PALMVIEW, March 30 - Members of Tejano Statue-Capitol, Inc., say the contributions of former state Rep. Kino Flores in securing a Tejano Monument at the state Capitol cannot be overstated.
“From the very beginning, when he filed the first piece of legislation to have the Tejano Monument built, Kino played an instrumental role. Everyone acknowledges that. No one did more than he did in the legislature to make it happen,” said Richard Sanchez, a member of the Tejano Statue-Capitol, Inc., board of directors. Sanchez worked for Flores during the early years of the monument project.
Although now out of office, Flores, a Democrat from Palmview, was invited to be part of the celebrations on Thursday, as the historic Tejano Monument was officially unveiled on the south lawn of the state Capitol. He was pleased to accept the invitation.
“When Texas was being formulated, Tejanos were there to defend Texas and to do what was right for the newly created country and later state,” Flores told the Guardian. “I am very proud to have played my part in this historic project.”
The push to have a Tejano Monument built at the state Capitol took more than a dozen years. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian earlier this week, Flores said there is no doubt what the hardest part of the project was. And it was not raising the millions of dollars needed to make the dream a reality.
“The hardest part of the Tejano Monument project was settling on the location. For the longest time, the State Preservation Board wanted the monument to be on the north side of the Capitol, which was a terrible location. We wanted it on the south side, where all the tourists enter the Capitol and where all the other major Texas history monuments are,” Flores said.
The State Preservation Board is made up of top state leaders. However, the day to day workings is conducted by its staff. Flores said Gov. Rick Perry, who heads the State Preservation Board, did not express a view on whether the Tejano Monument should be located on the north or south side of the Capitol. However, for a number of years, the agency’s staff were adamant it be located on the north side, Flores said.
“As we gained momentum, we had to deal with the Preservation Board and that is where we faced what I would say was subtle resistance. The location came into question. They would say, 'we want you to be on the north end because the south side is reserved for Texas history. 'We would respond, well, what are we? It was a struggle to say the least. It was not a discussion. We probably met with them ten or 15 times. They did not want to budge in helping us get to where we needed to be historically,” Flores said.
Flores said it did not seem to matter to the Preservation Board that, from a historical perspective, all the other monuments on the south lawn of the Capitol grounds were predated by the period of time depicted with the statues in the massive Tejano Monument.
“Yet, they wanted to give us second servings. They wanted to put us secondary to all the things that have happened in the State of Texas. We said ‘no.’ The Tejanos were first and foremost. There was a lot of resistance,” Flores recalled.
Flores said that in his opinion it was not happenstance that Tejano Statue-Capitol, Inc., asked him to carry the legislation to secure the Tejano Monument. “You figure out a way to describe Kino Flores. They wanted somebody who was going to spearhead, to bulldog, someone who was not going to be pushed over. Someone who could make sure this Monument got what it deserved. That is why it ended up with me,” Flores said.
Asked how the Tejano committee eventually won out over the Preservation Board, Flores said it helped that he was on the Appropriations Committee and knew how the appropriations process worked.
“We had to maneuver. We had to say, your funding has been moved somewhere else where it is being held up. The strategy of the legislature came into play and then the negotiations came into place,” Flores recalled. “There were threats, of course. It was like, I am going to take your little division and I am going to put it all over the State of Texas. And, you are going to be wondering what I am going to do next. I became the bulldog that I am.”
However, Flores said he had to be careful with his tactics because he did not want to jeopardize the chances of landing the Tejano Monument. “I had to be very careful because this was not a fight about Kino. This was a fight and a struggle about our ancestors, those who have given their lives, who had fought with James Bowie and who had fought at the Alamo. I had to be careful.”
Eventually, Flores and other Latino legislators involved in the fight to secure the Tejano Monument were able to convince then-House Speaker Tom Craddick of its importance. Soon after, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was won over. “Perry never really had a position. He would leave it up to his appointees. Eventually they realized the importance of this project. It was really just a case of educating them. We told them about the history and why it was important to be with the rest of the history of Texas. The real history of Texas was on the south side,” Flores said.
Flores said he had no qualms about playing hardball with the appropriations funding of the State Preservation Board in order to get them to relent on where the Tejano Monument be placed. “Perry, Stiles, the late Ric Williamson, when they would maneuver or work the appropriations process they were called the pit bulls of the legislative process. Yet when I did it and I learned the system to our benefit and stall funding, we were, as Texas Monthly would say, working in the dark side. I understood the process,” Flores said.
Asked about the significance of the Tejano Monument, Flores said it was worth noting that it passed all the legislative hurdles during a period when the legislature was run by a conservative, rural, Anglo, Republican majority.
“It was done in a total Republican administration. We had tremendous help from the governor and the lieutenant governor. One cannot measure the help that I received from Speaker Tom Craddick. A conservative, Republican, Anglo, rural administration who still saw the significance of early Tejano, Spanish speaking Mexicanos, Chicanos, whatever they want to call us,” Flores said.
“They saw that we had a contribution to the formation of Texas. The names of all the rivers, all the agriculture, all the porciones which divided up Texas, they came from Tejanos. The Republican administration recognized the significance, then accepted it and then worked to correct the history. I think this is of total, generational, significance.”
Asked what he hoped people would take away from visiting the Tejano Monument, Flores said: “I think the daily visual of the Monument will remind people that even though the Tejanos, the Mexicanos, are still a minority in the State of Texas, it is a growing population and that we continue to have needs and hopefully they will address those needs as the resources become available.”