fit. What distinguished San Antonio then \(before still does to a lesser degree, was the fact that its center was designed on a human scale: for the bus traffic waiting at Waigreen’s, for the elites of the North Side taking in a movie at the Majestic, shopping at Frost Bros., eating lunch at the Manhattan or in the St. Anthony Hotel. Each quadrant contained nuclei of independent business and social activity, all related to the center by bus lines, newspapers, entertainment, and offices for the gas bill and the phone bill and for the marriage license and for food stamps. It was the source from which all political power obtained. Then came the ’60s and the age of expansion, and that dealt a blow to the human scale of the city’s center. First, the central community became voracious. Money intended for flood projects in various neighborhoods went instead to fund the development of the River Walk. A sizeable neighborhood on the edge of downtown was leveled for the planned wasteland that is HemisFair. The Great Society and its dark underbelly, the War in Vietnam, brought new money into town, and it began to grow. The Tower Life building was no longer tall enough to serve the distant reaches of the city as a compass. But the new HemisFair tower did, providing the bearings for the recruit at Kelly Air Force Base, the new immigrant from Mexico on Castroville Road, and the nurse whose family had just bought a new home in a little subdivision past the Coliseum on the East Side enabling them to know “their place” in relation to the city’s power structure. Urban renewal began to claim vast tracts of land, creating the urban equivalent of firebreaks between the city’s Westside particularly where La Raza was beginning to wave its flag and the power downtown. Later, on the near West Side, walls were erected on Milam Square, a traditional center of mexicano political activity and a gathering place for day laborers. The produce market there, which served small cafes and groceries and was a social center for nearby residents, was decimated to create “El Mercado” for the tourist trade. The image of the city contained in the constellation of business, financial and political power was becoming more diffuse. New bus routes were designed and funded that did not require transit through downtown. Developers were building a new seat of power to the north and west, as a former mayor and a UT Regent spearheaded an effort to locate a branch of the University of Texas not in the central ghost town of HemisFair, but on virgin property atop the recharge zone of the city’s water supply in the middle of vast stretches of land where there is money to be made. And the beat goes on. In an effort to stretch its hegemony still farther, this constellation has produced a land-locked Sea World far to the west and is developing plans for a biotechnology industrial park. To seal the deal, it has lined up the Pope to give his benediction to those acres and to the spread of this image of San Antonio in a far westerly direction. Set against this the other answer to the question, What is San Antonio? While those who hold power downtown live elsewhere the North Side, this alter-image is based in the home. It is rooted in community and parish life, in localized concerns and spiritual symbols. It contains mass and individual exoduses from Mexico; it has known poverty and oppression, several cultural Renaissances, and mass public meetings led by Mexican syndicalists; it incorporates cigar-worker and garment-worker strikes and a West Side political awakening in the protests of pecan shellers and the unemployed, led by Emma Tenayuca: it is the culture of the 18 MAY 29, 1987