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A fairly typical house which was built about twenty years ago by the people who still live there.

About San Antonio

Because Lee had photographed San Antonio for the Farm Security Administration in 1939, the directors of the Study of the Spanish-Speaking People were particularly interested in having him revisit that city in 1949. Lyle Saunders noted in a letter to co-director George Sanchez, "We will thus have at least for one city, a documentary record of the improvement or lack of improvement in the conditions of the Spanish-speaking during the past years." By improvement they meant not just economic betterment, but the integration and assimilation of hispanos and mexicanos into the mainstream of Anglo community life and the resolution of "cultural indigestion." To them, cultural indigestion was the result of adding illegal entry of Mexican workers to already existing regional health, housing, and employment problems in the southwest.

The exuberance and beauty of Lee's images may have influenced the exclusion of the commissioned photographs from the pages of the Study. The Study was seeking to address and encourage resolution for what Saunders and Sanchez perceived as the underlying causes for the residual segregation, ill health, unemployment, and destitution felt at the time by many Mexican Americans. Many of Lee’s photographs did not support this mission, but argued against it. In the photographs, well-being appears to be rooted directly in Mexican and Mexican American culture. Traces of that cultural life in bars, restaurants, movie houses, bingo halls and farmers markets fill these photographs.

Of special interest in the San Antonio series is a set of images taken at the radio studio of KCOR, the first radio station in the United States to provide day-long programming entirely in Spanish. The preparations and proceedings of a Pan American Progressive Association meeting reveal the nature of community debates in the San Antonio Mexican-American community. Suburban expansion and the development of San Antonio are marked by billboards such as the one promoting Villa Aldama.

See San Antonio Gallery


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