The Tejano Monument is one of the largest monuments on the grounds of the Texas state Capitol and features a twenty-foot granite base with ten statues and five bronze-relief plaques. It was proposed by the Tejano Monument, Inc., a private fundraising committee of Mexican American leaders. On May 17, 2001, the Seventy-seventh Texas Legislature adopted House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 38 authorizing the committee to erect the monument, created by Laredo sculptor Armando Hinojosa, on the Texas Capitol grounds to pay tribute to the contributions of Tejanos—the founding Spanish and Mexican settlers—to the state of Texas. The board members of the Tejano Monument, Inc., raised approximately $2 million to fund and erect the monument on March 29, 2012, in an elaborate unveiling ceremony which featured speeches by Governor Rick Perry and other officials, a parade, and a history symposium. The dedication ceremony garnered statewide media attention and was recorded on videos and web pages on the Internet.
The term Tejano, pronounced te-ha-no, means “Texan” in Spanish and is significant because it refers to the native Spanish and Mexican settlers who founded Texas initially as a province of New Spain and later as a state of the Republic of Mexico (see SPANISH TEXAS and MEXICAN TEXAS). Although it refers specifically to the original Tejanos, the term lends itself also to Hispanics of various national origins who can relate to a common heritage as modern Texans, even though they may come from diverse national origins.
The Tejano Monument is comprised of ten separate bronze statues on a sculptured granite base or pedestal that slopes downward from approximately ten feet above ground level at the rear to only three feet above ground level along the front edge of the monument. The granite stone was cut from a single monolith, weighing approximately 250 tons, mined from the same quarry north of Austin that provided the pink granite that was used for the Capitol building itself. The granite pedestal was hand-sculpted to simulate the natural terrain of the South Texas brush country where Tejano ranching originated. The landscaping around the Tejano Monument consists of a variety of cacti and other plants native to South Texas. The bronze statues stand along the top ridge of the stone base and represent a series portraying the chronological development of Tejano settlement. A Spanish explorer is at the highest point of the base at the right rear. A mounted Tejano vaquero (or cowboy) on a mustang dominates the top center of the monument and leads two longhorn cattle—a longhorn cow and a bull—down the slope. At the left lower level of the stone base is a family group of statues depicting a mother and father ranchero holding an infant in their arms between them. Statues of a young boy and girl, tending to a sheep and a goat, respectively, are located at the front of the family group on the lowest level of the granite base. All of the statues are life-sized and sculpted to reflect historically accurate features and artifacts of the early to mid-nineteenth century. The longhorn cattle and the mustang are shown with the specific conformation of the original stock peculiar to South Texas. The saddle, the brand, spurs, and other accoutrements of the Tejano statues are meticulously sculptured to depict artifacts of Tejano ranch life.
In addition to the ten statues, the Tejano Monument incorporates five bronze-relief plaques mounted along the front edge of the monument base. The plaques were intended not only as interpretive aids but also to serve as an unobtrusive barrier to unauthorized intrusion onto the monument. The plaques are 22 inches wide and 33 inches high. Each contains approximately 400 words of text in deep relief cast bronze and relates to a major historical period in Tejano history. The titles and historical periods are “Spanish Tejanos (1519–1810),” “Tejanos Under the Mexican Flag (1810–1836),” “Tejanos in the Republic of Texas (1836–1848),” “Tejanos and Texas in the U. S. (1848–1920),” and “Mexican Americans in 20th Century America.” The historical text for the plaques was written by prominent scholars with extensive credentials in their respective fields of Texas history.
Several legislative bills were passed in order to authorize, design, fund, and erect the Tejano Monument. The first bill was submitted in 2001 during the Seventy-seventh Texas Legislature by State Representative Ismael “Kino” Flores sponsoring a House resolution (HCR 38) to establish a monument commemorating the early Spanish and Mexican pioneers of Texas—the Tejano Monument. The measure was sponsored in the Texas Senate by Mario Gallegos and signed by Governor Rick Perry on June 15, 2001. In 2006 the Seventy-ninth Texas Legislature during its third called session approved HCR 12 by Representative Flores allowing for the use of public funds for the monument. This resolution satisfied the contingency found in the 2005 appropriation (and subsequent appropriations) of state funds for the monument and was signed by Governor Perry on May 15, 2006; the Eightieth Texas Legislature approved $1.087 million the next year. Representatives Flores and Ryan Guillen spearheaded the effort to secure the appropriation, while the members of the board of the Tejano Monument, Inc., and its supporters raised more than $800,000 in private funds.
After the funds were raised and approval was given to erect the monument, a dispute arose over the decision of the State Preservation Board to place the Tejano Monument at the rear of the state Capitol between two state buildings. When the members of the Tejano Monument, Inc., were told that a state law prohibited placing the monument on the “historic” south lawn in front of the Capitol, they resolved to change the law. In 2009, after more legislative hearings and lobbying, the Eighty-first Texas Legislature passed HB 4114 by Trey Martinez-Fischer. The bill authorized the placement of the Tejano Monument on the “historic south grounds of the Capitol” (the front side of the Capitol building). The bill was sponsored by Judith Zaffirini in the Senate and was signed by Governor Perry on May 29, 2009.
A large gathering of supporters, state officials, media, and descendants of the founding Tejano families of Texas witnessed the Tejano Monument dedication ceremony, which was preceded by a parade down Congress Avenue. Governor Rick Perry and other state officials and public speakers delivered addresses at the ceremony, and key participants were allowed to pull the cords to individually unveil each of the statues. The event received extensive media coverage, and many media articles have referred to the Tejano Monument as a milestone in the history of Tejanos.