SEVILLA, Spain – Last September, Dr. Lino García, professor emeritus at UT-Pan American, my good friend and renowned specialist on Hispanic Culture revisited the land of his ancestors in Spain following an invitation to lecture on Texas history at the over four-centennial University of Oviedo, Asturias, in northern Spain.
Dr. García came to lecture over his longstanding research work and on his profound sentiments on Texas and the so called Tejano culture.
Ever since I met him many years ago at our Tulane University alma mater, Texas, its history and culture have been Lino´s passion. His enthusiasm for Tejano culture and his positive understanding of the singularity of Texas within United States’ history, traditions and way of life, though, were not at all strange to me.
From the times I was a graduate student in Kingsville enjoying the hospitality and warmth of the Mauricio González family in Falfurrias, I was warmly taken as one of theirs. I was involved in many of their daily activities and made a part of their enlarged family in Premont, Benavides, Palito Blanco, Hebbronville, Freer, San Diego, and Corpus Christi.
Bill and Alberta Word in Falfurrias were also instrumental in my discovery of everyday life in South Texas. Bill, an expert pilot and my flight instructor, flew me over those beautiful lands of King Ranch and Padre Island. No doubt, very easily I could identify myself with people and their ways, as well as with those places and landscapes I have always cherished and will never take out of my heart and mind. Even in my spoken English I take pride in having kept my Texan accent and musicality. A Stetson hat from Hobbs in Falfurrias still presides over the entrance hall at home in Seville. As with Dr. García, I also became a passionate Texan, a love of which I am proud to give a daily testimony.
Dr. García shares his Texas devotion with his revere to his family and cultural roots in the Iberian Peninsula, and that is the reason why he is a well-recognized expert on the Spanish Golden Age. It is hard to find an aspect of Spanish past and present times that Dr. García does not have a command on. As a matter of fact, all along the three-day journey from Oviedo to Seville, crossing Spain from the northern coast to the Guadalquivir river valley, my wife Carmen and myself enjoyed Lino´s familiarity in practically every single historical site we visited or drove by. But what impressed the many Spaniards and non-Spaniards we met along our way was his openness and readiness to talk about Texas. “Soy Tejano, para servirle” was Lino´s recurrent greeting.
Spain is smaller than Texas, with a difference of approximately 135.000 square miles. The Spanish population density of approximately 231 people per square mile, however, differs considerably from that of 98 people per square mile in Texas. Population density goes parallel to historical and artistic density, which means that anywhere you go by in the Iberian Peninsula there is a population group, a city, a village, a monument, a portion of the Spanish millennial history.
Dr. García is, indeed, a scholar, but is also an ambassador. If anything shall distinguish an ambassador´s profile from a scholar´s is his familiarity with the many aspects of the host country as well as his commitment and his full knowledge of his home country. That is exactly what my dear friend Lino García fulfils to levels of excellence and has so profusely put in practice during our week long stay and journey in Spain. In all the places we visited – Oviedo, León, Salamanca, Yuste, Jarandilla de la Vera, Trujillo, Mérida, Seville – Lino never missed the opportunity to make a reference to Texas, its history and its people, dates and names included.
And I, as a proud witness, kept telling myself: “What grand an Ambassador the Republic of Texas—as it reads in the Texas Capitol rotunda in Austin – has dispatched to Spain.” And, Texas and my dear South Texas should be proud of him, a good United States citizen, too.
Thank you, Lino.
Dr. Julio Cuesta Domínguez holds a Ph.D in Spanish Literature from Tulane University. He is president of the Heineken-CruzCampo Foundation in Sevilla, Spain. He can be reached at: [email protected]
Editor’s Note: In the photo at the top of the page, Dr. Lino García is pictured in front of El Parradero in León, Spain.