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Honoring Anacua Village and Mission history

To commemorate the soon-to-be demolished Anacua Village, the local outreach group People’s Community Network will hold a small gathering on April 5 for former residents. 

Flora Soto Flores at Anacua Village in 1954. Photo courtesy of Irma Flores Lopez

After more than 70 years, the Mission Housing Authority will level the low-income housing community to make way for two new complexes. But Missionite Irma Flores Lopez wants to make sure the village and what it represents isn’t forgotten. 

“When my grandparents moved there in the 1950s, they were excited about living in a safe dwelling. So I’m glad that a bigger, better, safer dwelling will come to Mission,” she said. “But I hold on to my roots like a lot of people do in Mission.

Known as a local recordkeeper and do-it-yourself archivist, Flores Lopez has fond memories of Anacua Village. Not only was it her first home as a newborn for a short period, but she has four decades of memories from visiting relatives who called the complex home until the late 90s. 

She spoke proudly of the trees her great-grandfather planted on the property. She even has a newspaper clipping from a 1963 Mission Times article praising her maternal grandparents Sabino and Domitila Soto for being model tenants of 11 years at Anacua. 

Flores Lopez got teary-eyed reminiscing on days past. 

“At night time, families would be playing loteria. Everyone would leave their windows open, doors unlocked. My uncles on my maternal side were big time hippies,” she said with a laugh. “They’d sleep on the roof of their home or they’d sleep on the grass outside because it was hot inside; it was a normal thing for people to do. And everyone knew one another.” 

She remembers running through the property with friends, hunkering down with family during Hurricane Beulah in 1967 and walking regularly to a nearby convenience store for art supplies to play with outside. 

“There was no TV, people were lucky to have a TV,” she said. “Mom remembers someone having a TV and everyone would gather and look through the window to see whatever they were watching. It was innocent fun. It was an innocent way of life and I don’t want it to be forgotten.” 

The Mission Housing Authority has been set on demolishing Anacua for a few years. Director Arnold Padilla reported poor living conditions and difficulties in keeping it operating. After MHA received federal funding to build a new development, the housing authority slowly vacated the units. 

The affordable housing complex has been empty since December 2023, and demolition could happen as early as April. But Flores Lopez wants to find a way to preserve Anacua’s history in some capacity. 

She inquired about saving one unit from demolition to honor the original site, but Padilla was unavailable to confirm whether that was possible. Flores Lopez also contacted local preservationist and historian Gabriel Ozuna about designating it as a historical property. But Ozuna said he has not heard back from the Texas Historical Commission to determine its significance. 

“Whenever you have historic-age properties — buildings that are over 50 years [old] — anytime that there’s federal funds or licensing that is used in a demolition or repurposing, there’s a process that gets triggered through the National Historic Preservation Act called Section 106, and that involves getting the Texas Historical Commission involved.” 

According to the U.S. General Services Administration, Section 106 requires that each federal agency identify and assess the effects its actions may have on historic buildings by considering public views and concerns about historic preservation issues when making final project decisions.  

“It’s my concern that [MHA] didn’t do the proper due diligence,” Ozuna said. “…and so that’s kind of where we’re at — seeing if they’re going to need to do some negotiation through Section 106.”  

The MHA director was unavailable to answer questions regarding Section 106 due to being out of the office for the week. 

The Mission Housing Authority has tentative plans to hold their commemoration ceremony for Anacua, but MHA representatives could not confirm details for the event. 

Regardless, Flores Lopez said she still wants to have a grassroots ceremony, with the help of the People’s Community Network, for past Anacua residents to exchange memories. 

“I figure if I have a few stories to tell, can you imagine the others,” she said. “I owe it to my mom and my grandparents and great grandparents to continue their legacy so generations to come will know how a lot of families in Mission started. Some families were there for a good 50 or 60 years because they were so happy and safe there.” 

The Anacua Village remembrance will be April 5 from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. at the Hidalgo County Mission II Head Start Center at 1105 E. 8th St.

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