‘Miraflores’ book chronicles legacy of San Antonio landmark

Venturing just east of Brackenridge Park, visitors will find remnants of Talavera benches, pillars, and walkways of what was once a shining San Antonio landmark. Miraflores Park was the creation of Dr. Aureliano Urrutia, who came to San Antonio from Mexico City with his family in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution.

The garden was meant to carry on the cultural heritage of Mexico, but Miraflores fell into disrepair in the 60 years after Urrutia’s death as the property bounced around owners before the City of San Antonio took possession in 2007. Urrutia’s great-granddaughter, Anne Elise Urrutia , sought to paint a picture of what Miraflores was like in its full glory with her book Miraflores: San Antonio’s Mexican Garden of Memory.

“Several people encourage me to either write a long article about it and then put it into a book,” Urrutia said. “But in 2016 I said, ‘I really need to do something about this in terms of getting it down on paper, because if I don’t, it’s going to disappear.’”

Anne Elise Urrutia.

Photograph by Josh Huskin

Elise Urrutia is a San Antonio native who graduated from Alamo Heights High School and earned an English degree from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. The book, which Trinity University Press published in June, acts as both a historical record of Miraflores Park and a chronicle of the life of her great grandfather.

Urrutia was a prominent physician in Mexico City who, as Elise Urrutia explains, had a garden obsession. He was more or less raised in a garden in the Xochimilco area of ​​Mexico City, where farmers move from tiny islands called chinampas along canals and waterways.

When Urrutia established his first hospital, he included a 25-acre garden to provide fresh air and healthy environments for patients recovering from surgeries.

“He was inspired by the architecture of colonial and indigenous Mexico City,” Elise Urrutia said. “He was inspired by the importance of water in his culture. He was inspired by the symbolism and meaning of the Catholic religion. And he was inspired by Aztec culture, as well as its folktales and myths.”

When the revolution started and Urrutia was exiled, he knew he’d never be able to see his native gardens again. So, he committed to bringing them to the Alamo City.

In addition to building a glamorous house, called Quinta Urrutia, he set about building Miraflores between 1921 and 1944. Piece by piece, Miraflores came to life and became a two-fold creation.

On the one hand, it’s the continuation of a culture that all immigrants can connect with. On the other, it’s an effort to share that culture with the communities of San Antonio.

“I mean, he didn’t locate the garden on the Westside,” Elise Urrutia said. “He located it right in the middle of Anglo San Antonio. So he wanted interaction between the cultures, and I think he believed very strongly in that.”

Portrait of Dr.  Aureliano Urrutia, circa 1930s

Portrait of Dr. Aureliano Urrutia, circa 1930s

Photograph courtesy of the author’s archive

Miraflores: San Antonio’s Mexican Garden of Memor chronicles the creation of the garden, painting a picture of its majestic arches and bright colors. Photos of Miraflores Park in its prime, as well as pictures of the Urrutia family, revive the garden so every San Antonian can appreciate its beauty.

But as the book details, the property was eventually sold off in stages while Urrutia was alive and when he passed away in 1975 at 103 years old.

Elise Urrutia doesn’t want to see a revival of Miraflores because it will never be what it was. Rather, Miraflores needs to be a cautionary tale for all San Antonians to appreciate the cultural elements that the Alamo City has to offer.

“There are a lot of people right now who are telling the lesser told stories and they all deserve to be heard,” Elise Urrutia said. “…I think part of the story is how we messed it up. That’s what my book is about. My book is about what it really was, and also how we messed it up. I hope that the book helps people understand it.”

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