Juan of Words

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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