The Club Cultural Recreativo México Bello, a social club for Mexican Americans in Houston, was founded in 1924. The founders included Alejandro and Isidro García; Alejandro was the first president. Among other goals, the club sought to "bring a closer understanding between the peoples of...Latin American countries and peoples of the United States." Because of its success, it became a model for subsequent Mexican-American clubs. The membership included both laborers and professionals, was limited to men who were "good, outstanding citizens," and never exceeded fifty. Most members were first-generation immigrants to the United States. They put on literary and musical programs and organized picnics and boat excursions on the Houston Ship Channel. They brought music and dance troupes from Mexico to the city auditorium. They also sponsored elaborate balls, to which they invited the leading citizens. Many of their dances and dinners were to raise money for the poor, especially new immigrants. The club also organized athletic activities for local youths, including baseball, basketball, and boxing.
The Club Cultural stressed adaptation into American society without loss of Mexican heritage. The bylaws of its constitution, drawn up in 1937, required that members speak Spanish at all the meetings, and the Mexican consul was a frequent guest at most of club activities. Many members also belonged to the Comité Patriótico Mexicano, and so the club helped to plan and coordinate the local celebration of Fiestas Patrias. Early meetings were held in the Rusk Settlement House, among other places, but in 1933 the club established headquarters at 1209 Shearn street. Among its many goals, it tried to promote positive relations between the governments of Mexico and the United States and organized banquets to honor dignitaries from both countries. In 1934, for example, these included Servando Barrera Guerra, the Mexican consul in Houston, who was feted at the Mexican Inn restaurant, owned by Félix Tijerina, and Mayor Oscar F. Holcombe, who was honored at another banquet and made an honorary member. A few years later the club also honored the governor of Nuevo León, Mexico, and Mayor Holcombe presented him the keys to the city. The club invited to its gatherings prominent scholars, journalists, and writers who addressed a variety of political, economic, and trade issues involving the United States and Latin America. The club also encountered discrimination from other ethnic groups. Most hotels and ballrooms in the city refused to rent to persons of Mexican origin, and so the club had difficulty finding rooms for such formal affairs as the annual Black and White Ball. Under the leadership of presidents Ramón Fernández and Fernando Salas Aldaz,who worked closely with the Houston Chamber of Commerce, the club managed to get some of the better hotels to open their ballrooms to them.
Though membership was limited to men, the wives and daughters of members played a key role in coordinating the club's activities. The wife of the president, for example, always assumed responsibility for organizing dances and balls. In 1936 Olivia Rosales Ypiña organized a women's auxiliary México Bello club. The auxiliary disbanded after a few years, but reappeared in 1954 with the name Club Femenino México Bello, and Virginia de la Isla served as its first president. During this second tenure, the club opened its membership to women who were not related to México Bello members. In 1956 another women's México Bello club was founded in Port Arthur. Anita María García also organized a girls' México Bello club that organized sports teams, picnics, and parties.
After the 1960s the Club México Bello limited its activities, primarily because other clubs and organizations in the city duplicated its functions. It continued to sponsor the annual Black and White Ball, and, beginning in 1958, to put on an annual quinceañera, or debutante ball. In the early 1980s the club began to use both English and Spanish in its activities.
Club Cultural Recreativo México Bello Collection, Houston Metropolitan Research Collection, Houston Public Library.
Texas in the 1920s
Texas Post World War II
Upper Gulf Coast
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