In this time of communal care, our neighborhoods have turned into a microcosm of the universe. This is particularly true for the neighborhood of Gulfton in Houston, Texas. Once described as the “Ellis Island of Houston, Texas,” this neighborhood–the fourth largest city of the country–has “over 50 languages spoken and is home to 40,000 residents” as reported by the City of Houston. Gulfton is the most culturally diverse and compacted community in a city of 2.3 million residents. Between the bus stops and the antiquated fancy names for apartment buildings, lies a profound history of migration patterns, urban movement and destabilization of global politics.
Suburban flight took place in the 1980s in Gulfton, simultaneously during a rise of global political destabilization in Latin America. These political movements generated mass waves of displacement and migration to metropolitans in the United States. Houston started experiencing waves of resettlement at this time. Former oil and gas workers moved to the surrounding suburbs after the oil bubble burst along with the economic recession of 1973-1975. To fill these empty apartments, developers slashed their prices and marketed to the new growing demographic: refugees.
Gulfton is an outstanding 69% Latinx, a large portion from Central America.
Houston, TX thus became a beacon of hope and renewal for refugees and immigrants from all over the world due to its low cost of living, strength of industries, and access to transit. Now, Gulfton stands as a haven for immigrants who have started new lives and businesses to bring a piece of their worlds into this neighborhood. In a city with a 44% Latinx population, Gulfton is an outstanding 69% Latinx, a large portion from Central America. Support these local organizations and small businesses to maintain the vitality of daily life.
Where municipal and local services were initially slow to respond to the growing population’s needs, community-based social service organizations began to collectively organize to improve quality of life. Organizations such as BakerRipley, with a Gulfton Sharptown Campus which opened in 2009, offers a variety of services such as tax preparation, ESL classes, adult education, entrepreneurial programs, a community garden and so much more.
Another organization who provides direct services of education, health, and advocacy for immigrants is Culture of Health – Advancing Together. CHAT serves over “100 refugee and immigrant families from over 25 different nationalities” through access to healthcare, assistance with online learning and more. CHAT also designed the Gulfton Story Trail, a series of 12 murals to create visual representation of the neighborhood’s history.
Amigos de El Salvador
Although lacking in fresh foods, this little Salvadoran variety store compensates with its merchandise variety since opening in 2012. The bright yellow walls are adorned with chunches in the style of a Salvi home: all over the place and in no particular order. Machetes, hammocks, petate, soccer tees, lacquered wall clocks, brain vitamins, and the essential toilet paper holder with a sense of humor are some of the many items for sale.
Located at 6611 Chimney Rock Rd # 8, Houston, TX 77081.
Similarly, Connect Community has contributed to the quality of life of the area through mixed-income housing, early education, and community wellness. Connect Community is a nonprofit partnership between KIPP Texas Public School, Luke’s United Methodist Church, Legacy Community Health, and the YMCA of Greater Houston to share resources and outreach.
On the corner of Rampart St. and Dashwood Dr., Chapinlandia Bakery is more than just a bakery. Part grocery store, pharmacy, bakery, and restaurant, the establishment delivers beyond the name. Established in 2014, the mixed layout of the store provides a wholesome feeling of “tienditas,” local small shops where you can get whatever you need in a pinch.
Located at 6711 Rampart St, Houston, TX 77081.
Variedades El Salvador
For the most fresh Salvadoran foods, this is a must-try. Fruits such as jocotes, mango verdes, and zapotes are bountiful. All cravings could easily be satisfied here: from fresh loroco, chumpas (tiny fried sardines) to the expansive buffet serving hot foods such as empanadas de platano. The tiny packed bakery serves pan frances, quesadillas and more. Pickled, jar, bagged ingredients were also available to get those specific flavor profiles for home cooking.
Located at 5801 Bissonnet St, Bellaire, TX 77401.
Leading with education and mentorship, Partnership for the Advancement & Immersion of Refugees support young people on their journey in resettlement. PAIR volunteers donate over 5,000 hours to the students in the program from middle school, high school to transitioning to higher education preparation.
Next to Myung Dong and across from Bayland Park, one of the few green spaces of the neighborhood, Catrachitas Restaurant is nestled in the middle of the strip mall. The exterior is deceptive because this Honduran spot pops with a massive tropical mural among its cobalt blue interior walls. Fake tropical fruit as decorations also deliver on that very specific Central American home decor aesthetic. The immense baleadas come in a variety of fillings for all cravings.
Located at 6427 Bissonnet St, Houston, TX 77074.
City of Houston: Complete Communities Initiative
On a municipal level, the Complete Communities initiative by the City of Houston is a deeply connected community-led planning process to create an action plan for their local area. Over 200 stakeholders were involved in the creation of the action plan. Gulfton’s Action Plan is a comprehensive public document which summarizes key areas for improvement of quality of life.
Street Vendors/Food Trucks
During this time of economic uncertainty, support your local street vendors/food trucks, the lifeline of these streets. Take all the necessary precautions of contactless exchange, protective gear such as masks and gloves, and continue to practice social distance in solidarity.
Written by Yeiry Guevara
Illustrated by Stephany Torres
Edited by Erika Ramirez
Produced by Itzel Alejandra Martinez