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DATELINE TEXAS Los Vecinos de las Misiones BY D’ANN JOHNSON PHOTOS BY ALAN POGUE Thousands of tourists each year flock to the historic missions of San Antonio, adding millions of dollars in revenue to the local economy. Yet few who make the trip this year will notice the housing conditions of those who live in the shadow of these popular tourist attractionsor see the outhouses and cesspools that service these areas. Just outside the walls of the Mission Espada, within the San Antonio city limits, lies a small community with absolutely no sewer connections. Outhouses and septic tanks, many of which are leaking, fill the waste management needs of the neighborhood. Even drinking water connections are sporadic here. On one street, five dwellings share a single water meter because the residents cannot afford the $1,500 hook-up fee for their own water lines. On another road, a resident lacks an easement for his water line to go across another landowner’s property. Previously, an oral agreement with the neighboring landowner allowed this family to have running water, but after the landowner died, the San Antonio Water System cut them off. For three months, the family was forced to haul water from the homes of relatives simply to supply their daily needs. The missions themselves, with their 300-year-old aqueducts, were better served in their time. Many of the residents live on land that has been in their families for generations. As these families grew, the land was shared among their children. Informal land division, while practical and common in long-inhabited areas, creates confusion for city planners, who are always more comfortable with neat plats and surveys. While all of the structures have electrical meters, water and wastewater services have proven more troublesome. In 1994, a group of residents formed Los Vecinos de las Misiones to improve the housing conditions of the families outside the missions. Director Roberto Anguiano first set a goal of obtaining funding for the rehabilitation of neighboring homesonly to discover that federal funds can’t be used to improve houses that don’t have basic utilities. Organizers then turned their atten 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 12/6/02