By Ricardo Avitia
Where I live is a majority Hispanic community integral to the historical fabric of South Fort Worth.
Nestled between Hemphill Street, Berry Street, I-35, Bolt Street, La Fundición (The Foundation), was one of the first Hispanic neighborhoods on the city’s South Side. Today, La Fundición is known as the Worth Heights Neighborhood. Before integration, Hispanics and Latinos were discouraged from crossing west of Hemphill after 6 p.m. After the 1965 Civil Rights Act, the U.S. — and Fort Worth included — experienced a phenomenon known today as white flight. This term was coined as a result of the record number of white families who left their inner city homes to more rural, generally all white communities known as the suburbs.
This phenomenon also opened the door for Black, brown, and migrant Asian and Latino families to fill in the gaps in inner city neighborhoods, which to this point had better funded schools and city services. As the influx of people of color filled these spaces, so, too, did development, and maintenance began to dwindle in south Fort Worth.
Currently, because of the great value our land holds — tucked between Interstate 30, I-35, I-20 and McCart Avenue — and with proximity to downtown, the city of Fort Worth wants to impose its will once more on our vulnerable and aging community with developments in the neighborhood. But we, the seeds of those who built and sustained Hemphill and South Side for so long, are older and wiser than the misled and ill-represented residents we once were.
South and South Central Fort Worth is experiencing a revitalization of pride in the community. Led by community organizations such as Hemphill No Se Vende and United Fort Worth, residents and business owners along Hemphill are informing and educating each other and our community of the power we have and the need to stand up for ourselves with pride and dignity. In a city where Indigenous-Spanish-speaking descendants make up 1 in 3 residents, we had been left behind.
Today, South Fort Worth is composed of about 70% descendants of indigenous Spanish-speaking people. The Hemphill Street community is the byproduct of the influx of Mexican families who populated the area during the 70s 80s and 90s. Outsiders who drive on Hemphill see the lack of positive development and lighting, outdated buildings and deteriorated streets. All of these generally are associated with higher crime rates, lower education levels, and lower socio-economic background residents.
Because of this, those outsiders may also think “what a scary and horrible place to live.” And those who live among the majority Hispanic residents may also be intimidated by loud music and parties on any given weekend. The blares of cheers and jubilation of people celebrating birthdays, baptisms, First Communions and graduations are also at times frowned upon by those unfamiliar with the culture. Still, all I see is the beauty and enchantress of my heritage, culture, customs and traditions. Where I live is a wonderland full of the most wonderful things I adore and cherish. Where I live reminds me of how resilient my community is. Perhaps because my surroundings are reminders of turbulent times, adversity, and the tragedy experienced by our community’s working-class families: White, Black, brown, Asian, Persian and Arabic hard-working-class peoples. Even so, there isn’t ever a weekend when our streets aren’t full of cars and people attending family gatherings. I love the smell of carne asada on any given Saturday or Sunday. The tunes of a good cumbia, norteña, or corrido to dance to. The sounds of lively children running all over the place like there’s no tomorrow; and the bonds one builds when surrounded by people we can relate to, love and admire the most.
For many who don’t understand these experiences, they may only see what I speak of as a nuisance. However, again, I see it as a beautiful interpretation of resilience and pliability. That even through all the pain of tragedy, the adversity of misinterpretations and misconceptions, and the curse of being misrepresented, my community is still able to set it all aside and make time to celebrate life; and that, to me, is nothing less than captivating and ravishingly beautiful.
Ricardo Avitia, 41, is a community organizer for the Hemphill No Se Vende, which translates to Not For Sale.
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Total population: 2,897
Female: 47% | Male: 53%
80 and older: 1%
No degree: 27%
High school: 27%
Some college: 27%
Bachelor’s degree: 11%
Click on the link to view the schools’ Texas Education Agency ratings:
Daggett Elementary School
Daggett Montessori School
Daggett Middle School
Morningside Elementary School
De Zavala Elementary School
George Clark Elementary School Edward Briscoe Elementary School
Success High School
Worth Heights Elementary School
Trinity Basin Preparatory
Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center