It is hard to believe that ten years have passed since The Tejano Monument was unveiled on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol on March 29th, 2012.
The Tejano Monument is the only tribute to Hispanic culture on the Texas Capitol grounds and serves as a legacy of the state’s Spanish and Mexican pioneers and settlers. The 20-foot-long granite and bronze statue depicts the Tejanos, a people who have been intertwined in the fabric of Texas from our state’s beginning.
My family comes from a line of vaqueros on both my mother and father’s side. The Tejano Monument is especially sacred to me and my family. In fact, my mother’s family brand is on the horse at the Tejano Monument and the brand is still used by some of my cousins in Jim Wells County. I was honored to unveil the bull at the original celebration in 2012.
Texas would not be Texas without the contributions from our Spanish and Mexican pioneers. People often forget that Texas was once part of Mexico and that many pioneers never moved – the border simply moved over them.
The Tejano Monument reminds us of the language, culture and traditions that have survived centuries and generations and have left a lasting impact on Texas today.
It is important to remember how diverse Texas really is – where we came from and where we could be going if we embraced this diversity.
The word “Tejano” comes from the Spanish word “Tejas” and was used by Native Americans who first inhabited Texas as well as the Spanish settlers.
Tejanos were some of the first Spaniards to declare independence from Spain as well as fight for their independence. When they won Mexican Independence in 1821, Tejanos were some of the first to celebrate that freedom which had come from the sacrifice of so many lives. Years after the Mexican National Congress joined Texas to Coahuila as a single state under the constitution of 1824, Tejanos and their Anglo-American neighbors revolted and Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836.
Like so many other pioneers, our Tejano contributions to Texas are often lost in the telling of history. This is why in 2000, Mexican American leaders from the Rio Grande Valley began plans for a Tejano Monument on the Texas Capitol grounds.
The Tejano Monument was envisioned by McAllen physician Cayetano Barrera. In 2000, he visited Austin to tour the Capitol and noticed something was missing. “There were not any statues or monuments on the Capitol grounds that resembled us – the Tejanos”. Dr. Barrera immediately worked to preserve our heritage by initiating the Tejano Monument project.
The monument was designed by artist Armando Hinojosa, and was made possible by the Tejano Monument, Inc. board members who raised almost two million dollars to fund its construction.
I believe it is important to remember where we came from so we can make the best plans for the future.
This past regular legislative session, I was honored to organize a small gathering to celebrate the 9th anniversary of the Tejano Monument’s unveiling at the Texas Capitol.
The history of the Tejano Monument and the history of Tejanos in Texas are a stark reminder that your story won’t be told or your voice heard unless you tell someone about it and say it loudly. Here’s to ten years of representation and recognition at the Texas Capitol. May the struggles and triumphs of our past inspire us to seize our futures.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. Guerra can be reached by email via: [email protected]
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra speaking in front of the Tejano Monument at the state Capitol in Austin, Texas. He is flanked by fellow state lawmakers. (Credit: Office of state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra).
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