Texas wasn’t always Texas. Prior to 1836 it was part of the Mexican state of Cohuila y Tejas, and before that it was the land of the Comanche, Kiowa, Tonkawa, Karankawa, Apache, and numerous other native peoples.
But, up until this week, you would never know this if you were to walk onto the grounds of the Texas State Capitol. Before this week, the only history of Texas set in stone and caste in bronze at the Capitol was a history made by Confederates and slave owners.
Today, with the unveiling of the Tejano Monument on the grounds of the state capitol, Texas acknowledges the contributions of Tejanos in the making of this great – and often times fucked up – state. Ten years in the making the Tejano Monument is representative of the history and enduring legacy of Texas Mexicans since the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s. Dr. Emilio Zamora, a premier historian of Tejanos at UT Austin, history addressed the importance of celebrating this history an editorial published in the Austin American Statesman:
The recently constructed monument to Tejano history on the Capitol grounds is arguably the crowning achievement of the growing professional and public interest in this area of Texas history. The longtime under-representation and misrepresentation of Tejano, or Mexican-Texan, history has led to impressive efforts since at least the 1980s to revise the record and recover some of its neglected and even disparaged parts.
Dr. Zamora, whom I’ve worked with at UT, speaks to the historical silencing of Tejanos in the official history of Texas. This silencing has been challenged continuously over the last 175 years, and with the erection of the monument Tejano contributions to the history of Texas stands for all to see.
The scene, sculpted by Tejano artist Armando Hinojosa, incorporates several important aspects of Tejano life. The conquistador stands tall to the right in a pose that. The the left is the Vaquero who is working the range with two Longhorns – a bull and a hefer. To the far left is the [heteronormative] Tejano family with a mother cradling a baby and the father with a brand in his hand – a tool of the Tejano trade. Below the family is a girl tending to a sheep which represents the importance of girls and women to the economics of ranchero life in Texas. To her right is a boy wrestling with a goat which is an acknowledgement to the Tejano contributions to sheep and goat herding.
The Tejano Monument is a culmination of years of work by very dedicated people. It should be applauded and celebrated for the monument that it is. But, we would be doing a disservice to ignore the lack of indigeneity or blackness being represented in the monument. Texas is indian country as much as it is Mexican and Anglo country. Texas is also a state built with the labor of slaves AND free blacks. Indios and African Americans, as much a part of Mexican society as the Spanish, were integral to the creation of Texas as we know it now. Indios and African Americans are part of Tejano history too and it would have been nice to have them represented in the Tejano Monument as well.