Out in the Alamo city: Revealing San Antonio's gay and lesbian past, World War II to the 1990s
My intention is to reveal how San Antonio's lesbian and gay population, like others across the nation, formulated and carried out place-claiming strategies that not only created safe corridors of existence, but also influenced how the city's urban landscape evolved. While many scholars have studied the development of lesbian and gay communities in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, few studies document the history of gay populations in the South. I work to bridge this gap and present a work that focuses on the history of a queer community in a major southern city: San Antonio. The thrust of my inquiry hones in on the spatial development of San Antonio's queer community and probes what social and cultural forces acted upon this evolution. I reveal how San Antonio's position as a military training center during World War II brought queer armed forces personnel together with the city's homosexual population and in doing so, inadvertently exposed how and where San Antonio gays and lesbians found spaces in which to come together. I investigate how flight to suburbia in the postwar years ushered in an era of decentralization, bringing decline and dereliction to many urban spaces in and around San Antonio's city center. From the 1950s through the 1990s, San Antonio lesbians and gay men took advantage of claiming spaces abandoned by residents fleeing to the suburbs. Queers found opportunities for laying down roots and staking out territories in which they opened businesses, claimed social spaces, and established residential enclaves. As time progressed, San Antonio's queer population left an indelible imprint on the city as gays and lesbians claimed and maintained space across decades and participated in revitalization projects that breathed life into derelict urban spaces. To trace the spatial evolution of San Antonio's queer community across six decades, I created a series of maps that illustrate the early vestiges and rapid expansion of the city's queer population.