Where I live makes me feel closer to home. My father is a Swiss and French space engineer and my mother is an American piano teacher. She met him while he was working with NASA in Houston, but I didn’t live in Texas until I was sixteen. I was born in Switzerland and lived in Geneva for five years before my family moved to Paris, where I lived for about 12 years. The opportunity to live in San Antonio presented itself when my mother decided to move back to America after twenty years of living abroad, and gave me the option to join her. I had never lived anywhere outside of Europe and thought this was my passport to the American Dream. We packed our belongings into a suitcase, respecting the fifty pound weight limit for the flight, and hit the ground running.
Upon my arrival I attended Reagan High School; a major culture shock. It was surprising how true the cliches were about high school. From cliques and football teams, to pep rallies and senior proms, it all seemed like a southern remake of High School Musical. But what struck me most during the first few months was how racially segregated my school was. My perspective was European. Governments across the pond pride themselves in promoting mixed-income neighborhoods, equal access to education and adequate funding to do so, as well as acknowledging their history by teaching it thoroughly. This homogeneity was not only at school, Stone Oak on the northside of San Antonio was extremely segregated in all aspects. So when I moved away from the area, I wanted a mixed-income neighborhood with more diverse residents.
After graduating, I went to San Antonio College, but transferring to UTSA was not the initial plan. I was supposed to move to Switzerland for law school after two years of community college. By the time I had finished those two years at SAC, I had heard about a politics and law program at UTSA, and started an internship with Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. The insight into local politics that the internship provided me is what helped me find this vocation. By 2018 I could not see myself leaving San Antonio.
To my father’s great dismay, I stayed. I looked for a place of my own that was mixed-income and close to my job. My downtown apartment reminds me of Paris with its white mouldings around the windows, dark hardwood floors, and (very) cozy feel. According to my landlord, it is one of the oldest apartment buildings in San Antonio.
San Antonio, or my “Hispanic Venice” as I now call it, has such a small downtown that, even though you are just a few minutes from the Frost Tower, it still feels like an oasis. Ivanushka’s favorite place is the dog park at Madison Square Park. I love walking down the Museum Reach on Sundays with my significant other, going to SAMA, and walking my dog along the river.
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The San Fernando Cathedral is not in my neighborhood but I feel compelled to highlight the art that is projected on its facade in the evenings that is oh-so-darling. Take a stroll down Camden street and head down McCullough avenue to Guillermo’s. They serve my all-time favorite salad, the Tuna De Gallo, then grab an electric scooter and head up St. Mary’s street for coffee at Summer Moon. My drink of choice while headed to the office is a 007 on the rocks.
The political consulting firm that I work for, SATX Consultants, is down the street from my apartment. Being close to work was crucial for me because what I miss most about living in Paris is the proximity to virtually everything with the Métro. I tried to use public transportation here once to get to class at SAC from the North Side, which wasn’t the best experience. It took me over an hour and two transfers; there are ways to make our transportation systems more efficient.
San Antonio is on the path to becoming one of America’s great metropolises, we have everything it takes: a business friendly environment, great climate, a cosmopolitan culture, and so much more. We often speak of wanting to recruit and retain more talent, but the individuals we are appealing to want access to urban amenities.
My dad came to visit me from France for the first time, and I took him to the River Walk, he described San Antonio as a Hispanic Venice. He also marveled at the plants growing along the River Walk, which in France are considered indoor plants. The climate is so different from back home that our living room plants can thrive outdoors in Texas.
I find great pleasure in highlighting the history and multiculturalism of San Antonio when I have foreign visitors in town. Far too many people picture Chuck Norris, tumbleweeds, and Trump supporters when you mention Texas. Our lovely city breaks stereotypes, and it is important for people to see that.