- Historic Status:
- National Register of Historic Places, Austin Landmark
Spanning 15 acres along Boggy Creek and with over 90 years of history, Parque Zaragoza Neighborhood Park is more than just a space for recreation. Aside from several athletic amenities, the park is notable for hosting Mexican festivities, barbecues, and dances.
Walking through Parque Zaragoza is like taking a trip through Austin’s history. Thanks to the grassroots efforts of Mexican American community leaders in Austin, the city’s first Latino-centric public park opened in 1933 along Boggy Creek near East Seventh Street.
With a large influx of Mexican Americans moving to Austin in the early 1930s, Parque Zaragoza quickly became a cultural hub. In the early days, Latino leaders established volunteer groups to develop the park’s programming. Early activities included baseball games, dances, and Mexican festivities such as 5 de Mayo and 16 de Septiembre. However, by far the most popular attraction at Parque Zaragoza was the Tejano music. Tejano bandas from across Texas would travel to Austin to perform at the park. This initial drive from Parque Zaragoza helped catapult Austin’s reputation as the “Live Music Capital of the World.”
Just as Parque Zaragoza’s founding was spurred by community advocacy, so have its improvements. In the early 1990s, community members succeeded in getting the park included in a bond package, and in 1996, a 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art recreation center was constructed. This curved-roof facility offers a flexible community space for East Austin residents, a gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, locker rooms, and showers. Other amenities include an arts and crafts studio, weight/exercise room, kitchen, multipurpose room, and administrative offices. Architecturally, the recreation center is notable for its use of local limestone, steel trusses, and corrugated metal—expressing Central Texas regional style. The center features murals that commemorate the park’s founding members and depict scenes in Mexican history.
Since the turn of the century, the park has grown to include established festivities such as Easter egg hunts and pumpkin carvings. As Austin continues to grow, the park has seen bigger events, after-school programs, and the development of larger amenities such as a swimming pool and an outdoor stage. Despite its current prominence as a recreation and entertainment area, it is vital to consider the historic and cultural significance of Parque Zaragoza for the Mexican American community in Austin. – Erasmo Cantu
Chris Ferguson, AIA