Four East Austin landmarks significant to the Mexican American cultural history of the region have officially received approval for state historical markers, according to an announcement this week by local nonprofit Preservation Austin. The sites, submitted for consideration as part of the organization’s East Austin Barrio Landmarks Project, represent part of an ongoing effort by local historians to document and preserve the diverse cultural heritage of these landmarks amidst the rapid growth of East Austin.
The approved sites include beloved East Sixth Street restaurant Cisco’s, the district’s Pan American Neighborhood Park, and two homes important to local Mexican American politics and activism — here’s a closer look at each site:
Cisco’s Restaurant & Bakery — 1511 East Sixth Street
The teal brick building at the corner of East Sixth and Comal Streets serves migas and other breakfast favorites, but Cisco’s is really famous for its past as a political powerhouse, with patrons including congressmen, governors, and President Lyndon B. Johnson. Founded in 1950 by civic leader Rudy “Cisco” Cisneros, also known as the “Mayor of East Austin,” the restaurant hosted political fundraisers and other events — “If a politician wanted the East Austin vote, he had to come to Rudy,” according to Preservation Austin’s description of the site. After Rudy’s death in 1995, the restaurant passed from his son Clovis to a group of investors including Cisneros’ grandson Matt in 2017. They’ve added a few menu items, but the place hasn’t changed too much.
Pan American Neighborhood Park — 2100 East Third Street
An important gathering place for the region’s Mexican American community since 1942, Pan American Park and its recreation center are known for a history of boxing, baseball, and countless performances by Tejano musicians at its Hillside Theater — including an early appearance by Selena Quintanilla. The recreation center also includes murals dating back to 1978 painted by local artist Raul Valdez, marking the cultural heritage of the neighborhood.
Herrera House — 1805 East Third Street
According to Preservation Austin’s own research, this strikingly teal-colored house near Third and Chicon Streets has hosted three well-known Mexican American educators and community activists over the last century, all of them women:
These women were Consuelo Herrera Mendez, after whom Mendez Middle School is named; her younger sister Mary Grace Herrera; and their niece Diana Herrera Castañeda. Consuelo and Mary Grace were the first Mexican American teachers in the Austin Independent School District (AISD) teaching at several schools––including Zavala Elementary and Palm School––for 45 and 35 years, respectively. Both women fought to desegregate Austin schools and provide equitable resources and opportunities to Mexican American citizens. Diana was the first Latina to be elected to the AISD board and was a tireless East Austin activist.
Richard Moya House — 1102 East Cesar Chavez Street
This 1930s Craftsman-style bungalow on East Cesar Chavez Street served as the longtime home of local Chicano politician and activist Richard Moya, the first Mexican American elected to public office in Austin and Travis County in 1970. Originally Moya’s childhood home since 1952, he used the house starting in the 1970s as a campaign headquarters and space for fundraisers, election nights, and phone banking. Later occupied by creative offices, the home now serves as event space, with its interior still similar to its appearance during Moya’s use of the property.