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Recognizing the contributions of Tejanos

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As we observe National Hispanic Heritage Month in Texas from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, we focus on the unique heritage and legacies of the first settlers of Texas - Native Tejanos.

Tejanos are descendants of the first Spanish, Mexican and indigenous families on the Texas frontier starting in 1690. Since the 1700s expeditions to build roads, forts and missions, Spanish soldiers/settlers brought their families to Texas.

In 1731, the first Texas civil government was formed in San Antonio by the Canary Islanders and soldiers. By the 1750s, there were four districts of development in Texas: Nacogdoches, San Antonio, Goliad and the Southern Valley.

Moreover, Tejanos began some of the first ranches in Texas along the San Antonio River and other river valleys. Tejano ancestry had long before developed the science of ranching in the central valleys of New Spain. Longhorns and mustangs were their stock and trade.

The role of the first cowboys, known as “vaqueros,” was to round up cattle and horses, brand them and trail them to market.

By the 1780s, San Antonio became the Capital of Texas. This helped produce leading Tejano ranchers, politicians and military officers.

This was of importance as the 1800s spawned revolution in New Spain. By this era, Tejanos had become self-reliant, independent and yearned for a free Texas.

Ultimately in 1813, they chose to revolt against New Spain and won their independence for a brief and glorious moment in Texas history. Freedom was lost in August of the same year when Tejanos fought in “The Battle of La Medina” against the Spanish Army.

Once again in 1835, Tejanos and their Texian counterparts joined to revolt against the dictatorial Republic of Mexico.

With Tejanos participating in many battles, Texas won its independence in April of 1836. Just as the Texians, Tejanos had shed blood and paid the ultimate price to bring freedom to their land, families and future.

Also, the first vice president of Texas was Don Lorenzo de Zavalla. Other noted Tejanos served in the new republic government, and in 1845, they began to serve in the United States Congress.

Further, native Tejano culture contributed to a rich blending of the immigrating cultures from the American East and Europe.

At the core of Tejano society was a strong patriarchal and matriarchal family practice. Also, there was the practice of the “compradizimo,” godparenting. Then, godparents were carefully selected to help unify families, assimilate wealth and provide economic and political control.

Our state archives and other history centers are full of the Tejano experience, yet they have yet to see the light of day.We at Texas are proud to help champion the awareness, education, and celebration of Tejano heritage and legacy of the Lone Star State!

It was once said, “Texas history can never be complete without the story of the Tejanos being told.”

Viva Tejas!

Rudi R. Rodriguez is the founder and president of Texas . The Bandera County Public Library is hosting an exhibit recognizing the historic contributions of Hispanic and Tejano leaders during National Hispanic Heritage Month.