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Hernández, Concepción (1887–1966)

Elizabeth C. Ramírez Biography Entry

Concepción “Concha” Hernández, stage actress, was born in Mexico to Encarnación and Antonia Pineda de Hernández on March 12, 1887. 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.

Concepción and her siblings grew up in the theater. Her mother, at the age of eighteen, married Encarnación Hernández, whom she met when he was performing in an acting company in Colima, Mexico. Hernández trained Antonia, who had no theatrical experience, as an actress, and she eventually became the lead actress of the Compañía Hernández, a theatrical company that Encarnación organized. After Encarnación’s death in 1888, Concepción’s mother assumed management responsibility of the company, which was renamed Compañía Hernández-Villalongín, until her retirement in 1904.

Under her mother’s management, Concepción, her brother Luis, and her sister Herlinda acted with the company, which was based primarily in Nuevo León. With the company, 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 1904 Concepción’s brother-in-law, Carlos Villalongín, managed the theatrical company and renamed it the Carlos Villalongín Dramatic Company.

Srta. Hernández's training began in childhood, and she grew into the parts she played. Concepción’s mother initially remained lead actress under Villalongín, but eventually took fewer and smaller roles as Concepción’s age and experience allowed her to assume lead roles. Concepción 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. Though she was rarely regarded as beautiful, her performances were valued for other reasons. 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. She received many tokens of admiration and friendship, such as cards and photographs from admirers that generally wished her successful performances, some of which are located in the Villalongín collection in the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.

In 1911 the company agreed to perform at the Teatro Aurora in San Antonio for an extended run. They had expected to return to Coahuila, where the company held temporary residency; however, the turmoil of the Mexican Revolution convinced the Compañía Villalongín decide to not return so remain based in San Antonio. 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. Concepción’s niece, María Luisa Villalongín, trained with her, taking the young ingénue 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 on May 9, 1966. She was buried at San Fernando Cemetery No. 2 in San Antonio.

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).

Categories:

  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Women
  • Performing Arts

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

Elizabeth C. Ramírez, “Hernández, Concepción,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 26, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hernandez-concepcion.

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