SAN ANTONIO, May 30 - Texas State Republican Senator Dan Patrick seeks to lessen Tejano history’s value in college credit.
He is clearly following his unwise, ultimate goal to keep Mexican-descent students from learning about their long-ignored ancestors in Texas. In formulating his Senate Bill 1128 to enact Arizona-style, anti-Mexican culture legislation on this side of the border, the Senator wants students to learn only post-1836 Texas (Anglo) history and not early Texas (Spanish Mexican) history. Because of opposition by groups of concerned Texas citizens, he has decided to temporarily halt the processing of his bill; at least for now.
Senator Patrick’s ideas are the proverbial “slap in the face” insult to Tejanos (Spanish Mexican-descent Texans), most of whose pedigree goes back to the very foundation of Texas. Clearly, the Senator needs some remedial instruction. Before he re-introduces his repulsive bill, he should attend a Mexican American Studies college course right there in Austin. First, he will be gently reminded by the professor that Texas is in New Spain and not New England. Also, he’ll learn that New Spain in the U.S. is over twice as large as New England. Then, he will learn that Texas history does not begin with the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. Most of all, he will learn of the basic set of core values that students study in these classes – faith, family, justice, industriousness, and patriotism. Yes, this is the same core value system that our ancestors put in place in Texas before the arrival of Anglo immigrants from the U.S.
The Senator from District 7 should bring his staff along, as well as the Republican representatives who sponsored the equally repugnant HB 1938. They need the special schooling as much as he does. Among other things, the instructor will be sure to remind them that our rich pre-1836 Spanish Mexican heritage is the main root of Texas history. It is this one element in our long story in Texas and the Southwest that allows us to celebrate our unique “American“culture year-round. That is, not just during Spanish Heritage Month in September, that was designed to recognize Hispanic and Latino “immigrant” groups in the U.S. They will also learn that about 15 to 20 million Mexican-descent U.S. citizens originating in the Southwest are so distinguished from our other sister Hispanic groups. Simply stated, the fact that we (Spanish Mexican-descent Texans and Spanish Mexican-descent citizens of the Southwest) are not immigrants to the U.S. is the part of our history that makes Anglophiles apoplectic, quite simply because they neither understand nor accept it.
Indeed, it’s quite ironic that Republican Governor Rick Perry had the honor of dedicating the Tejano Monument on the grounds of the State Capitol Building last year. (Quick to display his beaming sonrisa (smile) from ear to ear, he appeared to relish this Tejano-flavor moment just as much as anyone else present.) That should have settled the matter once and for all, but it didn’t. Even after the ceremonies were concluded, most Republican elected officials in Austin failed to grasp the Tejano Monument’s significance. They continue to do so at their own peril. My sincere invitation to them is that they visit the Monument during their lunch break. I ask them to especially read the bronze plaques, each telling a chapter of Tejano blood, sweat, and tears.
Additionally, I ask them to notice and join in the myriad on-going events that are initiating what I call a Tejano Renaissance. Infusing bursts of much-needed nitrogen into the Tejano family tree are: the awesome Hispanic Heritage Center of Texas, based in San Antonio, whose impressive goal is to make Tejano people, places, and events part of mainstream Texas history; the annual reenactments at the Spanish Governors Palace recalling the signing of the first Texas Declaration of Independence on April 6, 1813, the yearly commemoration of the August 18, 1813 Battle of Medina, the PBS film, “Texas Before the Alamo,” and the recent reading of Texas House Resolution 709 sponsored by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, calling to mind the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the first Texas Constitution on April 17, 1813. The list of Tejano events honoring the memory of our ancestors steadily grows every year.
For much too long, pre-1836 Texas history has been dismissed, diminished, and distorted by mainstream Texas historians and others who refuse to accept Tejanos as the founders of Texas. Many Anglos and Northern European-descent folks forget that it was our Tejano ancestors who invited and welcomed their ancestors to Texas. It is for that reason that this has been the topic of several articles that I’ve written for the Rio Grande Guardian. In brief, what all of this means is: “¡Aqui todavia estamos, y no nos vamos! (Here we still are and we’re not going anywhere!)
Curiously, Senator Patrick is attacking the preservation of Tejano history at the same time that the Spanish Mexican population in Texas is growing. In particular, the following statistic should prove a sobering reality to the Senator: Spanish-surnamed students have now surpassed Anglo students in Texas schools. From personal observation as a mentor and lecturer, Mexican-descent students are beautiful, bright, and fearless! Senator Patrick, this is not a good time to keep these future leaders of Texas from learning about the true Spanish Mexican roots of our state.
Hence, I ask Spanish Mexican-descent Texans who vote Republican, “no se olviden de su herencia” (don’t forget your heritage). If you want a shot of inspiration and reminder of what makes us descendants of the first citizens of Texas, you too must visit the Tejano Monument in Austin. You should be just as concerned as those of us in the frontlines daily fighting to preserve the memory of our ancestors. Further, I ask all our many allied Anglo brethren who are Tejano history aficionados to help us keep Sen. Patrick and other bigoted politicians from tinkering with Texas School Board of Education policies. Regardless of your political views, you must contact your elected representatives and tell them so. (Note: although Senator Patrick and his supporters have temporarily withheld their ill-advised bills in committee, that doesn’t mean they have given up their objective to rob the majority of Texas school children of their Tejano inheritance.)
In the final analysis, my advice to Senator Patrick and those who fear Mexican American Studies is as follows. Your intolerance has no place in an increasingly diversifying Texas. So, you have two choices. Either you accept the certain re-browning of Texas and teaching of Tejano history or you move back east of the Sabine River. The truth is no one should be afraid of learning Texas history in a seamless, bi-cultural, big picture perspective. In the words of FDR, a Democrat that Republicans love to hate, Senator Patrick, you have nothing to fear, but fear itself.
José Antonio (Joe) López was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and is a USAF Veteran. He now lives in Universal City, Texas. He is the author of two books: “The Last Knight (Don Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara Uribe, A Texas Hero),” and “Nights of Wailing, Days of Pain (Life in 1920s South Texas).” Lopez is also the founder of the Tejano Learning Center, LLC, and www.tejanosunidos.org, a Web site dedicated to Spanish Mexican people and events in U.S. history that are mostly overlooked in mainstream history books.