Skip to Content

Spirit of San Antonio

World-Class Writers, Tejano Music Superstars, Photography & Art

Spirit of San Antonio

The largest US city with a majority-Hispanic population, San Antonio has always moved to its own vibrant rhythm. The city’s historic missions, beloved riverscape, and thriving Tex-Mex culture have created a dynamic confluence of qualities, inspiring generations of writers, musicians, and artists.

Drawn from The Wittliff’s extensive archival holdings, Spirit of San Antonio explores the city’s creative currents, charting the often-surprising relationships between art and place. 

Among the featured writers is Sandra Cisneros, who published five major books while living in San Antonio from the 1980s to 2013. During her time in the city, Cisneros’ creative inspirations were boundless. Anything from a missing neighborhood cat to a quirky pest control advertisement could spark a new book or story. She also waged a famous battle to champion long-repressed Tejano history after painting her house purple in defiance of local Anglo legal mandates. Selections from the Cisneros archive at The Wittliff reveal how San Antonio influenced both her writing and activism — and how the renowned writer in turn transformed her adopted city.

Also highlighted in the exhibition is literary megastar Rick Riordan, whose major archive is also at The Wittliff. Riordan is best known for his blockbuster Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, which has sold millions of copies and is translated into over 40 languages worldwide. A San Antonio native, Riordan got his start as a writer by creating an award-winning hardboiled mystery series set in his hometown. The exhibition dives into Riordan’s first efforts to get published while tracking his creative process in fashioning his early books about San Antonio.

Spirit of San Antonio spotlights several other literary luminaries who have archives at The Wittliff. Among them is the internationally-heralded writer, Naomi Shihab Nye, along with San Antonio’s beloved first-ever Poet Laureate, Carmen Tafolla. Also featured is Prize-winning San Antonio Express-News editorial columnist Cary Clack, acclaimed filmmaker/novelist Severo Perez, revered longtime writer Robert Flynn, the first Latina Texas Poet Laureate Rosemary Catacalos, and several other notables.

The exhibition also features selections from the extraordinary Ramon Hernández Tejano Music Collection at The Wittliff, which includes treasured photographs and recordings from Tejano legends Selena, Flaco Jimenez, Sunny Ozuna, Steve Jordan, and more. The exhibition also showcases spectacular Tejano Conjunto Festival posters created by artists Clemente Guzman, Douglas Jasso, and Jacinto Guevara. A special display honors Rosita Fernández (1918-2006), San Antonio’s First Lady of Song, who delighted audiences for decades while performing atop a bridge over the Riverwalk, now named “Rosita’s Bridge” in her honor. 

Rounding out the exhibition are captivating images from celebrated photographers Al Rendon, Michael Nye and Kathy Vargas, as well as displays on the work of legendary local artists Jesse Treviño and Cesár Martínez. 

Spirit of San Antonio weaves these talented writers, musicians, and artists into a rich tapestry, creating an unforgettable group portrait of this uniquely beloved major American city.