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Austin barrios project preserves Latino history

Before it was the Bernhoft Law Firm, the Quintanilla House on East Cesar Chavez Street served as a hub for East Austin’s Mexican American community.

Purchased in 1972 by Joel Quintanilla, the home took on many forms in the neighborhood.  

The building, a Victorian-style home of limestone and cedar, used to be completely made of wood and was surrounded by large panels tagged with graffiti art and murals. 

For years, it served as the home base for the League of United Chicano Artists, or LUCHA.  

In one of the home’s earlier forms, it also served as a community center where residents could find help with legal services and meet with immigration attorneys, said Bertha Rendon Delgado, president of the East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association. The house sometimes was used as a campaign headquarters. After school, children would come for free snacks and candy, Rendon Delgado said.  

Preservation Austin, a nonprofit that works to preserve historic sites and their cultural significance, has marked the Quintanilla House as part of its East Austin Barrio Landmarks project.

On weekends and during holidays like Halloween, the house would serve as the anchor for block parties. Picnic tables would be set up and live music would echo throughout the neighborhood.  

“This was us,” Rendon Delgado said. “There used to be art buckets and spray cans all around here. They would bring kids from around the barrio and do art classes, and teach us about expression and freedom. This was ours.” 

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