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Texas Remembers The Tejanos

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Texas Remembers The Tejanos

Texas Remembers The Tejanos

Photo courtesy The Tejano Monument, Inc.

An artist rendering of the Tejano Monument under construction.

BULVERDE, Texas — Here in South Texas, there’s no shortage of Mexican pride. From music to food, it’s visible in the local culture how this region once was part of Mexico.

But for people like Renato Ramirez, the roots run even deeper. He’s all about "Tejano" pride, remembering the descendants of Spanish explorers who first settled this region. That’s reaching back, way back — even before The Alamo.

“We hope to open peoples’ eyes to the reality of what the Hispanics did for Texas and for America,” he said.

Ramirez is passionate about his subject. His tone rises in anger and veins pop out on his forehead as he exclaims that there would be no Texas today were it not for the “ Tejanos”.

They were the ones who brought the famous longhorn cattle. The ones that gave birth to the cowboy way of life.

Yet to most Texans today, these pioneers remain forgotten.

So a decade ago Ramirez and a tight-knit of Tejano supporters launched an effort to install a massive, story-telling monument on the grounds of the Texas capitol in Austin.

Armando Hinojosa is the artist behind the project. He paces around the arts foundry, about 25 miles north of San Antonio, where he is creating the sculptures.

Hinojosa has been a sculptor for more than four decades. But no other project has hit home for him as much as the Tejano Monument. He proudly traces his ancestry back to the 1600s to one of the founding families of the city of Laredo.

Photo by Hernán Rozemberg

Artist Armando Hinojosa (right) works with an assistant at the foundry where the statues are being cast.

“I want to be part of it, part of the history of explaining how Texas was made,” he said. “I felt it in my heart that I had to do the job.”

Covering 550-square-feet, the monument will be the largest of its kind on the grounds of any state capitol in the country. The dozen bronze statues will include a “vaquero”, or cowboy, galloping on a mustang, a Spanish explorer, two Texas longhorns and families. Plaques will detail Tejano history from the 1500s to the mid-1800s.

But the ultimate goal is not to have a static piece of art. Educators in Austin were recruited to develop a history program incorporating the monument for elementary school students.

Emilio Zamora, a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is helping create it.

“Our primary concern is with Mexican-origin, Latino-origin children that need to see themselves in the curriculum,” Zamora said. “They need to learn parts of their history they may not know.”

Some youngsters will be invited to the inauguration to present illustrations and poems.

To historian Andrés Tijerina, who specializes in Mexican-American Studies at Austin Community College, the monument will provide a critical lesson in Tejano history for all Texans.

“The typical myth is that Anglo-Americans came and established Texas, gave it its freedom and invented the Bowie knife and invented the cowboy,” Tijerina said. “Which, in reality, is absolutely wrong because all of that was here for anywhere from 50 to 150 years before the Anglo-Americans arrived.”

The final pieces of the monument are still being cast. One includes a young boy struggling with a stubborn goat.

All the pieces will be mounted on 250 tons of granite. The unveiling in Austin is scheduled for March of 2012.