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The Gateway to San Antonio’s Westside

East Los Angeles has an arch as one enters the “Brown Kingdom” via Whittier Boulevard. Here the barrio is spelled “varrio” and arch is a symbol of pride for the unincorporated area of East LA, which welcomes its residents as well as visitors.

Now the Gateway to San Antonio’s Westside via West Commerce Street too has its own impressive entrance. And it’s all due thanks to the late Manuel “Manny” Diosdado Castillo Jr., David Blancas, several businesses, corporations, organization and countless other participants.

The eye-catching new landmark — made possible by the San Anto Cultural Arts Community Mural/Public Art Program and Janis Wagley — is a mural titled “La Música de San Anto.”

It all started when Wagley, who owns Fast Action Bail Bonds, thought it would be nice to have a colorful mural of bluebonnets, the Alamo plus more artwork that depicted Texas; and in talking to several artists, Manny convinced her to feature a wall full of San Antonio musicians.

This writer/musicologist’s only critic is that they neglected to include Gloria Ríos, who as Eva Garza, also lived in the Alazan-Apache Courts and moved to Mexico, where Ríos introduced rock and roll to our South of the Border neighbor in 1955. She also became a famous movie star and married Adalberto “Resortes” Martínez Chávez.

There is a mural on the side of a building at the corner of Colorado and Buena Vista streets that features a female vocalist resembling Gloria Rios and it may be her. However, she is not identified. And before anyone else starts complaining about being left out, it must be noted that every artist featured on this impressive and moving mural has passed on and this is a posthumous honor.

Among those in attendance at the mural’s dedication were Randy Garibay’s brothers Isidro “Izzy” and Ernie; also his son Randy G. Jr. plus Randy’s first wife Cecilia Cortez and his widow Virginia Schramm Garibay. Lydia Mendoza’s daughter Yolanda, her husband Fernando Hernández and their two children, Anna and Rogelio were also present; as well as Jessamy, their granddaughter plus Manny’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Manuel Castillo Sr.

Photographer Jesse Lara and Efrain Gutiérrez, considered to be the first Chicano film maker was on hand to document the event in high definition.

Congratulations and big “thank you” to all sponsors plus all the volunteers who made this historical mural a reality; and may there be more “Música de San Anto” murals to follow.

In closing, here’s some food for thought in the way of a new project. What about a mural featuring the Royal Jesters, Rudy Tee and the Reno Bops and Dimas Garza of the Lyrics, whom all went to Lanier High School?

The ideal location for this one would be the side of a building coming off the Guadalupe Street bridge from downtown. Besides, the bridge leads right into the former site of the Alazan-Apache Courts and is near Lanier High School. Another thing, they could add to the mural is the Maya and Progresso movie theaters.

It could also include Sunny Ozuna of the Sunliners, Rene Ornelas of Rene and Rene, Arturo “Sauce” González, Spot Barnett, Jimmy Edward, Little Henry, Joe Posada, Louie Bustos and Al Gómez to name a few since all are exponents of the “Westside Sound.”

Paying tribute to San Anto’s women, Rita Vidaurri, Beatriz Llamas plus Emma Hernández, who sang with the Emilio Caceres Orchestra; and leading up to Patsy Torres, Lisa López and Shelly Lares could be the subject of another project.

The list goes on and on, but in reality, one wall would not suffice. So on the positive side, perhaps this will induce and motive someone with a building off the Guadalupe Street Bridge to provide the San Antonio Cultural Arts program with a wall to paint another mural. And it does not have to stop there since someone can also create something artistic as a “Gateway to San Antonio’s Southside.”

Meanwhile, the Alamo City now has a new tourist attraction and source of pride for el barrio del Westside.