By Danny Camacho
I still live in the house my parents bought in 1951. I had first
thought to recount my own memories of growing up on the East Side.
Of my three sisters and I having to just cross the street to attend
Metz Elementary. The summers passed on the playground and in the
swimming pool at Metz Park. Or weekends spent fishing with my Dad.
We would walk the few blocks down to the Colorado River, before
it became Town Lake.
But it’s the old stories, the ‘cuento’ about
the ‘abuelos,’ that I heard as a child that I want
to share. My great-great-grandparents Eulogio and Pilar Luna, their
seven children and extended family came to Austin in 1872. They
settled in an area near the mouth of Shoal Creek called ‘Mexico.’ The
men were day laborers and the women took in laundry.
It was here that my grandmother, Higinia, went to a two-room school
at the corner of 2nd and Nueces, now the location of the Green
Water Treatment Plant. I remember hearing the tale of how in 1882
great-grandpa Toribio got rowdy in ‘Guy Town,’ just
a few blocks away. He was arrested and fined $5.00 for disturbing
Another story told was about Pilar at the time of the construction
of the present state capital building. Of her being on Congress
Avenue and watching the chain-gangs of convicts being led to work
by armed mounted guards. Pilar dropped to her knees on the wooden
sidewalk and making the sign of the cross, offered up her prayers
for their wayward souls.
A block east of Congress, at 10th and Brazos, is St. Mary’s Cathedral.
It was there that great-grandma Carlota, her three sisters and
brother were all married. And at 11th and Congress, now a parking
lot, once stood the Travis County Court House. It was here that
Toribio was tried for ‘lunacy’ in 1900. He was convicted and sentenced
to the State Lunatic Asylum on Guadalupe Street, then outside the
city limits. He died there two months later.
My mother, Lorraine,
was baptized at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, then located at the
corner of 5th and Guadalupe Streets. The downtown
post office occupies the site. She had been born in 1917 at the
home of her parents, 510 West 9th. It was in this same house, a
year later, that Pilar died. Mother’s sister Lucille, who
was then 9, remembered that day. All the furniture, except for
the chairs, was taken out of the front room. It was there that
Pilar was laid out in a pine coffin. The ‘casa’ was soon filled
to overflowing with ‘familia’ and ‘compadres.’ An
all-night vigil was held before the funeral the next day. My aunt
younger brother went out to a vacant lot and picked a bouquet of
wild red poppies to place on the casket.
Pilar, Eulogio, Carlota,
Toribio and other family members are buried in Oakwood Cemetery,
located south of Disch-Falk Baseball Field
on MLK Boulevard.
Whenever I’m on downtown Congress, I can’t help
but feel the presence of my ancestors. It is as if they had just
of me. I then wonder if 100 years from now some future relation
will be walking there and think the same.
Read Aletha Irby’s full story
Monica Beckford’s full story
Read Sofia Harber Bowden’s full
Read John Salazar’s full story
Read Deb Kelt’s full story
Read Gina Schrader’s full story
Read Writing Austin’s Lives introduction
Photo: Julie Ardery, KUT