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Did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr visit this San Antonio home? There may be pictorial proof

Alma Chavarria moved into her Cactus Street home because it was a dream. The community violence made it a nightmare until her historical discovery.

SAN ANTONIO — Alma Chavarria is used to people dismissing her historical claims about her home on Cactus Street. It's on San Antonio's east side, so some of the conversations she's a part of come with doubt and pity. 

"They've mocked us," she said. "'You live in ghetto land.'"

The 65-year-old admits life near the corner of Cactus and MLK Drive is not the precise definition of pedestrian living.

"We heard about a week ago; I think my husband said it was 18 rounds," she said.

She recalls lying on the floor with her family praying gunfire didn't penetrate their home. 

"Like hell," she said. "But it's getting better."

Moving out was not an option because of her husband's medical challenges. So, they settled into their forever zone. And, when the gunfire quieted, stories about their home kept coming Chavarria's way.

"Everybody passes by and always tells us, 'Hey, my grandma has a picture of Martin Luther King on your porch,'" she said. "We didn't believe it. We haven't seen it yet."

Enough of the MLK pictorial stories piqued Chavarria's curiosity. She discovered that one of the owners of her home was Frank Abernathy, and his initials are on a concrete carriage step in front of her house. Also on her property is a building that, according to historical records, used to be Abernathy Grocery.

Records also show Blacks used the facility in her backyard to vote in the '30s and '40s.

The home is a Spanish Eclectic residence constructed in 1917. Chavarria has come to call it the "Abernathy House." She believes the owner was a cousin to King's disciple and civil rights leader, Ralph Abernathy.

The grocery store was built in 1910, but Abernathy wasn't the only owner of the property.

Documents verifying a recommendation for historical significance from the city of San Antonio's Office of Historic Preservation state the store seems to have been an important gathering space for the community. 

Effective in October of 2018, Chavarria's property became a historical landmark. She is working on getting a plaque installed outside of her home to mark its significance.

"I'm am so protective. I don't want nothing to happen to it," she said.

Some brushed her conversations about the property off as crazy talk from a woman trying to live in tough surroundings.

"It's fearful to live in this place," she said.

Nonetheless, her search for a picture of Dr. King on her porch continues, the quest for history nearly complete.


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