WALKER'S POINT — There is a junction in Milwaukee where the city's past and future meet. This area blurs the line between old and new Milwaukee which fosters a unique culture and spirit. It's called Walker's Point.
The neighborhood is around 180 years old which put its in the same category as the other two original communities of Milwaukee: Juneautown and Kilbourntown. For all of the history associated with the neighborhood, it is also full of music venues, new restaurants, cafe's, and neighbors.
In the mid-1800's, European immigrants came to the area. Then in the 1920's, Mexican immigrants came here and worked in tanneries. Latino immigrants began to make up a large population of the neighborhood, but the area has never had a clear ethnic majority. In the 21st century, young adults have begun moving to Walker's Point.
"Kind of like a melting pot of history, and young professionals, and art," Enrique Murguia, who lives in Walker's Point, said.
Enrique took us on a tour of his neighborhood, Walker's Point. He showed us what it is like through his eyes and his experiences. The goal of the My Block series is to get an intimate understanding of a community through the personal lens of the neighbors. Where we go, who we meet, and what we talk about is all up to the participants. Enrique told us about his experiences and introduced us to two neighbors: Jessica Boling and Xela Garcia.
Enrique said he feels like the unique combination of old and new creates an energy which he calls 'inspired moments.'
"It creates this really cool experience where you’re getting not only to experience history, but you're getting to experience the history that’s about to be made," he said.
Enrique grew up on the Southside, but for the past two years has called this community home. He is happy there is a strong Latino presence in Walker's Point.
"This is more than a neighborhood. This is where we are from. This is our culture. This is our experiences, and we want to be proud of that."
According to the city's Walker's Point Strategic Action Plan from 2015, the population of Walker's Point was 4,292 people of which 48 percent are Latino. Even though Latinos make up a multitude of different nationalities, Enrique says it's their common culture that brings them together.
"So I mean like even though like Latinos are from all different parts of South America (and) Latin America, we share something in common which is this neighborhood. And we like to highlight that, and we do that in different ways whether it's our food, the music, our church."
While he takes comfort in familiar traditions around him, he said he appreciates the newness of the neighborhood. He lives in a recently constructed apartment complex.
"It kind of creates this energy where the old meets the new, like it almost creates inspired moments, you know."
'A Little Community of our Own'
Enrique brought us to meet one of his friends and neighbors Jessica Boling. She lives near the bar Zad's, and has been in Walker's Point for about seven years.
"I don’t mind living behind a bar. I don’t think a lot of people would like necessarily - living behind adds it's, like, its own little community in it of itself," Jessica said.
Walker's Point has traditional neighborhoods. It also is a commercial district with apartments. That's the area Jessica lives in.
"I like the noise. I live next to a fire department."
However, just because it's not a typical cul-de-sac-with-a-basketball-hoop neighborhood, doesn't mean that it's any less neighborly.
"So the gas station people know me. When I come in they say hi. The liquor store knows who I am. Like if I come in to buy a bottle of wine or something like that, they always say hi," she said.
While the neighborhood features the liveliness of a city including the noise, nightlife, and restaurants, one of the things she appreciates the most is the sense of community.
"We have a little community of our own. I know my neighbors. I know the bartenders. I know the owner. They check in on me. They take in my packages for me. They let me know if my car is going to get towed."
'When I think of my neighborhood I think of Strength'
Enrique said he had an important person for us to visit, Xela Garcia. She is the executive director of the Walker's Point Center For The Arts (WPCA) at 839 S. 5th St.
"Art I think provides a visual language that is able to transcend language, social economic status, you know, up bringing, social class," she said.
Whether it's expressing struggles brought on by the pandemic or racial and social injustices, Xela said the art they create and showcase acts as a barometer for how the community feels.
"Cause, you know, when you analyze it in the neighborhood perspective, you know, there’s a lot of change that's happening in the Walker's Point neighborhood, you know. A lot of development happening. Gentrification that is occurring, and to us as an arts center, that’s really important to address head on because it effects the people that have historically considered this neighborhood home."
The origins of the arts center go back to April 1987 when a group of woman started a storefront gallery which years later turned into the WPCA. Today, the goal is to elevate the community's voice in a raw and authentic manner amid the changing landscape of Walker's Point.
"We have Latinx folks that have been working, practicing, living, in this neighborhood for close to 100 years. So the fact that there's spun narratives that it's new populations or maybe the population didn’t exist here before, I think that’s problematic."
What it all boils down to for Xela is neighborhood pride and owning their story.
"So when I think of my neighborhood, I think of strength. I think of diverse voices. I think of bright colors. I think of long standing history. I think of ability to look forward yet staying rooted."
'I love my neighborhood'
Each My Block story ends the same way. The 'tour guide' gets the last word to say anything they want - about the neighborhood or something that was discussed earlier in the day. It's the last interview question asked. This is how that interaction goes:
James: "Is there anything else you’d like to say about your neighborhood?"
Enrique: "I love my neighborhood. It's a great place. I love the solidarity within the neighbors. Like we kind of have this collective community efficacy where we're always looking out for each others backs, and, you know, we're just proud to live in Walker's Point," Enrique said.
You can submit your neighborhood or nominate someone you think would be good for a My Block story by emailing email@example.com.