José Antonio López
José Antonio López

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – As the crown jewel of our blended Hispanic and Native American family roots in Texas, the Tejano Monument in Austin shines bright on the south lawn of the state capitol building.

Since its unveiling in March 2012, Austin residents, government officials, tourists, and school children visiting our state capital are now able to see for the very first time, a memorial dedicated to the true founding of this great place we call Texas.

All Texans should be proud of the efforts led by Cayetano Barrera, M.D., McAllen, and carried out most ably by the Tejano Monument, Inc. Committee members, Dr. Andrés Tijerina, Renato Ramirez, Homero Vera, Richard Sánchez, Jaime Beaman, and so many others, such as Estella and William Zermeño, Benny Martínez, and dedicated working group members. Armando Hinojosa, Laredo, deserves special credit for his gifted artistic creation. In bronze and stone, he expresses the dignity that Tejano descendants feel in their hearts.

Helping to tell our incredible early Texas story, the following list of deeds keeps growing, considering that the concerted effort began just a few short years ago:

1. Our Native American kin has relentlessly tried to dispel undignified movie myths about cultures originating in what’s now the U.S. There are plenty of sites on the internet featuring each group’s goal to preserve their heritage. This is crucial learning for Mexican Americans because being Native American is what makes us Mexican-descent people of the Southwest.

2. For years, Mr. Dan Arellano has organized tribute events to remember the 1st Texas Revolution (1810-1813); First President of Texas Don Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara’s reading of the 1st Texas Declaration of Independence and 1st Constitution (1813); Battle of Medina (BOM) memorial and archeological digs.

3. An Austin school district has already set up Tejano history lessons as part of its school curriculum. The Laredo ISD has added a block of early Laredo history in the curriculum at my alma mater Martin High School. Others are in the process of doing the same.

4. Dr. Andrés Tijerina is part of an effort by the Texas State Historical Association to identify and record long-forgotten early Texas Spanish Mexican historical sites.

5. More recently, Dr. Tijerina and Dr. Emilio Zamora plus others are also putting together what will be a Tejano History segment of Texas Handbook of History Online.

6. Mr. Bill Millet has produced a long-awaited PBS film entitled “Texas before the Alamo”.

7. Thanks to Texas State Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), a proclamation (H.R. 1411) was read honoring the 200th Anniversary of the first Texas Constitution (1813-2013).

8. The Texas State Hispanic Genealogy/History Societies (Austin, Dallas, Corpus Christi, El Paso, East Texas, Houston, Laredo, San Antonio, Victoria, and Zapata) continue to spread the word regarding our early Texas pioneer families. Also, Laredo’s Webb Co. Heritage Foundation; Edinburg’s Museum of South Texas History, and Zapata County Museum of History preserve early Texas history via their unique memorabilia and displays.

9. Mr. Renato Ramirez, Chairman of the Board/CEO, IBC-Zapata, continues to promote mariachi bands at UT-Austin, Texas A&M Kingsville, and Texas A&M College Station. His efforts are designed to raise funds to assure awareness of mariachi music’s vital influence in Texas history. In enthusiastically pursuing his goal, he aims for complete understanding by the general public as to why it was proper for young Sebastien de la Cruz to sing our national anthem for the San Antonio Spurs attired in formal Mexican vaquero dress. Truly, Texas’ Mariachi style roots are much older than other music genres in Texas that came after 1836.

10. Last but certainly not least, in the information management arena, Mimi Lozano (Somos Primos) has spent great amounts of her energy, time, and talents to provide a one-stop shop online web site for a worldwide audience learning about Hispanic history; Armando Rendón does as well with Somos En Escrito; there is also Beto Calderon; Foro de Comunicación; as well as the online LARED-L list server; Steve Taylor, Rio Grande Guardian; Dr. Lino Garcia, Jr.’s FESTIBA events at UTPA; LareDos, Mr. Rudi Rodriguez of Texas Tejano is pressing on with plans for a Williamsburg-style Tejano Village permanent interactive exhibit in downtown San Antonio; and my own web site apologies if I’m forgetting someone.

Yet, our Tejano heritage is under attack. The threats are constant. The most recent immigration-related situation at the border is cause to worry. Certain politicians and media are raising the temperature of the immigration debate by questioning our Spanish Mexican heritage and Spanish language “on this side of the border.” To ensure we reach our goal to educate others about our rich story, the best defense is a good offense. Let’s combine our hard work.

As such, I make three appeals. (1) To our Native American brethren, join us in our quest. The wicked border fence impacts Navajo and Apache Nations much more than it does Mexican-descent Borderlands families. It’s time to reaffirm our bloodline ancestral family ties.

(2) To Early Texas history aficionados mentioned above. All of our worthy efforts will be for naught unless we push together. At every turn, let’s reject any attempt to diminish our heritage.

(3) To our extended family living in the Rio Grande Valley. You are now center stage due to the on-going immigration debate. Critics of your way of life who are just recently becoming aware of the border don’t understand why there are so many Mexican-descent Texans who choose to speak Spanish as their language of choice. Only through learning of early Texas history will they discover why it is we are not immigrants in the U.S. To learn more, make plans to attend the 35th Annual Texas State Hispanic Genealogy Conference in McAllen, TX on Sept 25-27.

In closing, our past deeds do pave our way to the future. How do we fulfill our future? By speaking with one voice under an “Aztlán-Euro Alliance” umbrella or something similar. Individually, we represent a small group and cause a small ripple in the ocean of public opinion. However, as a combined force, we will orchestrate millions of voices causing an impact of tsunami proportions. Bottom line: If we don’t do it ourselves, no one else is going to do it for us.

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 three books: “The Last Knight (Don Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara Uribe, A Texas Hero,”, “Nights of Wailing, Days of Pain (Life in 1920s South Texas)”, and “The First Texas Independence, 1813”. Lopez is also the founder of the Tejano Learning Center, LLC, and, a web site dedicated to Spanish Mexican people and events in U.S. history that are mostly overlooked in mainstream history books.