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Longing for old Manteca
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Lawrence Silveiras dog Lopez takes in the sights of new Manteca.

I’ve recently taken up the habit of walking my dog in the subdivision across the street from my house.  I never did it before I left for college, but now that my dog’s fatter (than he already was), I figured it’s the responsible thing to do.

Just a few years ago, that neighborhood didn’t exist. It’s just one of the many recent new housing developments that have popped up in Manteca in the last few years.  I used to consider where I lived “the country”, referencing the fields of corn and alfalfa and the almond orchards surrounding us.  Now there’s a subdivision to the north, an in-progress housing development breathing over our shoulder on the east, another looming eerily on our western horizon, and the lone survivor of “the country” to our south, an almond orchard.

These new subdivisions are making Manteca less “Manteca” and more “wannabe Bay Area suburb.” 

I know many people who still consider our town a “small town” (myself included) even though our population is now over 73,000.  Just fifteen years ago, we had 20,000 less residents than we do today, and in another 15 years, who knows how many more residents will be here.  We’re no longer living in a small town—it’s now a small (and growing) city.

The small town Manteca is the one I love—the one I like to write about and reminisce over and compare to Chicago in my articles.  But this new Manteca is haunting.  These new housing developments are overtaking our town like a fungus.  A wide-reaching, profit-driven, “country”- killing fungus.

From the outside, Manteca is just another suburb.

From the inside, however, Manteca is the small innocent child transitioning into the bratty preteen who wants to be grown.  And it’s a transition that’s hard to swallow for many of our longtime residents.

The heart of Manteca is its smallness.  Maybe I’m just coming to terms with the fact that my hometown is not what it once was, or maybe I’m right—maybe growth isn’t what Manteca needs.  I constantly read about Manteca’s “homeless problem” and its growing crime and the many water wasters, but the simple fact is this:  as the population of Manteca grows, so do our negative qualities. 

The people moving in, however, are not the problem.  It is the developments themselves that are desecrating the heart of this “Family City.”

But I don’t want to play the blame game, because when all we do is try to find blame in others, finding solutions is put on stand-by.

What I do want to do is tell you about this nifty little Facebook group called ‘History of Manteca’ that I’m a part of.  Although I don’t post in the group of 4,000 (and growing), I frequently see their posts and pictures of “Old Manteca” on my newsfeed — making me nostalgic for a black-and-white time period I don’t even belong to.

But these posts and these people are the heart of this town—the heart that is slowly being cemented over by Manteca’s unnecessary suburbanization. The ‘family’ portion of this “Family City” is becoming more and more stereotypical suburbanite, and our roots are beginning to wither as each new subdivision infiltrates this “small town.” 

Unless we stop expanding and take a good look at what really makes Manteca “Manteca”, we could just end up being another dot on the map, not only to everyone outside this town, but to those living within its borders too.

I don’t think I’ll be taking my dog for walks on the sidewalks anymore.  I’m going to opt for the shady rows of the orchard to my south next time, to try to preserve what little piece of Old Manteca I have left.