A Summer of Hope: Thoughts on Working at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center

At the Esperanza, I enjoy not just working but living as a part of a community. Everything done here reflects the values of inclusion and community. One of the aspects of working at the Esperanza includes self-reliance. Since our community is predominantly working-class, many folks don’t have the privilege of paying someone for building maintenance. The interns spent a couple of weeks repainting walls after taking down an art exhibit. Everyone takes turn cleaning bathrooms or mopping before a performance, and we invite community members to help fold La Voz before mailing out the magazine.

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Photo courtesy of the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center. I’m on the scaffold.

As far as outside of the workplace, I already knew that San Antonio is extremely economically segregated, but my time at the Esperanza reminded me how true that is. Early on, the director and other staff members took us to different parts of town—Eastside near the Hayes Street Bride and the near Westside—to learn the history and conditions of people living them. Developers have started targeting the Westside, a predominantly Mexican/Mexican-American working-class side of town. Many cities have been hit with gentrification and displacement and San Antonio is no different.

Working in the real world back at home feels like more of a relief than working in college. Although I have to drive nearly everywhere I go (welcome to Texas), I know where I am and can often navigate without the assistance of GPS. My internship feels like a full time job, considering I spend more than forty hours a week at the Esperanza. More importantly, I feel like the work I do affects people other than those that live in a campus bubble.

One significant change is my outlook on meetings. This summer, I’ve observed city council, comprehensive planning, and housing bond committees.

Photo from The Rivard Report. That's me in the hat.
Photo from The Rivard Report. That’s me in the hat.

Many meetings I’ve attended in college revolve around planning events or discussing long-term organizing strategies. The meetings I’ve sat at (or spoken at in some cases) affect the lives of the over one million people living in San Antonio. It amazes me that policy can be decided in a simple conference room. For example, I recently attended two meetings surrounding San Antonio’s affordable housing bond. This bond had the potential to provide affordable housing and emergency repairs to families. At the meeting—in which the committee had to make draft recommendations for affordable housing—members were surprised to learn that they could not pass most of the policies for legal reasons.

Much of the work for SA Tomorrow involved reading, research, and coming up with creative solutions. One of the other interns majored in urban planning and environmental policy, so while she already had background education around sustainability, I have to read extra to understand some proposals in the works. Hopefully this extra work will pay off when studying for my environmental studies minor.  I’m also learning to take the initiative on certain projects. One of the interns and I are spearheading a social media campaign talking about water in San Antonio. This will build my social media skills, which I can transfer to campus organizing.

Anastasia Christilles, ’18

Social Justice WOW Fellow

1 thought on “A Summer of Hope: Thoughts on Working at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center”

  1. I’ve never been to San Antonio but it sounds like you’re participating in some interesting policy work there! I know how that requires a lot of planning and research ahead of time so I completely commend you on your motivation and patience! I have also tried policy work at my organization but it requires a lot of dedication and time and focus on quantitative data (something I do not have a lot of). Good luck and hope you do well!

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