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TPR's Worth Repeating Reveals San Antonio's Stories

by Burgin Streetman on

San Antonio is a city of stories, but unlike its contemporaries—Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, and New York—its stories are largely unknown. 

TPR producer Paul Flahive is working to help change that with Worth Repeating, which Texas Public Radio launched two years ago to find and share the city’s stories. 

Once a month, seven storytellers have seven minutes to tell a true story from their life around a common theme. Think This American Life or the Moth, sourced from your friends and neighbors. 

Flahive and the Worth Repeating Story Board recognize how important personal histories and anecdotes are—even if they don’t read like movie scripts. 

“I wanted to start Worth Repeating because I think it creates community,” Flahive said. “I’ve moved around a lot, and when I lived in Anchorage, Alaska, I really didn’t feel like a part of that city until I got involved with a similar show there.” 

As a recent addition to the Story Board, I can vouch for the fact that you never know what you might hear. A local artist describes the night he was the unsuspecting victim in a gang initiation. The Pearl’s CMO reveals a hilarious elementary school cheat involving mice and the Transcendental Meditation movement. A beloved political consultant rethinks his allegiances, and a Trinity professor explores the unsolved mystery of her mother’s murder. I tell my own story of the time my mother took me deep in the woods in search of a man buried alive.  

To submit your story (or to rat out a friend you think would be great), send me an email

The next Worth Repeating show, Because How I Am: Stories of Where We Came From, Identity, and More, takes place this Tuesday, October 10, at the San Antonio Museum of Art as part of its Latino List exhibit. Tickets are almost gone, so get yours now. You’ll learn something about your city and your neighbors, and maybe you’ll be inspired to add your own voice to the mix. 

Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours?

San Antonio's Second Annual World Heritage Festival

by Margy Avery on

This month San Antonio hosted its second annual World Heritage Festival, a six-day bonanza of cultural, historic, and informative activities celebrating the San Antonio missions.

Perhaps you didn’t know that the city’s five missions are the state’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of only ten cultural World Heritage Sites in the country. (The United States has twenty-three sites in allten cultural, twelve natural, and one mixed. You can see a list of them here and order a cool map of the 1,000-plus sites around the globe for $3 here.)

The city’s World Heritage Festival, which was all about celebrating the missions, included excellent events like a twenty-two-mile trip via bike, walk, or run from mission to mission and Restored by Light, in which colorful hues were projected onto the walls of Mission Concepción to emulate the frescoes that once cloaked the structure.

Being there was like speaking to a neighbor you’ve seen for years but never talked to beyond exchanging pleasantries. The missions have so much more to offer us, if only we’d ask.

How do communities like San Antonio balance a rich, deep heritage with the everyday bustle of modern life and a robust tourist industry to boot? This was one of the questions an international group of scholars, city planners, architects, conservationists, and urban planners considered at the Living Heritage Symposium, a two-day meeting that overlapped with the festival.

Speakers and participants from around the country, and from places as far reaching as Hong Kong and Turkey, shared widely differing experiences. Discussion provided ample opportunity to share experiences, compare challenges, and strategize.

Speakers from San Francisco, for example, discussed their efforts to establish cultural districts, designed to preserve a community’s culture (as opposed to a historic district, which is defined by specific buildings in a clearly demarcated space). By decoupling heritage from culture, a cultural district might manifest more as a network of specific nodes rather than a defined space. In other words, preservation doesn’t necessarily have to be tied to a place in a designated district. An example in our own backyard is the King William Cultural Arts District.

Trinity University Press was proud to help sponsor the symposium alongside the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Center for Cultural Sustainability, the City of San Antonio’s Office of Historic Preservation, and PlaceEconomics.

While the press’s numerous books on the city’s historic places are proof positive of our dedication to historic preservation, the dynamic nature of cultural districts is a topic we’re hot to pursue.

Once at the vanguard of national policy, California plays defense under Trump

by Char Miller on

Xavier Becerra, California’s combative attorney general, has become the Golden State’s face of resistance to the Trump administration’s domestic initiatives, the blunt voice rejecting the president’s attempts to roll back the progressive immigration and environmental policies so central to California’s sense of itself.

At a June 16 press conference, for example, Becerra pushed back against stricter immigration enforcement, saying his office would review conditions at immigrant detention facilities in conjunction with a legislative measure that prohibits local governments from renting out jail beds to U.S. Immigration and Customs. One week earlier, Becerra sent Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke a withering, 11-page letter that flat-out rejected the president’s executive order aimed at delisting or shrinking national monuments his predecessors had established in California.

Yet as eloquent and forceful as the attorney general may be in his defiance, there are limits to the state’s protective stance. Becerra is mounting what amounts to a rearguard action because he has little choice in this age of Trump the Tumultuous.

Viewed from my perspective as an environmental historian, this defensive rhetoric runs counter to the no-holds-barred approach that defined California’s post-World War II drive for economic growth and social justice.

It is as if, for the time being, the California Dream so critical to Becerra’s personal success – and many others’ – has been put on hold.

Challenging Trump

The hardworking son of immigrants and the first in his family to go to college, Becerra finished law school in 1984, was elected to the state assembly, and then served in the state’s Department of Justice before winning an impressive 12 terms to the U.S. House of Representatives.

At each stop along the way, he has been a staunch advocate for the poor and marginalized, those who need a hand up and out. In January 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown (who is playing a similar role as Becerra on an international stage) tapped the politically savvy Becerra to replace newly elected Senator Kamala Harris as AG to become the first Latino to hold this high office in California.

Becerra’s tough-minded approach to his latest job has made him ubiquitous this commencement season. Between May 15 and 23 alone, he addressed the political science graduates at the University of California, Berkeley, those receiving their law degrees at USC and the University of San Francisco, and bachelor’s-earning undergrads at Occidental College.

(California’s first Latino attorney general, Xavier Becerra has taken a defiant – and, by necessity, a defensive – tone vis a vis Washington. AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Even as he cheered these graduates’ academic successes, he reminded them of the rough-and-tumble political environment they were entering. Becerra spoke of how he and other state AGs were challenging the legality of Trump’s Muslim travel ban. He affirmed his deeply felt support for the undocumented and asserted that cities could proclaim themselves sanctuaries, free from executive branch interference.

In resisting the Trump administration’s review of national monuments, Becerra wrote what amounts to a legal brief that cited judicial rulings and legislative records and made a strong case for a kind of states-rights environmentalism. Arguing separately against a plan to open up offshore drilling, he said: “Instead of taking us backwards, the federal government should work with us to advance the clean energy economy that’s creating jobs, providing energy and preserving California’s natural beauty.”

California’s cultural clout

The late, great Kevin Starr argued in his magisterial, multi-volume study of California that the state’s particular genius is in offering “the highest possible life for the middle classes.” It proved time and again to be “the best place in the nation to seek and attain a better life.”

Fueled by a generous stream of tax dollars, the state’s educational systems, from K-12 through college and university, were the envy of the world. So, too, were its high-speed highways and highly engineered water systems, as well as its agricultural productivity, artistic energy and technological creativity. California was a state on the move.

(The Sequoia National Monument is one of the national monuments the Trump administration has put under review, which the state is fighting.  David Prasad/flickr, CC BY-SA)

Its benefits were also broadly accessible: Beaches were public, parks and open spaces plentiful, higher education was cheap. Here, democracy flourished, or at least it could do so. Where it did not, people battled to ensure that it would.

Those toiling in the fields of the Central and Imperial valleys, for example, endured oppressive conditions, but gained an important measure of control over their lives and livelihoods through the formation of the United Farm Workers of America. The struggles that African-Americans and Asian-Americans, Latinos, women and LGBT activists have waged for increased rights, solidarity and opportunities did not always originate in California, but they gained political visibility and cultural clout when manifest on the coast. If you wanted to remake yourself, go West.

Setting pace on public health

But all that prosperity took its toll. Clearing the air of the state’s legendary pollution – “don’t breathe too deeply when you arrive in California” used to be the warning – has taken decades. Grassroots activists, dedicated educators and scientists, and some principled public officials fought against entrenched opposition in Sacramento, Detroit and Washington, D.C. to secure what now are the nation’s toughest environmental controls. More needs to be done, but these regulations have had a profound impact.

It is not by happenstance that the EPA owes its existence to a Californian (President Richard Nixon signed it into law December 1970). Or that the Clean Air Acts grant the state the right to institute stricter measures than the federal government (which is why the current administration tried to deny California’s right to set higher standards).

The ground-level consequences of such innovations as catalytic converters is evident in enhanced public health. When I was a student at Pitzer College in Claremont in the 1970s, I almost never glimpsed the smog-enshrouded Mt. Baldy (elevation 10,050 feet), a few miles away. Today, its towering presence is visible 24/7.

There was no way to predict this remarkable turnaround when my classmates and I gathered outdoors for our graduation in 1975. And no way would bluer skies have become commonplace had the state heeded the advice our commencement speaker imparted to those entering a depressed job market in a society constrained by the budget-busting Vietnam War and post-Watergate cynicism. Hunker down, he said, hunker down.

That 1975 recommendation from a California assemblyman to retreat from the world was as wrong then as it is now in our similarly fraught environment. Rather than simply throw up a wall to fend off the barbarians at the gates, however understandable, California needs to reassert the bold, expansive, and democratic vision that has made it California. A prospect that requires a shared and tenacious commitment to the commonweal.

And a sense of agency. “You don’t have to do it by yourself,” Xavier Becerra told Berkeley seniors. “You don’t have to have done it before. But when you get out there with the guts and the grit and the ganas [desire], you can make a difference.”

That’s how dreams become real.

(Originally posted on 6/17/17 at The Conversation.)

Meet the Intern: Miriam Cone

Hi! I’m Miriam Cone, the new marketing intern at TU Press.

If we’ve ever talked before, you probably know that I love reading and writing, so it’s a dream come true to be interning at a press. I’ve wanted to go into publishing since high school (in middle school I was determined to be a vet), but my love of books began long before then. My parents are avid readers, and I picked up the reading bug early on. I was the kid who brought books to school to read in case I finished a test early. When my family went on roadtrips, I’d bring at least three books and finish them before the trip was over.

I don’t read for fun as much as I used to, mainly because I’m a rising junior English major and a creative writing minor. I’m pretty much reading all of the time for my classes. This summer I’m hoping to find more time to read and do some creative projects, when I’m not working at the press, that is.

I also love to cross-stitch, cook and bake, watch cat videos, volunteer with my brothers in Alpha Phi Omega, and add energy to Trinity University’s already dynamic Orientation Team. Last semester I was a co-editor for the Trinity Review, Trinity’s student-run literary magazine, and I joined Trinity Distinguished Representatives to volunteer through the Office of Admissions.

I’m super excited to be part of the team at TU Press. It will be a wonderful experience and a great opportunity to learn more about publishing.

Spurs Nation, the Book

by Char Miller on

Spurs Nation is a much-needed balm, especially now that I live 1,327.3 miles west of the ATT Center, a straight shot on Interstate-10. The fanzine-like book’s soothing words span the distance between my home in Southern California and my former life in south-central Texas, fusing the past with the present.

But the heavily illustrated book also helps bring the present into sharper focus. So I thought the other morning while I was working my way through the sports section of the Los Angeles Times. On Pearl Harbor Day, the Clippers went up against the Golden State Warriors and were destroyed. That didn’t bother me, as I’m not a fan of either team (but I love that their coaches are former Spurs).

What bothered me was this rankling line in columnist Bill Plashcke’s withering, postgame analysis of the Clippers’ collapse: “Everything was in place Wednesday night for a celebrated meeting between the two best teams in the Western Conference and a potential preview for a spring showdown.” Read that again—“the two best teams in the Western Conference.”

The claim is nonsense on so many levels. On this particular Day of Infamy, the Clippers were, in fact, the third best team in the Western Conference, running two and a half games behind the Spurs. Put that stat in the larger context of the two franchises’ histories and Plaschke’s comment is even harder to fathom. In the long run, the Clippers have nothing on the Silver and Black’s record of success in regular or postseason play; the Clips have yet to win one championship, let alone five.

So, yes, I take solace in Spurs Nation and its colorful depiction—in prose and images—of the Spurs’ extraordinary run to date, from the 1987 lottery pick of David Robinson to the loss in the 2016 Western Conference semifinals to the Oklahoma Thunder; from the grainy photo of the smiling Robinson holding up his jersey (5-0! 5-0!) following the Spurs’ selection of him to the now iconic shot of Tim Duncan, his back to the camera, his right hand raised in farewell as he walks off the court for the last time.

In between these snapshots are a wealth of memories.

  • 1994: David Robinson drops 71 points on the hapless Clips on April 24 to snatch the league scoring title from Shaquille O’Neal.
  • 1996: Gregg Popovich’s surprise firing of Coach Bob Hill on December 10. Twenty years later, the controversial move seems so right, as does Pop’s commentary when asked if he would coach the following season: “Next year? I’m not even thinking about next year. It doesn’t interest me. I’m just thinking day-to-day on how to get this team where it needs to be.” Mission accomplished.
  • 1999: Ring One. “The old ABA franchise that couldn’t finally did.”
  • 2003: Conference finals. Malik Rose captured the Game Six crushing of the Lakers, the Spurs’ nemesis: “Once we started to materialize in the third quarter, we started to smell blood, and see blood. So we went for it.” Ring Two followed.
  • 2004: Okay, let’s agree not to talk about what happened when the Silver and Black lost to the Purple and Gold. I remember hiding out in the local H-E-B.
  • 2005: I spent a lot of time in that same grocery store pretending to shop while casting furtive glances at a flickering screen broadcasting Game Five. That’s where I witnessed Robert Horry drain the 3-pointer that kept the Spurs alive. Game Seven brought Ring Three.
  • 2007: Another series, another ring. Michael Finley said: “A lot of people wrote us, as they usually do. But we stayed resilient, believed in the system, and believed in one another.”
  • 2013: “An epic collapse.” A painful read.
  • 2014: Cinco = joy.

The Spurs have had an extraordinary two-decade run. Moments golden and dark—and you need one to frame the other, so that the whole can emerge in its memorable fullness—are nicely juxtaposed in text designed to resemble the layout of the sports section. The words, with all the authority of a Tim Duncan putback, jump off the page right into our lives.