- Recovering the Hispanic History of Texas
Drawn from presentations at the 2008 annual meeting of the Texas State Historical Association in which the University of Houston’s Recovery Project participated as a partner, the essays in this book seek to “reimagine the dominant narrative of Texas history and also to transform the very way in which the archival enterprise is viewed and knowledge is produced.” The editors make a call to use alternative sources and to expand the archives’ “boundaries into communities and individuals who have, for generations, been the keepers of history.” While the editors acknowledge the importance of the Hispanic counter-narratives to traditional Texas historians and Chicano scholarship, they assert that new analytical tools and perspectives serve to enhance and sharpen the Hispanic experience in Texas, “recover[ing] a whole new set of stories and experiences and gain[ing] a better understanding of the world in which we live.”
The essays are divided into three sections, with the first section examining social landscapes of the Spanish Texas-Louisiana borderland community of Los Adaes, a study of Mexican and Native healing practices as used by the U.S. Army in frontier forts, and Texas Mexican support for public schools in Mexico in honor of the centennial of its independence. The second section, called “Racialized Identities,” examines the lived experience of two Hispanic communities that struggled to improve educational opportunities during the Chicano era. The last section, “Unearthing Voices,” demonstrates ways in which the Hispanic narrative in Texas history can be recovered.
In the first section, three solid contributions cover the eighteenth, nineteenth, [End Page 307] and early twentieth century. Francis X. Galán’s account of Tejano roots on the Louisiana-Texas borderlands provides interesting biographical and historical data on Spanish presidio soldiers. Galán also notes the importance of frontier women settlers, describing the role of St. Denis’s wife, Manuela Sánchez Navarro, who resided in Natchitoches. Mark Allan Goldberg utilizes surgeons’ reports of illness and treatment to document how Native American and Mexican plants were adopted and effectively used to treat U.S. soldiers. Emilio Zamora focuses on the way in which the Mexicans in Texas under the leadership of San Antonio publisher Ignacio E. Lozano contributed to the memory of the centennial of Mexican independence by providing funds to build two schools in Dolores Hidalgo.
The second section’s two essays discuss the Mexican American and Chicano experience in public education. Virginia Raymond explores the role of a key participant, Alberta Zepeda Snid, in the Rodríguez et al. v. San Antonio ISD case and the implications of its legal strategy. Dennis J. Bixler-Márquez provides an account from Crystal City, Texas, about the making of a controversial film on the role of local Chicano activists in shaping public school curriculum along the lines of the Raza Unida Party. Not to the liking of the old political guard, including the sitting governor of Texas, the film was essentially not distributed.
In the final section, the three articles challenge us to find the true voices of Tejano agency. James E. Crisp offers examples of how historians sometimes misread and misunderstand Tejano actors, Norma A. Mouton documents a Protestant minister’s life story within a larger societal and religious context, and D. M. Kabalen de Bichara examines the meaning and assertiveness of women agency in the writings of Leonor Villegas de Magnon and Jovita Idar.
All of the essays succeed in presenting elements of the larger Hispanic Texas story, with the use of mostly traditional sources, including oral interviews, and the use of newer methodologies and perspectives. However, it is debatable whether the sources are new or different in kind than those commonly used by historians. Still, this work lends support to the continuing efforts to recover Tejano and Tejana voices.