When most people think of San Antonio, the first thing that may come to mind is the River Walk, Pearl, the Alamo, or historic Market Square. But there’s so much more that lies beyond the heart of the Alamo City. One local woman is making sure to shine a spotlight on one side of town that often gets overlooked.
April Monterrosa created Live from the Southside Magazine as a way to get residents + visitors to find things to do on the Southside of town through positive stories that share the most vibrant parts, people, and places within the area.
We talked to April about her passion for her community, how her entrepreneurship journey turned from spa owner to a full-time latina-owned publication, and how she’s partnering with local organizations all around the city to showcase the beauty of the Southside to others in the 210.
April, you grew up on the Southside, tell me a little about your background?
I was born and raised in the Southside… I bought the home I grew up in, so I live by South San High School… I went to South San, [where] they had a cosmetology program. So I got my license there. Long story short, I traveled with Marriott International and Hyatt opening up spas, training estheticians, and massage therapists… It was awesome. I did that for a while, and since my friends and family couldn’t afford three, $400 spa services, I started doing them in my house for them… and it got so busy for me that I had to decide, “do I stay with corporate America or go full entrepreneur?” So that’s what I did… I decided to open up a spa business.
What inspired you to start your writing journey?
Actually, I began sharing beauty tips and one of my mentors, who’s a very good friend of mine, Lisa Peach. She’s an author and she reaches out to me… and she’s like, “Hey, I’ve been following you. I love your beauty tips. I want you to write for my magazine.” And I’m like, “Is this a joke? Because I’ve always loved writing. I’ve always wanted my own magazine…" And so I wrote for her magazine for a while… and then I think it was Houston. That was the first city that reached out to me and they said, ‘we wanna host you for a week.’ So I called my mentor and I’m what does that mean? She’s like, “well, they pretty much wanna pay you to go on vacation...” and that’s how I got into travel writing. So I had a travel blog, and of course, it was tied to my social media. So I did that for a long time… and it became my side hustle.
Why did you decide to start writing about the Southside?
I realized nobody does this about my neighborhood. We have the Missions here. We have the tree of life (a monumental sculpture). We have all these beautiful places and the river runs through here. You don’t see that in Stone Oak. Nope… I wanna share that stuff. So I started sharing that on my own blog… I then approached the Southside Chamber and at that time. Andrew Anguiano, the Southside Craft Soda owner, worked there. I told him, I [want to] know who I need to connect with to get more involved in my community. He’s like, “that’s us.” So that’s what I did… I got to create all these relationships, through World Heritage and Hot Wells and Brooks… So then, I just got rid of my travel blog. Well, COVID hits. At the time prior to COVID my blog started bringing in money, but COVID hits and all that stops… My spa also has to close, and I’m like, “great, what am I going to do now?”
So, did COVID inspire you to launch your Live from the Southside publication?
So my mentor, that mentor who’s like I said, a very good friend of mine… she’s like, “you have to find a creative outlet because you’re gonna go nuts.” And I’m like, what? She’s like, “you know, that childhood dream of owning your own publication, why don’t you do that?” I’m like, “girl, who’s gonna read that right now?” She’s like, “everybody, because they’re stuck at home.” She’s like, “look, I’ll make a deal with you. You get all your content for the first issue, which was August 20, 2020. You get all the content. I will guide you through it. I will publish your first one, but you’re on your own.”... I’m the first Latina to do this in the Southside. Yeah, I didn’t even think how am I gonna do this, I’m not thinking about that. This was a creative outlet, and if it worked, it worked and if it didn’t, it didn’t… So we launched the magazine online and I remember my boyfriend ordered a copy, and he didn’t even tell me. He’s sitting there opening it on the counter. I’m like the man that I’m in love with is holding my childhood dream. Like it doesn’t get any better during a pandemic, no less.
What was the response from the community?
It has been all positive… Those connections, those relationships that I built through my travel writing days, they’re like, “I wanna go to the Missions”… They wanna come visit here now. Because they’re like, “I didn’t know that was there. I just thought San Antonio had the River Walk and the Alamo.” So, the response has been pretty good.
Your magazine has inspired other initiatives that shine a spotlight on the Southside community, can you share?
I started a writing program. So growing up, there was never anything for writing. You had band for music, art for artists, but never for writing, especially in this area. So I reached out to every ISD located on the Southside to get them involved. I’m almost at my goal. I need a couple of more… but I wanted to be able to provide a space where they (students) can get their writing seen… the way it works… students submit a writing piece and the school can either use it as a grade, extra credit or just a contest. And then, it’s up to them to choose between four and 10 of the best pieces. And then, they submit them to us with the possibility that a few of them will be published journalists in Live from the Southside magazine, in our Kids’ Corner program. I’ve been so lucky that I’ve gotten great pieces.
Lastly, for someone who hasn’t picked up an issue of Live from the Southside, what can they expect?
Live from the South Side shares all of the hidden gems in my community, the interesting people, places, and things to do. It just highlights the community. It’s a little bit of everything, it’s pretty much the leisure and lifestyle magazine of the Southside.
You can purchase a copy of Live from the Southside’s March edition on the website and learn more about the Kid’s Corner Writing Program and her newest partnership with the Magik Theater. You can also learn more about April’s other initiatives like her Wonderfully Wise Women Group, Southside Market Days, and annual book fair.