300 Comal St.
The construction of Comal School was included in the school bond voted on in 1923. By 1924 construction on the new school had begun and in 1925 Comal school opened its doors to its first class of students. At this time, it served as one of two segregated public schools for primary Mexican scholastics. It taught classes for non-English speaking first and second graders. During its operation, Comal School was referred to as many names including the Alamo Mexican School, East Avenue School, and La Escuelita. The school closed in 1936 with the opening of Zavala School.
In 1940, Mexican Consul Fidencio Soria proposed a community center to allow Mexican youths and adults a place to gather and the school board turned over the building free of charge to the NYA for the purpose of creating a community center. NYA youths worked to renovate the building and the project was supervised by the Federacion de Sociedades Mexicanos de Austin and the Ladies of LULAC. The new Latin-American Community Center served as an NYA site in 1941 and boys and girls assigned to the center did everything from construction of garments for public agencies to preparing and serving hot lunches to the Latin American youth working at the Fish Hatchery.
By 1942, however, the NYA changed gears and shifted their funding to defense projects in response to the needs of World War II. So the center was left in the hands of the community to maintain. Between 1942 and 1946 community organizers struggled to keep the center funded. In 1943 the community tried to turn the center into a Latin American Nursery School with the help of fundraising by the Presbyterian Church. The new Latin American Play Center, as it was sometimes referred as, sold Mexican food out of the center in order to pay for its operations. It wasn’t until 3 years later that the City’s Recreation Department decided to revamp the center and take over leadership employing Roy G. Guerrero as manager of the site. The newly renovated center became known as the Pan American Center in honor of the women of the Pan American Round Table that donated generously to the center.
It was also the center of political organizing for 15 years by groups such as the Century Club, LULAC, Mexican Patriotic Club, Club Beneficiencia, and American Friends’ Services, which provided English classes at the Center to meet their goal of helping Mexican Americans become eligible to vote as citizens. Ten years after the opening of the Pan American Center, they organized and lobbied to get local funds to build a new, larger Center in 1955, adjacent to Zavala Elementary, which is now called the AB Cantu/Pan American Rec. Center at 2100 E. 3rd Street.
The old wood frame building was torn down and the site was dedicated as a small park. Today, it is a favorite neighborhood spot for basketball games and enjoyment of the shady play area. The colorful archway was built in 2002 as a community project funded by the Austin Parks Foundation. Neighborhood volunteers of all ages guided and participated in the construction process working with the City, American YouthWorks, and Clayworks Studio, which helped neighbors, design, fire and install the archway tiles.