As I’d mentioned in a previous post, Texas finally has decided to honor some of the state’s earliest settlers – the Spanish and Mexican ranchers and farmers who often intermarried with the indigenous peoples, gave the state its name and built a complex society long before the Mayflower pilgrims even set sail. This past Thursday, the 29th, a dedication ceremony took place on the capitol grounds with members of Texas’ oldest families, various local political figures and the monument’s designer, Armando Hinojosa, among those on hand. Gov. Rick Perry said the dedication was “long past due.”
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, the first Hispanic woman elected to the state Senate, praised the lawmakers who helped pass legislation that made the monument possible. She also thanked the private contributors who helped design and fund the sculpture by Hinojosa, a Laredo artist and a descendant of Laredo founder Don Tomas Sanchez.
“The history of Texas is the history of Tejanos,” Zaffirini said in both Spanish and English.
Andres Tijerina, the keynote speaker at the ceremony and an expert on Tejano history at Austin Community College, described how Tejanos settled Texas 150 years before the first Anglos came to the Spanish territory. He explained how cowboys, ranching and much of modern Texas culture and language originated with the early Tejano settlers along the Rio Grande and the Gulf Coast and were adopted by Anglo immigrants.
The Tejano monument “is a testament to the legacy of the modern Texas and the living Tejanos who are here with you,” Tijerina said. “It is because they are Texans that Tejanos come here today to claim moreover their place in the future of Texas.”
Texas has a modern history under 6 different nations, including Spain and México. But, historians always have complained that too much attention has been given to the state’s English-speaking leaders and settlers, most of whom came from the east coast. It’s really no coincidence that this monument comes at a time when the state has seen a dramatic increase in the Hispanic population and the economic and political powers that come with that. Much of that population growth is due to Latin American immigration, of course, but that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that Hispanics have been here all along.