The Changing Landscape of Downtown Austin Continues

By: ralphbarrera

Dec 21 2008


Category: Photojournalism


Focal Length:16mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:Canon EOS-1D Mark II N

 Seemingly overnight part of the 200 block of N. Congress Ave. has been torn down to supposedly make way for construction of a new Marriott Convention Hotel. That project has since been delayed due to the economic downturn, but demolition has begun on land that formerly housed Tesoros Trading Company, Las Manitas Mexican restaurant and Escuelita Del Alma day care center. For me this is a sad day. All three of my children attended this wonderful bilingual day care center operated by good friend Dina Flores and her caring staff of educators. My kids were among the first to attend the school when she opened in 2000, among the first to graduate and almost among the last to attend at this location. We left two years ago when our youngest twins reached kindergarten age. Dina has found a new location off of I-35 near 32nd St., but the memories we shared will be tainted by the loss of this historic block of buildings. Some say this is the price of progress. I say this just plain hurts.

photo by Ralph Barrera


3 comments on “The Changing Landscape of Downtown Austin Continues”

  1. Ralph,

    What an amazing story and photo. Our daughter was in the same class with your oldest son and we have countless fond memories of the times our children spent at Escuelita del Alma.

    Knowing that the children of Escuelita del Alma have a new home is comforting and reassuring, but seeing the demolition of the school was a painful and shocking blow to families like ours who were able to become part of the Escuelita del Alma family.


    • I would totally agree Martin. I was shocked to see the demolition of the school building even though I knew it would happen. I guess I wasn’t ready for it. Those were wonderful, formative years and luckily we have photos and real life memories to keep. I’ve been telling my kids about the ongoing story for two years now, so when they see the site for the first time, I wonder how they’ll react. Best to you and your family this holiday.

  2. Ralph, I have not driven by Congress lately and was surprised to read your article and see your photo. I knew it was coming, but somehow I cannot help but to feel like I have a deep hole inside. I came to Austin, for a library convention in 1998 and in one of my breaks went to eat at Las Manitas. Next door I found a bilingual daycare center. I remembered telling myself that if Austin had these two wonderful places next door to each other, this must be a great city to live in and that if I ever relocated, Escuelita del Alma is where I would love to have my kids go to daycare.
    Well, I did relocate to Austin, and I feel privileged to have our family counted as an Escuelita Family.

    My oldest daughter graduated from the same class as your twins and my youngest one is now in the new site. Although the new site is more spacious and quite comfortable, there will always be a strong attachment to the Congress site. There are so many things that we did with Escuelita during the year there, like participating in the annual Halloween trick or treat, going Christmas caroling at the Capitol and coming back to Escuelita for our picture with Santa, and the Austin First Night Parade, not to mention the countless birthdays and piñata celebrations. It will be remembered con mucho cariño by parents and students alike.


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