The Oswaldo “A.B.” Cantu Pan-American Recreation Center may be just one of many City of Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department’s community centers, but it’s one with long ties to a people’s heritage. That legacy is on display every Tuesday evening in July during the Hillside Concert Series.
According to the City’s website, the “Latin-American Center” was constructed at 3rd and Comal Streets in 1942 and “was run under the auspices of the Federated Latin-American Club and directed by the Austin Recreation Department.” A hillside stage was “built and completed in June 1958” and the amphitheatre has been used since.
This year will be the 58th year of free hillside entertainment. Steve “Rat” Silvas, the musical director and keyboard player for the Austin based band, Cañonazo, will be performing at this year’s first show in concert series on July 5, returning after their debut at the locale in 2015.
Silvas, who has been in the Tejano music industry for over 40 years, recalls performing at the Hillside Concert Series in his youth. “I think the first gig at Hillside back then was with Gilbert Alba & Benny Munoz and The Impressions. It really was my first amphitheater experience.”
Rosendo “Ross” Gomez Jr., who has presided over and currently serves as Vice-President of the Austin Tejano Music Coalition, is a life-long resident of Austin. Historically, he recalls the series was strictly a community event for Eastside residents. “It is very good for the children 12 and under. For many, it is their introduction to Tejano,” said Gomez.
East Austin demographics have vastly changed, of course, with gentrification often tangling with the area’s Latin heritage, but the Hillside concert series remains a great opportunity for all residents and tourists to enjoy a free evening of music.
For the complete line up of entertainment for the Hillside Concert Series, visit the Facebook page for the A.B. Cantu Pan-American Recreation Center Community Advisory Board.