EDINBURG, March 21 - The Tejano Monument will be unveiled by Gov. Rick Perry at the state Capitol in Austin on March 29.
The Guardian talked to Richard Sanchez, chief of staff to state Rep. Sergio Muñoz, D-Mission, about how the Tejano Monument came about. While working for former state Rep. Ismael "Kino" Flores, D-Mission, Sanchez drafted the original legislation to have a Tejano statue built on the grounds of the Capitol. He subsequently became a board member of Tejano Monument, Inc.
This is Sanchez's legislative history of the project:
During the summer of 2000, Dr. Cayetano Barrera of McAllen attended a medical seminar in Austin. Driving through the Capitol grounds he picked up the phone and called Sanchez, a nephew and then chief of staff for Rep. Flores and asked if he knew of any statues or monuments on the grounds that resembled “us.” Sanchez said he did not think so and started to do research. There were no monuments on the Capitol grounds celebrating the heritage of Tejanos. He then began drafting the original legislation to secure a Tejano Monument on the grounds of the Capitol.
Over the subsequent weeks, Dr. Barrera began collaborations with Homero Vera, a collogue associated with the Hispanic Genealogy Society, and Dr. Andres Tijerina, a professor of history at Austin Community College and author of Tejano Empire. The three agreed, along with Sanchez, that an effort should begin to design and emplace a Tejano Monument on the Texas Capitol grounds.
Dr. Barrera and Sanchez met with Rep. Flores in August 2000 to discuss the possibility of Flores proposing the legislation required to gain authority for the Monument. Rep. Flores loved the idea and an expedited effort commenced from there. Meanwhile, others were contacted including William and Estella Zermeño and Benny Martinez. The original “organizing committee” was formed thereafter (very loosely at first, pre-dating the incorporation) and the group held its first meeting at the historic Agricultural Museum inside the Capitol building which Sanchez chaired. The reins of the project were taken by Dr. Barrera at the conclusion of the meeting and the work continued.
With IBC Zapata Bank President, Mr. Renato Ramirez, joining the group in 2001, the core of the now incorporated entity was in place. Dr. Barrera, Dr. Tijerina, Mr. Vera, Mr. Ramirez, and Mr. Sanchez make up the executive board of the Tejano Monument, Inc. The sculptor selected to design and create the monument was Armando Hinojosa of Laredo.
In 2001, during the 77th Texas Legislature, Rep. Flores authored and passed a House Resolution, HCR-38, to establish a monument commemorating the early Spanish and Mexican pioneers of Texas... the Tejano Monument. The measure was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, and signed by Gov. Perry on June 15, 2001.
The 79th Texas Legislature in 2005 approved an appropriations rider that was meant for completion of the Tejano Monument; The efforts of Reps. Flores and Vilma Luna, D-Corpus Christi, and Speaker Tom Craddick’s office lead to the appropriation. The appropriation was contingent upon passage of legislation allowing for the use of public funds for the monument (HCR 12 passed in 2006 satisfied this contingency) and successful application for Department of Transportation grant funds. Despite a torrent of effort by Tejano Monument board members, these funds were never realized.
The 79th Legislature during its 3rd Called Session in 2006 approved HCR 12 by Rep. Flores allowing for the use of public funds for the monument. This resolution satisfied the contingency found in the 2005 appropriation (and subsequent appropriations) of state funds for the monument. The resolution was signed by the Governor on May 15, 2006.
The 80th Legislature in 2007 approved $1.087 million for completion of the Tejano Monument; Reps. Flores and Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, lead the effort to secure the appropriation in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, lead the effort in the Senate. Tejano Monument, Inc. and its supporters have raised more than $800,000 privately for the monument.
The 81st Legislature in 2009 passed HB 4114 by Rep. Trey Martinez-Fischer, D-San Antonio, authorizing the placement of the Tejano Monument on the Historic Capitol Grounds, which would place the monument on the south, or front, side of the Capitol building. The bill was sponsored by Judith Zaffirini in the Senate and was signed by Governor Perry on May 29, 2009.
Also during the 81st Legislature, Sens. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Zaffirini, and Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, were able to pass a critical measure in the appropriations bill which extended the original state funding into subsequent years.
Legislative authorization and complete funding of the Tejano Monument culminated on January 5, 2010 at a meeting of the State Preservation Board in Austin. Gov. Rick Perry, chairman of the State Preservation Board, lead the meeting of the Board to approve the final design and location of the Tejano Monument. The action marked the final critical administrative step before bronzing of the statues and construction could begin on the Historic Capitol Grounds in Austin.