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HERNANDEZ, CONCEPCION

HERNÁNDEZ, CONCEPCIÓN (?–?). Concepción (Concha) Hernández, stage actress, the daughter of Encarnación and Antonia Pineda de Hernández, was born in Mexico and resided in San Antonio, Texas, permanently after 1911. Her mother had had no theatrical experience when, at the age of eighteen, she married Concepción Hernández, whom she met when he was performing in an acting company in Colima, Mexico. Hernández trained Antonia as an actress, and she eventually became the leading actress of the company that Encarnación organized, the Compañía Hernández. Upon her husband's death around 1888, Sra. Hernández assumed responsibility of company management, which she continued until her retirement in 1904, when Carlos Villalongín, her son-in-law, took over. She also continued as leading actress for Carlos Villalongín. Her children included one son, Luis, who acted with the company, and two daughters, who became actresses in the Hernández-Villalongín company and later the Compañía Villalongín. Herlinda, who generally performed in various second-line parts, married Carlos Villalongín, and Concepción assumed the leading role when she could fill the part and as her mother took on fewer or smaller roles before eventually retiring.

Concepción Hernández was an excellent example of the type of leading actress commonly found in the Mexican touring companies that appeared in Texas from about 1875 to 1935. She is additionally important because she represents the type of actress that remained in Texas to continue the theatrical tradition through the resident company. Her early career was based primarily in Nuevo León, although she made infrequent tours in the southwestern United States. In 1900 the troupe was invited to perform in San Antonio, Houston, Victoria, and Dallas. In 1911 the company had agreed to perform at the Teatro Aurora in San Antonio for an extended run. However, the Mexican Revolution made the Compañía Villalongín decide to remain permanently.

Srta. Hernández's training began in childhood, and she grew into the parts she played. She eventually became the leading lady of the company. Among her principal roles were Marta in Tierra baja ("The Lowlands"), María Antonietta, La Llorona ("The Weeping Woman"), and Dona Inés in Don Juan Tenorio. Her features most often noted by newspaper critics were her intelligence, ability to comprehend her part, and skill in presenting a well-studied role with clarity in diction. A vivid description remains of her most memorable role, that of Marta in Tierra Baja. Her most outstanding feature was her powerful and wide-ranging voice, which she used with great skill in conveying emotion; she was praised for "inflections [that] imprinted a stamp of truth." The manners of the period required that the declamatory actress perform in moral and instructive dramas suitable for the entire family. The fact that Concepción Hernández was performing in a family enterprise, always accompanied by her mother, sisters, and other relatives, probably enhanced the image of wholesome entertainment that the Compañía Villalongín provided. Though she was rarely regarded as beautiful, her performances were valued for other reasons. She received many tokens of admiration and friendship, some of which are found in the Villalongín collection in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas-cards and photographs from admirers, generally wishing her successful benefit performances.

The turmoil of the Mexican Revolution convinced Villalongín, his family, and some other actors-though they had expected to return to Coahuila, where the company held temporary residency-that they could not return. The revolution enabled the tradition of Spanish-language dramatic entertainment to continue on the American stage through resident companies. Concepción Hernández, one of the first leading actresses to remain on a permanent basis, trained others to continue the tradition. Her niece, María Luisa Villalongín, trained with Concepción, taking the young ingenue parts until she replaced Concepción upon the latter's retirement.

Concepción Hernández performed at the Teatro Aurora, the Teatro Zaragoza, and the Teatro Salon San Fernando in San Antonio and toured throughout the Rio Grande valley until her retirement in the early 1920s. Late in life she married Alberto Orozco, Jr., the properties master and an infrequent actor with the company. She remained a resident of San Antonio until her death. See also CARLOS VILLALONGÍN DRAMATIC COMPANY.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Encarnación Hernández-Carlos Villalongín Collection, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas at Austin. Elizabeth C. Ramírez, Footlights across the Border: A History of Spanish-Language Professional Theatre on the Texas Stage (New York: Lang, 1990). Elizabeth C. Ramírez, A History of Mexican American Professional Theatre in Texas: 1875–1935 (Ph.D dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1982).

Elizabeth C. Ramírez

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Elizabeth C. Ramírez, "HERNANDEZ, CONCEPCION," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhewe), accessed December 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.