SALAS ALDAZ, FERNANDO
SALAS ALDAZ, FERNANDO (1897–1982). Fernando Salas Aldaz, jeweler and civic leader, was born in Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, on September 6, 1897, the oldest of two sons and two daughters of Espiridión and Inez Aldaz de Salas. He graduated from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México with degrees in mining, engineering, and agriculture before he immigrated to the United States in 1917. Although he originally intended to settle in New York, he stopped in Houston and settled there. He became a citizen of the United States in 1921. Salas became a foreman for Lechenger's Jewelers, but in 1920 he left to set up his own jewelry business with a friend, Clifford Sevan. A year later, Sevan retired because of illness and sold his share of the business to Salas. The Salas Jewelry Company became a wholesale firm; Salas received gems directly from cutters and classified and mounted the gems for sale to retail houses. The firm prospered over the next few years and was incorporated in 1946. Salas established a reputation as a master craftsman and exhibited his work in international exhibitions. For New York jeweler Harry Winston he duplicated the fifteenth-century mounting of a necklace once worn by Queen Isabella of Spain. He also designed a necklace for Queen Elizabeth II of England and remounted jewelry for Princess Grace of Monaco. In 1933 Salas married Elvira Luna Salas, who served as office manager in the firm and upon its incorporation was elected secretary-treasurer.
In 1924 Salas founded the Asamblea Mexicana, which worked with the Mexican consulate in Houston to pressure civil authorities to respect the rights of Mexican Americans. As a first-generation immigrant he became actively involved in the Club Cultural Recreativo México Bello. He was elected president of the organization in 1937 and in 1938, and during his tenure the club sponsored concerts, dramas, and balls to instill pride in the Mexican cultural heritage and project a positive image of Mexican Americans to the community. As a member of the Comité Patriótico Mexicano, he helped to plan fiestas patriasqv, which united participants in a celebration of their common past.
Salas was elected to succeed John J. Herrera as president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 60. He was a member of the Downtown Optimist Club, the Elks Lodge, the Knights of Columbus, and the International Jewelry Workers Union. In 1944 Salas became the first Hispanic appointed to the Harris County Grand Jury. He became a board member of the Boy Scouts of America and served as a scoutmaster for Troop 185; he also worked for the YMCA and the Optimist Club's "Boy's Home." In 1951 he was chairman of the Emergency Relief Committee for Cancer Patients' Aid, for Spanish-speaking cancer patients at M. D. Anderson Hospital. Under Salas's direction, the committee purchased a building at 2702 Helena Street, which they called La Posada, to serve as a hospice, a hospital ward, and a temporary home for visiting relatives. Salas retired from the jewelry business in 1955 due to poor health, but he continued to take part in civic work. In 1981 the editorial staff of La Gráfica, a local Spanish-language newspaper, presented him with a plaque in honor of his many activities in the community. He died on January 6, 1982, in his home in Houston.
Fernando Salas Aldaz Collection, Houston Metropolitan Research Collection, Houston Public Library.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.María-Cristina García, "SALAS ALDAZ, FERNANDO," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsa79), accessed June 19, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.