Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Humans of San Antonio: There’s a story that goes with that face

Humans of New York has been circulating on Facebook for a few years now, but who’s to say that San Antonio citizens aren’t just as interesting?

San Antonio native Michael Cirlos has been photographing Alamo City locals for a little over two years, but getting to that point involved a few ups and downs – and a lot of self-discovery.

Cirlos grew up in Stone Oak, where he had a comfortable childhood, and graduated from Reagan High School, where he played football.

“After I graduated high school, I was in and out of college for a while,” Cirlos recalled. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I realized that maybe San Antonio isn’t the place for me.”

Accepting this realization prompted Cirlos to not only get out of San Antonio, but also completely out of the United States; he studied in Thailand for two years and in Amsterdam for eight months.

“Nothing is taboo in Amsterdam. Everyone is so accepting of whatever you’re into,” Cirlos said.

Cirlos also noted that Amsterdam was like having little River Walks everywhere since the Netherlands’ city is also famous for its man-made canals. It is considered normal to take a canoe down the street to get groceries.

Cirlos eventually moved back to San Antonio for various reasons and enrolled at UTSA, where he graduated with a degree in psychology.

At this point, Cirlos described himself as being “part of that San Antonio haters club.” The transition from the new and beautiful places he had just experienced to the undeniable familiarity of the city he grew up in proved rough for Cirlos. He was bored.

Sitting with a friend at a popular San Antonio hangout, The Flying Saucer, Cirlos was venting some of his frustration about being back in San Antonio.

This was when his friend showed him the Humans of New York Facebook page. Cirlos felt so inspired by the idea that he bought his first camera that week.

“Sometimes anger sparks change,” Cirlos claimed.

Being an avid bike rider, Cirlos would ride the streets of downtown looking for people he thought might be good contenders for Humans of San Antonio.

“In the beginning, I think about half the people told me no,” Cirlos said of his potential subjects. “I think they could sense that I wasn’t really comfortable.”

It took some time to adjust to walking up to strangers and asking them personal questions about difficulties from their past, but Cirlos overcame that initial awkwardness.

When he’s not devoting time to Humans of San Antonio, Cirlos works full time as a social worker for Child Protective Services. He feels it’s important to be “that support for children who don’t have the same opportunities I had growing up.”

As a social worker, taking notes about the experiences of the kids he worked with prepped him for the journalistic aspect of Humans of San Antonio.

“A lot of journalism, I think, is a lot of psychology,” Cirlos said.

When deciding who to photograph, he typically revisits the Humans of San Antonio website ( or Facebook page (Humans of San Antonio) to make sure he’s not photographing the same demographic.

He will sometimes wait for someone to make eye contact with him or scan the area for someone sitting alone. From there, he approaches them and breaks the ice by asking if they are from San Antonio.

Since the beginning of Humans of San Antonio, Cirlos has had his eyes opened to a lot of the stories this city has to offer. San Antonio is a host to a lot of interesting people, and everyone has a unique testimony.

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