“They said it couldn’t be done” is the popular phrase many of us often use when we successfully complete a tough task.

So it was with the Tejano Monument in Austin, a tribute honoring our pioneer Tejana/Tejano ancestors, founders of this great place we call Texas.

Indeed, hard work pays off. The monument celebrates its 5th Birthday today March 29th, allowing us to salute the occasion with another common expression – “Job Well Done!”

From the start, skeptics doubted its accomplishment. For one thing, out of more than thirty statues on the capitol grounds, not one recognized the founding Spanish Mexican heritage in our state’s history. In short, building the first one was a difficult order to fill.

Yet, showing the same type of faith and determination displayed by our pioneer ancestors in settling 1700s Texas, a courageous group of their descendants took it upon themselves to make it happen. Fittingly on this special occasion, the following summarizes the key events that led to the monument’s construction.

The story itself begins with a simple question asked by one of Dr. (M.D.) Cayetano E. Barrera’s grandchildren years ago while on a tour of our state capital’s historic sites. “Grandpa, why aren’t there any statues in Austin honoring our Tejano ancestors?” While Dr. Barrera admitted to the child that he didn’t quite know the answer, the concept for the Tejano Monument was born out of that innocent question. Subsequently, Dr. Barrera discussed the idea with several fellow Tejano history aficionados, among them Dr. Lino Garcia, Jr., Professor Emeritus, UTRGV.

Soon, after a Texas Hispanic history symposium in Edinburg, Dr. Garcia put Dr. Barrera in touch with one of the conference speakers, Dr. Andrés Tijerina, History Professor. Austin Community College. That impromptu meeting earnestly began the quest to build the monument.

The next step was crucial. That is, official recognition by Texas State legislative officials that such a monument was warranted. As such, in 2001, Dr. Barrera asked Texas State Representative Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Mission, to sponsor the bill acknowledging the Spanish Mexican founders of Texas. The legislation was approved by the 77th Texas State Legislature. Complete funding and go-ahead was achieved in 2010.

Next, the Tejano Monument, Inc., board of Tejano education, business, and community leaders was organized to manage the project. Accordingly, public and private funds were raised to design, fund, and construct the Tejano Monument.

After considering several submissions, on August 10, 2001, the board approved Armando Hinojosa’s proposal commemorating the contributions of Tejanos in the founding of Texas. Mr. Hinojosa, a renowned artist and sculptor from Laredo, Texas, spent the next eight years taking his project from his original idea phase to its culmination as a beautiful marble and bronze permanent exhibit on the south lawn of the Texas State Capitol Building.

Now, five years later, it’s appropriate to recognize the principal players, their dedication, and hard work to bring this great undertaking to fruition:

Sculptor: Armando Hinojosa; Design & Construction: Jaime Beaman; José I. Guerra.

Members of the Tejano Monument Board of Directors: Dr. Cayetano E. Barrera, M.D., President, McAllen; Vice-Presidents: Homero Vera, Premont; Dr. Andrés Tijerina, PhD., Austin; Renato Ramírez, Zapata; and Secretary/Treasurer, Richard P. Sánchez, Edinburg.

Members of the Advisory Board: Benny Martínez, Goliad; Loretta Martínez Williams, Houston; Aida Torres, McAllen; William and Estella Zermeño, Goliad; Judge Emilio Vargas, Goliad; and R.J. Molina, Austin.

Members of the Fundraising Committee: Renato Ramírez, Chair; Dr. Andrés Tijerina, Vice-chair; Richard Sánchez, Jaime Beaman; Eddie Aldrete, Dr. Cayetano Barrera, Loretta Martínez Williams, and Benny Martinez.

In addition to the individuals mentioned above, bi-partisan support from key Austin elected officials was vital, among them: Governor Rick Perry, Texas Senators Zaffirini, Hinojosa, and Gallegos, and House representatives, Kino Fes, Martinez-Fischer, Guillen, Peña Raymond, Luna, Speaker Craddick’s Office, and State Preservation Board.

This homage to Tejano Monument origins cannot be complete without recalling what I consider two key events in the early stages of the venture.

First, while the generosity of Tejano history supporters throughout Texas was noteworthy, the thoughtful financial contributions of Zapata (Villas del Norte) descendants was very significant. Special thanks to Mr. Renato Ramírez, Fundraising Committee Chair for a job well done!

Second, no other singular persuasive effort topped Goliad’s Benny Martínez. During the month of November 2003, Benny rode his horse to Austin, reenacting Juan Seguín’s famous ride. He did so to deliver the message to Texans of all backgrounds that the Tejano Monument was the right thing to do for the right reasons.

In summary, the Tejano Monument in Austin must be embraced as a first must-see site to learn about and appreciate Texas’ true beginnings. If you haven’t visited it yet, please do so soon and take the family. On a very personal level, the Tejano Monument embodies the visible tree trunk of the Tejano root system originating from deep in the heart of Texas – San Antonio, Nacogdoches, La Bahia (Goliad), and Las Villas del Norte.

Toward that end, we the descendants of the Spanish Mexican founders of Texas must do everything to practice and preserve our unique culture “on this side of the border.”

What’s the bottom line? Quite bluntly, continuing to ignore the Tejano Monument’s symbolic role in mainstream Texas history is akin to denying one’s own family tree roots. Said another way, “Texas history without Tejanas and Tejanos is like a story with no beginning.”