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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.