Handbook of Tejano History

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The TSHA is proud to announce the launch of the Handbook of Tejano History, which contains more than 1,200 entries, including 300 new entries, detailing the critical influence of Tejanos on the Lone Star State. Released on March 29, 2016, to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Tejano Monument unveiling on the Capitol grounds in Austin, the Handbook of Tejano History is the culmination of a two-year effort involving dozens of researchers, educators, students, and Texas history enthusiasts committed to capturing and sharing Tejano contributions to Texas life and culture. Originally conceived in partnership with the board of directors of the Tejano Monument, Inc., the Association’s Handbook of Tejano History joins a number of other important initiatives born out of the legacy of the Tejano Monument, including the Tejano History Curriculum Project and Austin Independent School District’s Cuauhtli Academy/Academia Cuauhtli.

Dr. Emilio Zamora and Dr. Andrés Tijerina discuss the background of the Handbook of Tejano History project and their work with the Texas State Historical Association. Video courtesy of Texas Talks and the Texas State Historical Association.

History professors Emilio Zamora, University of Texas, and Andrés Tijerina, Austin Community College, co-directed the two-year initiative to increase the number of Tejano and Mexican American entries in the Handbook of Texas Online. They worked alongside Matt Abigail, TSHA Assistant Editor, to identify academic and non-academic researchers to prepare new articles on historically significant men and women, events, places, organizations, and themes.

More than twenty-five years have passed since the TSHA made an initial effort to increase the number of Handbook articles on Mexican Americans. Since then, researchers have made significant progress in Mexican American history and have helped to expand public and professional interest in the field. The Handbook of Tejano History intended to capitalize on the growth and interest by generating new entries and producing an authoritative, encyclopedic resource on Tejano history that will remain a standard source of information for decades.

Photo: Tejano Monument
The Tejano Monument on the south lawn of the Texas State Capitol. Image courtesy of Tejano Monument, Inc.

“The story of Texas would be incomplete without celebrating its Tejano influence. Through the inspiring stories of prominent Tejano figures and the histories of iconic symbols and traditions, we come to understand the importance of Mexican Americans in Texas history. This publication acknowledges the unique and prominent impact of Tejano culture on our state and the need to preserve this rich history.” — Dr. Zamora.

“We cannot speak about Texas history without acknowledging the important Tejano contributions to intellectual, working class, women’s, and labor rights history. Nor can we deny the extraordinary record of military service and battlefield sacrifice by Tejano servicemen in American conflicts. The new entries we have gathered for this project about Spanish Texas, elected officials, community leaders, ethnic conflict, education, and influential organizations reflect the vitality and continued development of Tejano history.” — Dr. Tijerina

The new entries were subjected to a rigorous review for inclusion and adhere to the high standards of scholarship evident in the Handbook of Texas. They will compare favorably with existing articles, including biographical pieces by Dr. Cynthia E. Orozco on such historical figures as Petra Vela de Vidal Kenedy, a rancher and philanthropist of the nineteenth century, and Alonso Perales, a co-founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens. Thanks to these well-written scholarly entries, the general public as well as public school students and university researchers can come to understand the importance of Mexican Americans in Texas history.

Vela de Vidal Kenedy, for instance, figured prominently in the development of the cattle industry in the Texas-Mexico region and in the story of international conflict and ethnic strife in South Texas. She was also generous with her wealth: her obituary notes that “the poor never appealed to her in vain and their wants were often anticipated.” Perales, on the other hand, helped usher in an ethnic form of politics that made constitutional claims for equal rights during the middle of the twentieth century. According to Orozco, he was “one of the most influential Mexican Americans of his time … a defender of la raza, especially battling charges that Mexicans were an inferior people and a social problem.”

The Handbook of Tejano History was made possible due to generous support from Tejano Monument, Inc., the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Texas State Historical Association.

Mexican Americans