By José Antonio López
Rio Grande Guardian
SAN ANTONIO – In a previous Guardian article, I wrote about the significance of the month of April in early Texas history.
Very briefly, on April 1-2, 1813, Colonel José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara and his Army of the North triumphantly entered and took possession of San Antonio, the regional Capital of Texas. On April 6, he signed the first Texas Declaration of Independence. On April 17, he signed the first Texas Constitution. Thus, jubilant Bexareños, Bexareñas, and all Texas citizens got their first taste of independence this month, 200 years ago.
Sadly, today little is known about pre-1836 Texas history. To that end, some of us are making progress, albeit at a slow pace.
Some examples are the Tejano Monument in Austin, Battle of Medina re-enactments, Hispanic genealogy and history events held throughout the year, and the preservation and restoration of historic buildings, such as the Treviño-Uribe Fort in San Ygnacio, Texas. The most recent notable milestone is the reading on April 17 of Texas House Resolution 709, sponsored by state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin.
As my wife and I travel throughout South and Central Texas sharing with others our wonderful history, we are often asked a very reasonable question. Why has it taken so long to restart the engine of early Texas history?
There is no simple answer. However, no one can deny that mainstream Texas history has been taught as if it begins at the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. In my view, this narrow method of teaching has stonewalled our state’s true founding.
Expectedly, it is in tearing down that wall that many Mexican-descent citizens we meet find most satisfying. For example, they embrace and welcome the mention of Spanish Mexican people, places, and events in our state’s history.
They are pleasantly surprised to find out that Texas has its own Spanish-speaking founding fathers and mothers apart from those in the U.S. English Colonies. Further, they take pride in learning that beginning in 1810, ideals of liberty, justice, and independence already existed by the time Sam Houston emigrated from Tennessee to Texas.
Why is it important today to remember the past?
The answer is simply this. The road ahead in telling our story is still a bit bumpy. Not everyone shares our enthusiasm for a fair and balanced rendering of Texas history. Expectedly, opponents of our movement come from the so-called conservative side of the political spectrum, since it is this group that still adheres to a rigid, unyielding Manifest Destiny point of view.
Exposing themselves as anti-diversity agents, they have zeroes on hard-won human dignity victories that minority groups have attained through the years.
Por ejemplo (for example), at least two conservative party leaders have said in public that they are working to undo the 1964 Civil Rights Act because for one thing, white business owners have a “right” to refuse service to members of minority groups just as they did in the 1950s.
Then, there’s that elected official from Alaska who sees nothing wrong in his using a demeaning slur to refer to Mexican-descent farm workers. Closer to home, attacks against Mexican-descent citizens are plentiful here in Texas.
Far-right politicos have amassed an arsenal of intimidation WMDs to target the Mexican-descent population, such as redistricting, English Only, Voter ID, voter suppression, and their ill-advised goal to do away with public school education.
Hopefully, all decent, sensible U.S. citizens regardless of racial/ethnic background have figured it out. Such bigotry was not fair in the 1950s, and is certainly still unfair in the 21st Century U.S.
In summary, the Tejano Monument in Austin was unthinkable just a few years ago. Yet, the Tejano Monument Committee got it done! This memorial and H.R. Proclamation 709 remind all of us of the genuine birth of Texas. To put it bluntly, they are reminders that some of us do not descend from the Mayflower; nor did our ancestors land in Ellis Island.
We Spanish Mexican (Native American) people of Texas and Southwest were already here before 1848 when the U.S. took the land from Mexico.
The bottom lines are these: Firstly, if you are a U.S. citizen of Anglo or Northern European-descent, there is no reason to fear the learning of pre-1836 Texas. This is not about rewriting Texas history; it’s about filling in the missing pieces.