No Todo Lo Que Brilla Es Oro

Not Everything That Shines Is Gold

Picture by Jerry Rodriguez

Or as folks in my neck of the woods would say no seas pendejo! Don’t be an idiot.  It may not be my place to say this, since I’ve only lived in the neighborhood for a few years, but in the little time I’ve called this place home, I have noticed that life in Denver Harbor (a.k.a. DH) moves to a different beat.

Nestled in the northeastern corner of Houston’s Interstate 610; I-10 East running smack through the middle of it; home to the Selena Quintanilla Perez Park; Denver Harbor is like the stepchild of the city’s up and coming chic inner loop metropolis.

A five-minute drive from downtown, but decades behind the rest of the inner loop.

No upscale living high rises have crept their way into this barrio. Rumors of violence and gangs have kept most non-natives away.  Homes here are small and functional, not large and impressive.  Trains passing by, don’t.  They stall and stagger, blocking roadways for as long as they please.  Resurrection Catholic Church’s pastor regularly scolds his parishioners directly and with little regard for their feelings.  Paleteros selling hot corn in a cup and ice cones are more reliable than the elected politicos, pushing their merchandise on their little bike carts all year round regardless of the season.  Small corner stores within walking distance are the nearest locations to get most things for the home.  The closest Wal-Mart is a good 20 minute drive down Interstate 10.

Yet those who live here seem to love it.  We like the convenience of having a taco stand at almost every corner, the low mortgage and rent payments, the freedom to grow whatever assortment of plants and tropical fruits on our properties as we wish, the way everyone seems to know who you are, or at least what street you live on.  To me it feels like Little Mexico, although my wife doesn’t like that analogy.  She was born and raised here.  There is just something about waking up on a Saturday morning to the sound of norteño music coming from somewhere down the street and the smell of fajitas sizzling on the grill that makes me feel at home.

Before living in Denver Harbor I had spent my life moving from place to place.  I was born in Houston, grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, spent my summers in Mexico, and moved from one side of Houston to the other, and then the other.

My memories are fond of each place that I’ve lived, but none of them inspired in me as much comfort as DH.

People here have grown used to struggling.  When trains block your path, you find another route to get to where you are going.  To make ends meet, many a matriarchs have spent years of their lives riding the 26 and 27 bus lines.  Immigration raids surge every couple of years.  You are expected to ask for help.  Bullshit is not an accepted form of communication.  If you have something to say, you say it, without any sugarcoating, regardless of how hard it may be for the other person to hear.  And if you have to raise your voice to get your point across you do so.

You stand up for yourself.  That is the unwritten rule in Denver Harbor.

In many ways it could be considered a slum or ghetto.  Hell the government will even pay you up to $45,000 to purchase a property in Denver Harbor right now, but for all its flaws it is one of the humblest places to live.  Humble in the sense that while it is not shiny and new, it is one of the few places where what you have is not nearly as important as who you are.

Todo lo que brilla no es oro.

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9 thoughts on “No Todo Lo Que Brilla Es Oro

  1. your right about DH …The place still very familiar to me & i find myself missing it alot at times. Still though SW will always be my hood…Can’t deny that but yep i will never forget how happy i was in DH. Lol

    1. Jaja…yeah, I love living here, but those times growing up all over the place (including SW) were the best! We had, and still have, the craziest times when we all get together.

  2. I feel a little odd commenting on your blog since I’ve only lived in DH for a couple of months but I do have to say that what you write summarizes the neighborhood’s identity from my perspective. Our transition into this neighborhood was nothing like we expected. After hearing all types of horrible stories we decided to give it a chance and all I can say to those who haven’t lived here is that they are missing out on forming part of the humblest place to live in, as you mention in your blog.

    It’s difficult to comprehend how a community like DH can be overlooked by politicians and merely recognized by the talented and hard working individuals who are part of this neighborhood and want to help out the community as best they can. I commence you in your dedication and determination to continue to write about the social and political issues in our community. Thank you!

  3. I bought my house in Denver Harbor about 5 years ago and everyone thought I was crazy for living in the “ghetto”. But I was 5 minutes from downtown and I could afford my mortgage if I lost my job. I love my neighborhood. When I help my neighbors out they pay me by sending me plates of food. I needed a tree cut down, my neighbors all came together and cut it down. I tore down a shed, and with the help of my neighbors it was gone in just a few hours. I never asked for help, they came. I love driving down my street and getting big smiles and waves from my neighbors. We still have problems, but so do alot of other neighborhoods. My house is 70 years old and drafty, but I love my house.

  4. Ya gotta love this place, I could live anywhere I wish, I love this neighborhood Denver Harbor…Come out and enjoy this little league baseball season. Opening day is set for March 20th with parade at 9am and ball games to follow….all are welcome.

  5. I forgot to mention how I love the sound of the train at night. I love hearing it blow it’s horn. People think I am crazy, but I the sound gives me comfort. Also, in the early morning hours I hear the birds… so many birds!!

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