In the interest of full disclosure, as I recommend José Antonio López’s brilliant Tejano/Mexicano history books and novels as ideal Christmas presents, I am his editor at the Rio Grande Guardian.
That said, I cannot speak highly enough about him. For me, Joe is a national treasure whose fascinating and vivid coverage of early Tejano history, will, in the fullness of time, surely make it into the mainstream textbooks.
Joe points out that, because of its tendency to begin Texas history in 1836, Anglicized mainstream society finds it difficult to accept the Spanish Mexican foundation of the Lone Star State. That’s a challenge Joe gladly accepts by objectively presenting facts to counter the wrong viewpoint often expressed in the media. Far from rewriting history, he describes what he does as “filling in the missing pieces of the Texas history puzzle.”
Joe’s monthly columns have illuminated the pages of the RGG for many years and I hope they continue to do so for many years to come. Joe is the real deal and we are lucky to have him.
And so, as I said, I highly recommend this history books and novels as a seasonal gift. Readers can reach him via the links at the end of this editorial.
So, who is José Antonio López and where did his love of Tejano/Mexicano history come from? Thanks to a Q&A with him, I learned the following:
José Antonio López was born and raised in Laredo, Texas. He graduated from Martin High School in Laredo in 1962 and received an associate’s degree from Laredo Junior College in 1972.
In 1976, he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and, in 1979, a Master of Education Degree from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University).
Immediately after high school graduation, López joined the U.S. Air Force, where he spent four years in the service of his country.
“Most of my four years was overseas with assignments in England and Spain,” López recalled. “Also, I was a member of a staff visit team and traveled extensively, visiting bases throughout the Mediterranean Sea area.”
After military service and returning to his hometown of Laredo, Lopez rejoined the Air Force as a civilian at Laredo Air Force Base (AFB). When the base closed in 1973, he relocated to Lowry AFB, Colorado.
In 1975, López received a promotion to a position at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas. And, in 1979, he was selected to fill a position at Randolph AFB, where he continued to climb the latter of success, retiring 20 years later in 2000.
“At the time of my retirement, I held a senior civilian management position at the U.S. Air Education/Training Command, Randolph AFB, Texas,” López said.
Asked where his love of history comes from, López answered:
“The answer is from my mother, Maria de la Luz Sánchez Uribe de López, who taught me and my siblings about our South Texas ancestors. The reason she did so is that she knew we weren’t getting the information in the classroom. She wanted to make sure her children knew who they were and where they came from.”
Asked why he specializes in Tejano/Mexicano history, López said:
“I am a descendant of Don Javier Uribe and Doña Apolinaria Bermúdez de Uribe, one of the earliest families that in 1750 settled in what is now South Texas. Thus, my mother (Maria de la Luz Sánchez Uribe de López) taught me and my siblings about our Spanish Mexican ancestors who were part of José de Escandón’s Villas del Norte, established in 1749-1755.”
López said his mother took particular interest in describing her courageous ancestors, especially the heroic achievements of José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara, who was born and raised in Revilla, Nuevo Santander. Today this community is known Guerrero, and it straddles Tamaulipas and Zapata, a bi-national community.
“Don Bernardo was the first president of Independent Texas, and his wife, Maria Josefa Uribe de Gutiérrez de Lara, the original first lady of Texas,” López pointed out.
“Truly, I consider it a privilege to have descended from South Texas pioneer ancestors. So, when I retired, I decided to write on paper the stories my mother shared with us when I was growing up.”
Indeed, López made a point of writing to the editors of Texas newspapers every time he saw a history article that contained faulty information.
“Soon, the San Antonio Express News Editor contacted me regarding my letters and asked that I consider writing a quarterly column for the newspaper on early Texas history,” López said.
“I agreed to do so and thus began my writing career. Likewise, some years ago, Mr. Steve Taylor, editor of the Rio Grande Guardian, asked me to write early Texas history articles for the Guardian, something that I still do and enjoy tremendously.”
Here is a list of the books López has written:
Nights of Wailing, Days of Pain (Life in 1920s South Texas); a novel that was published in 2009.
The First Texas Independence, 1813 (Don Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara Uribe, A Texas Hero); a bilingual reprint of “The Last Knight” that was published in 2013.
Preserving Early Texas History (Essays of an Eighth Generation South Texan); published in 2015.
Friendly Betrayal; a novel published in 2017.
Preserving Early Texas History (Essays of an Eighth-Generation South Texan), Volume 2; published in 2018.
López calls attention to “The First Texas Independence, 1813 (Don Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara Uribe, A Texas Hero),” pointing out to Texas history teachers that it is written at a 7th grade reading level.
López has written primarily for the Rio Grande Guardian, the San Antonio Express News, and Somos Primos, a premier online Hispanic Heritage Website.
His articles have been republished by several other Texas newspapers and online news outlets.
López belongs to the Villa de San Agustín de Laredo Genealogy Society but stresses that he is an inactive member.
As for recognitions, López said he was honored to have been inducted into Laredo’s Martin High School (MHS) Tiger Legends, Class of 2019; an organization of select MHS alumni who have distinguished themselves in their community.
Other awards certificates have come from the Texas State Hispanic Genealogical and Historical societies, DRT, SRT, South Texas/Rio Grande Valley public schools, and state genealogy and history groups.
José Antonio López can be reached at:
Editor’s Note: This is the first of two editorials about José Antonio López and his writings. The second will appear in next Sunday’s edition.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above editorial shows José Antonio López.