A bond between two cultures: the heritage of one neighborhood.

Maria Garza
5 min readMar 12, 2021

A photographic essay of cultural exploration of Plaza Saltillo in East Austin

Plaza Saltillo is found at the heart of the city of Austin, located at the intersection of East 5th and Comal Streets, just 10 blocks from the Texas State Capitol and on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake.

Considered a multimodal station which means that you can rent a bicycle, an electric scooter, ride the Metrorail, or take a bus all in the same spot. To make this space even more accessible to all users, you can park your car there or leave your bike all in a secure space and so you can commute anywhere you want using public transportation.

Access to the Metrorail is very convenient, you can travel by car or bike leave it there and purchase your tickets on the spot. The closest stop would leave you right in front of the Austin Convention Center downtown or you can choose to travel far north to the Domain Shopping District.
A rare snow day in Austin, looking towards downtown, the west side of Plaza Saltillo. The east side of Plaza Saltillo at night.
At the B-cycle station, you can find electrical bicycles, regular bicycles, and electric scooters.

Is important to mention that Plaza Saltillo was built honoring the neighborhood Hispanic roots, to preserve and protect the cultural heritage and unique identity. Every small detail has a meaningful value, every corner tells a story. The benches, fountain, and statue were contributions from Austin’s sister city of Saltillo, Coahuila, that’s where the name comes from.

A fountain donated also by the Mexican government can be found outside the main entrance.

If you take a closer look at the benches you can see the government emblem of the city of Saltillo, and the years of the administration that donated them. The statue honors a historical character the General Vito Alessio Robles, who is credited as the first generation of romantic revolutionaries of Mexico who dreamed and put to action the civic movement which would ensure better opportunities open to the people of Mexico.

A closer look of the benches and homage sculpture to General Vito Alessio Robles.

At the front and center of the plaza, you can find two emblematic elements. One of them is the gazebo which as a Mexican myself can confirm that every town in Mexico no matter how small the town is, always has a plaza and a gazebo. The second one is the flagpole in the center of the Plaza, in Mexican culture, the flag is a very important national symbol that represents hope, unity, and respect for our national heroes.

Under the “Kiosko” you can find a beautiful tile illustration of two people dancing, the man is wearing a “Charro” suit and the woman a typical folklore dress which visually illustrates the Mexican heritage of the space.
The Mexican culture takes a lot of pride in its flag, that is why the flag pole is located in the middle of the Plaza.

As a result, Plaza Saltillo became a community space, and before the pandemic, this place was full of life, every Saturday and Sunday you could find your favorite local eastside vendors selling their tamales and tacos there at the Farmers Market, sometimes even with live music. Recently, the plaza looks abandoned, very sad, and lonely.

This is how Saturdays at the Plaza look like these days.

Furthermore, the rapid growth of the city has impacted the Eastside as well, three out of the four sides of the Plaza would soon transform into huge developments, including apartment complexes, retail, and office spaces.

The rapid growth of the east side is considerably visible by the surroundings of the saltillo plaza.

Momentarily, transforming the landscape into cranes, tranquility into too loud noises, and a sea of people in hard hats wearing reflective orange vests, which have become the latest and most frequent visitors of the plaza nowadays.

Construction workers eating breakfast on the spot while the pollution of the area increases.

In contrast with the front and sides of the Plaza, the back tells a much different story, as the only space that is in essence is absent from construction.

Distribution Hall is located behind Plaza Saltillo.

hat first catches your eye is the big building behind the parking lot because it’s covered with bright colors and graffiti, it’s easy to think the place is an abandoned warehouse by the looks of it.

Graffiti has taken over many buildings on the Eastside, is viewed now as a statement of the area, and is considered art.

Once you take a closer look, you can see some of the graffiti on the walls transform into powerful messages and beautiful illustrations. Like the one in the middle, made by a recognized illustrator Charles Ben Russell made in collaboration with Big Medium Austin to promote local artists and introduce to the public a new way of experiencing art.

Many of these artists sign their artwork. This was made by Charles Ben Russell and that is not just his signature but also his Instagram account.

Not all the graffiti has a simple meaning but most of the ones you can see in these photos are replicated many times all over the Eastside area. Some could see it as a gang vandalizing properties or some others as a form of self-expression for eastside natives to reclaim their and mark their territory.

A can of paint can transform any space to communicate a message.

In conclusion, the growth of a city is always good for the economy but we shouldn’t forget about our culture and how important it is to bring back our heritage into our society, to remind ourselves of our roots. Plaza Saltillo is the perfect reminder of this, and hopefully, the city keeps growing and our neighborhood heritage stays there. For me, this Plaza now has a completely different meaning. Making me appreciate every little detail dedicated to our history, bringing me beautiful memories from my childhood in Mexico, this feels like a home away from home.

Distribution Hall is an event space and production house.

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