Save La Perla

One of East Austin's last cantinas stars in upcoming documentary

One of East Austin's last cantinas stars in upcoming documentary

La Perla Bar East Austin
The goal? To preserve the vanishing history of East Austin. La Perla Bar Documentary/Facebook

For decades, East Austin was home to a thriving community with countless small businesses, neighborhood bars, community centers, and restaurants that catered to Mexican American families with proud Texas roots.

In the last decade or so, heavy gentrification has changed the landscape of the neighborhood, forcing residents to sell their homes and close their businesses. Many have been transformed to new venues that attract a completely different demographic, such as the legendary Rabbit’s, now Whisler’s, and the Iron Gate, now the Violet Crown.

In an effort to preserve this vanishing history of East Austin, filmmakers Erik Mauck and Daniel Reyes are in the final stages of production of a documentary about La Perla Bar, one of the last original cantinas in East Austin. La Perla Bar is like a second home to many people in the community. Mauck and Reyes have been documenting the stories of owner Eddie Costilla, who inherited the bar from his parents who opened it in 1973, and the extended family of regular patrons who are part of the history of this rapidly changing neighborhood.

The project began in 2015, when the filmmakers found they both had an interest in telling the story of the little bar at the corner of East Sixth and Comal Streets. 

Mauck is an Austin-based documentary filmmaker known for Zombie Girl: The Movie (2009) and The Road to Livingston (2013). Reyes has been producing, coordinating, and collaborating on film festivals, theater productions, and music showcases for over 10 years. Graphic designer Paul Del Bosque, with an M.A. in Mexican American studies from UT Austin, joined the team in 2016.

 “I’d been going to La Perla since 2007,” says Reyes. “At the time, there were other bars around I used to go to as well. Old, working-class bars fascinated me because they reminded me of my childhood in my hometown of Oyster Creek, Texas. But within a few years, many of them closed down, and I didn’t have the chance to document them. That sparked my sense of urgency to capture the story of La Perla.” 

This sense of urgency is evident in the words of La Perla owner Eddie Costilla who, during one of his interviews for the documentary, expressed, “God willing, we'll see y'all tomorrow.”

The filmmakers received cultural funding from the City of Austin in 2016 for production, with LUPE Arte acting as the fiscal sponsor. Most of the footage and interviews have been completed, but the team is seeking financial support from the community for post-production services, including editing, color correction, and sound mixing, as well as entry fees for the film festival circuit. They must meet the $8,000 fundraising goal by June 27.

A sneak peek community screening will be held July 2017 at the Santa Cruz Center for Culture in East Austin. For more information about the documentary visit www.facebook.com/laperladoc.