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The Hispanic Heritage Center of Texas Reconnects Tejano Roots

Photo: Courtesy image, License: N/A

Courtesy image

A conceptual drawing of the Hispanic Heritage Center of Texas’ physical space

Texans have no shortage of pride when it comes to our history, which is filled with stories of the Alamo, Sam Houston and the Texas Rangers. For many Hispanic Texans, though, the history tends to become muddled and the pride tends to be mixed with feelings that range from indifference to confusion.

After all, anyone who has taken a Texas history class knows that the Mexicans were the “bad guys” during the Texas Revolution.

One organization has taken it upon itself to try and restore some of the honor that has been denied Latino Texans for centuries. Founded in 2008, the Hispanic Heritage Center of Texas (HHCTX) set out with the goal of becoming advocates and stewards of a culture and history that had been lost: the first pioneers and founders of Texas, the Tejanos.

“I helped to found the Hispanic Heritage Center of Texas because of the simple reason ... that this history has never been told,” explained Rudi Rodriguez, founder and chairman of the board of the HHCTX. “There’s the old saying about someone being a man without a country. When I was doing my research on Texas history, that’s what I was finding. Tejanos were not being represented in Texas history. I have always said that the story of Texas cannot be complete without the story of the Tejanos being told.”

Since its start, the HHCTX has steadily moved forward in its effort to rehabilitate the image of Texas history by lobbying for the inclusion of Tejano contributions in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries anywhere and everywhere it can. HHCTX has taken significant strides recently as they opened an office in March of this year. Aside from offering meeting and classroom facilities for the Center’s partners, staff and volunteers, the space has become a de facto museum to house the artifacts it has already collected.

“Our goal is to tell the story of the Tejano and what they meant to the history and the development of this state,” said HHCTX Interim Director Gilberto Ramon. “It’s important, and that ... has been so key [to] opening our offices, because, for example, there may be some history at one museum or a photo at another place or a record and so on. But that’s not telling the full story. We want to tell that whole story.”

In collaboration with Palo Alto College and Texas A&M University—San Antonio, HHCTX has created the educational initiative Legacy South. The goal of the project is to completely tell the story of the region in southern Bexar County known as La Medina.

“We have partnered with Palo Alto and A&M to develop curriculum for fourth- and seventh-grade students, which is when they are learning Texas history,” Rodriguez explained. “This will include educational material, oral histories, traveling exhibits, a documentary, and Palo Alto is creating an archival center for that region. Ultimately, working with the City of San Antonio and other county, state and federal agencies to document the area … we will also be pursuing a national and historical district designation and recognition for this site.”

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