Oswaldo "A.B." Cantu Pan Am Recreation Center
2100 E. Third, Austin, TX 78702
In the 1930s, a rapidly growing Latino population caused the joint decision of the Austin Independent School District and Austin City Council to plan a separate facility for children attending Metz Elementary School. In 1936, as Texas commemorated its centennial of independence from Mexico, the newly constructed elementary school was dedicated to Lorenzo de Zavala, the only native of Mexico to sign the Texas declaration of independence and vice-president of the Republic of Texas. The school opened in the fall and was officially dedicated on October 21, 1936, the centennial of de Zavala’s death.
In March 1938, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved another PWA project, the Santa Rita Courts, as the first federal housing project in the nation. The subsidized housing project was built directly east of the school. In March 1939, a request to the school board to build an addition to the school to accommodate new students culminated in additional PWA funding. Santa Rita Courts were completed in June 1939, and a companion project, Chalmers Court, was finished to the west in September. Zavala’s Elementary School enrollment expanded again, and in the 1940s, Zavala school was one of four Austin schools determined to be excessively overcrowded; another addition was completed in 1947. Zavala Elementary became an anchor for federal programs in the area. The school continues to serve the educational and community needs of the neighborhood.
The Pan American Recreation Center was opened in June 1942 as the first Latin American Recreation Center in Austin and it was run under the auspices of the Federated Latin American Club and directed by the Austin Recreation Department. The name "Pan American Recreation Center" was chosen by the executive committee during a center naming contest. On September 7, 1956, a new Pan American Recreation Center was formally dedicated at 2100 East 3rd Street, just west of the old location and where it currently exists today. The building adjoins Zavala Elementary School and the Hillside Theater was later built and completed in June 1958 for music, plays and dance events at events such as the Hillside Summer Concert Series.
The addition of the Hillside Theater, sparked what would later be known as Austin's longest running live music series. The Hillside Theater has featured Mexican-American and Tejano musicians like Alfonso Ramos, Manuel Donley, Leonard Davila, Freddy Martinez, Johnny and the Sensations, Flaco Jimenez, Shorty and the Corvettes, and Nash Hernandez Orchestra, to mention a few of many legends in the Mexican American music.
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