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The Next Economy | America 360

An Instagram Tour of San Antonio

photo of Sophie Quinton
March 7, 2013

They say you never really know a place until you've Instagrammed it. OK, so no one actually says that. But when National Journal's Sophie Quinton traveled to San Antonio for the first stop on our yearlong America 360 tour, she brought along her camera-phone to better capture the people and places she encountered along the way.

See more photos and track future city visits by following us on Instagram



The mural on the side of Fuerza Unida's building celebrates Chicano leaders.(Sophie Quinton)

Petra Mata, 66, and Viola Casares, 69, founded Fuerza Unida in 1990, after they lost their jobs as seamstresses for Levi Strauss with no notice or pay. More than 1,150 workers lost their jobs in one day, and Levi's has since shuttered all its factories in the San Antonio area. Fuerza Unida is a sewing cooperative but also an organizing movement--Mata and Casares organized to demand fair severance pay from Levi's, as well as better working conditions and benefits for women in other factories. The group launched a new denim label last fall with a fashion show. 

Fuerza Unida seamstresses work to fill an order of cowboy print pajamas.(Sophie Quinton)


The limestone church at the Mission San José, which was established by the Spanish in the early 1700s. It's still open for worship.(Sophie Quinton)

Richard Perez grew up on San Antonio's South Side, working for his family's landscaping business before leaving home to study urban planning. Perez says that "education was my ticket out." But his departure from San Antonio was only temporary. After a stint in the Clinton administration's Housing and Urban Development Department, in 2001 Perez moved back to his hometown--and back into the same house he grew up in.  A few years later, Perez was elected to the city council. He is now president and CEO of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. (Sophie Quinton)

Public librarians are often one of the first points of contact for unemployed workers looking for resources about finding employment. That's one reason the staff at the San Antonio Central Library suggested opening a jobs center there in 2009. Dianna Morganti, one of the librarians, says that many job seekers who come here for help don't know how to move a mouse across a computer screen. When even the lowest-paid jobs in town require applicants to apply online, that's a problem. The library keeps staff on-hand to help users with computer literacy. The Central Library is downtown, just a few blocks from the bus stop, so it also serves a lot of migrants, Morganti says. "Folks who are just passing through and want to see if there are job opportunities here that match their skills," she says. "If not, they'll move on."(Sophie Quinton)


San Antonio's famous Riverwalk--a top tourist destination--includes more than four miles of pathways along the narrow San Antonio River. (Sophie Quinton)

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who delivered the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, gives his annual State of the City speech.(Sophie Quinton)

Nothing quite says "State of the City address" like a drum line. A San Antonio high school marching band leads the way before Castro's speech. (Sophie Quinton)


Balous Miller, is CEO of Bill Miller Bar-B-Q, the chain of restaurants with 50-some locations in the San Antonio area that was founded by Miller's father. Miller is concerned about the high price of corn, which is raising the price of beef. But he's not about to overhaul the family business just yet. "Everybody eats at Bill Miller's," he says with a grin. "You could bulldoze the Alamo and there'd be fewer complaints than if you bulldozed Bill Miller's."(Sophie Quinton)

Samuel Gompers, founding president of the American Federation of Labor, died in San Antonio in 1924. He had been in Mexico City to attend a labor meeting and suffered a stroke. Gompers reportedly made clear that he wanted to die on American soil, so he was rushed to San Antonio, where he died a day after his arrival. That explains this 15-foot statue of him at the base of a pedestrian bridge along the River Walk. (Sophie Quinton)

In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control said San Antonio had the highest obesity rate in the nation--nearly one-third of adults in the city qualified as obese. Seven years later, the city was awarded a $15.6 million federal grant to tackle the public health issue. Here at the San Antonio Food Bank, Josie De Hoyos, a registered dietitian, gets tortilla-making started at a diabetes nutrition class.(Sophie Quinton)


Three Alamo Academy graduates, now Lockheed Martin employees, in front of an engine for the U.S. Air Force's C-5 plane. The Alamo Academies are part of a public-private partnership that trains select high school students, lets them earn college credits, and provides many with high-skilled jobs as soon as they graduate from high school. (Sophie Quinton)

Johnny Hernandez, a San Antonio restaurateur and former Top Chef guest judge, has found success creating authentic Latin America food that is as popular with visitors as it is with locals. He thinks it's a trend that may soon take off nationwide. The Culinary Institute of America recently opened a branch in San Antonio, where it offers the first culinary-degree program in the country for foods from Central and South America. (Sophie Quinton)

And the Alamo. Because it's practically illegal to visit San Antonio without making time to see the Alamo. (Sophie Quinton)

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