Monument Unveils Tejano Legacy

By Cindy Casares

I attended the unveiling of the Tejano Monument at the Texas State Capitol on Thursday. Seated in front of a crowd of hundreds on the South Lawn were dignitaries including the governor and the first Latina Texas Supreme Court Justice. It was a momentous occasion, and I felt lucky to be there. After 500 years, Texans of Hispanic ancestry are officially recognized by the state of Texas. Right there in the front yard for everyone to see.

My favorite part of the event wasn’t listening to the hour of speeches thanking the many individuals who spent a decade turning the idea of a Tejano Monument into a reality. My favorite part was when Austin Community College professor of history Dr. Andres Tijerina gave the crowd a lesson in Tejano contributions to Texas culture.

“In so many ways the Mexican Tejano culture is so ingrained in our daily lives that many Texans fail to see the Mexican in their own lives,” Tijerina said. I wonder what members of the GOP would say about that. You’ve got a Mexican in you!

Tejanos brought the cattle industry and culture to North America, pioneered the wool and mohair industry that exists in Texas today, exposed Anglo Texans to mounted law enforcement—which they copied to form the Texas Rangers—and even served as an example to the United States legal system, which copied Spanish Tejano homestead and community property laws. “I could go on and on about all the American laws that are (based on) Spanish Tejano laws,” Tijerina said.

“In fact, everything that Texans brag about is Tejano,” he boldly proclaimed. “The Texas Longhorns, the Texas Mustangs, chili, everything they brag about today is Tejano. Come to think of it, if it wasn’t for the Tejano heritage, Texas would probably be Ohio.”

Of course, there are many people to thank for their hard work toward this incredibly important acknowledgment of Hispanic Texans. State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), who authored the Senate bill that made the monument possible, wanted everyone to know that Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst was at the top of the list of supporters in the Senate.

“If he had not sponsored it, if he had not stepped up and said, ‘I want this bill to pass,’ it wouldn’t have happened,” she told a crowd at a Wednesday night reception for the monument’s sculptor from Laredo, Armando Hinojosa.

“All of a sudden when Gov. Dewhurst gave his support, all the barriers simply melted away,” she reiterated at the unveiling on Thursday morning. “It was because of his simple statement of support that we passed this bill in the Senate unanimously.”

Gov. Rick Perry also made an appearance at the beginning of the event, addressing Hinojosa by saying, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” I had to laugh at his cowboy persona, but I also reminded myself that it was the governor who defended the DREAM Act during his presidential run under immense pressure from his party to do otherwise.

“As I’ve said before the future of Texas is tied directly to the future of the Hispanic population,” Perry said. And, as I wrote in a previous story on the Tejano Monument, Texas’ past is also directly tied to the Tejano past. Now, visitors to the Capitol will have a chance to know that. It’s a start.

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