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Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys: artwork from the Xavier Garza Papers

October 14, 2019

Xavier Garza was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. He is an author, artist, and storyteller whose work focuses primarily on his experiences growing up in the small border town of Rio Grande City. Garza has exhibited his art and performed his stories in venues throughout Texas, Arizona and the state of Washington. Garza lives in San Antonio, Texas. His first book Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys was published in 2004.

Artwork of creatures in different stages gives one a glimpse into the creative process of the artist and writer. Garza introduces the reader to supernatural characters plucked out of Mexican folklore, stories passed down across generations.

Garza has many young fans who are both charmed and scared by his creatures and stories.

The Xavier Garza Papers consist of typescript manuscripts, pencil and ink sketches, acrylic paintings and newspaper and magazine articles related to Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask , Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid, and Zulema and the Witch Owl. There are materials concerning Creepy Creatures and Other Cucuys and Kid Cyclone Fights the Devil and Other Stories. For more information, consult the online guide to the Xavier Garza Papers.

Special Collections Participates in Castroville Founders’ Day

September 30, 2019

On September 14th Castroville (The Little Alsace of Texas) celebrated the 175th anniversary of its founding.  Among the features at the day-long event were food, crafts, performances, tours, historical displays and reenactments.  At the invitation of the Landmark Inn State Historic Site, we displayed our photographs of Castroville in the millhouse at the historic property.

The nucleus of our sizable collection of Castroville images was assembled for the French exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures (Texas Pavilion) at HemisFair’68.  Subsequently, numerous local families shared their photos through loans or by participating at several photographic copy clinics conducted in Medina County in the 1990s.  In addition to those from private collections, our San Antonio Light Collection contains photographs taken for feature stories on Castroville.


Juli Favor, Special Collections volunteer, describes the photo collections at the display in the 1854 Haass-Quintle Mill.





















(Left to right) Les Tschirhart, Patricia Haass Tschirhart, and Olin Karm, descendants of Castroville pioneers, provide additional information for our catalog records.


Lacy Hans Bishop discovers a photograph of her great-grandfather, Harry Hans, in his butcher shop in Castroville.


Kathleen Wood, from Rio Medina, holds a photo of the wagon train that passed through Castroville on the way to San Antonio for the world premiere of “The Last Command,” in 1955. The photo brought back memories of that day when one of the movie stars asked Kathleen, then in elementary school, to sit beside him in one of the wagons.


Next to the photo display, Frank Marasco, a UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures volunteer interpreter, explains corn shucking, shelling, and milling.


Birds of a… leaf?

September 23, 2019

This post is written by archives student assistant, Jessica Mitchell.

As an archives student assistant working with our University Archivist, Kristin Law, I got to spend this summer immersing myself in UTSA’s rich history. During the course of completing a research assignment, I came across an interesting Roadrunner newsletter article entitled “Fowl Play?” which reported the mysterious toppling of a Rowdy topiary that used to be located on the Student Union’s southeast lawn. I had never heard of the topiary, but I love a good mystery, so I decided to investigate.

In 1996, ten years after the opening of the first portion of the Student Union (then called the University Center), a sizeable expansion was built to triple its size. This expansion, sometimes called University Center II, is probably the most iconic part of the Student Union today. Its unique facade has come to be the symbol of the Student Union as a whole. When the structure was complete, a topiary was placed on the lawn to decorate the space. A topiary is a decorative figure made of a metal frame covered in plant material and in this case, it was a figure of Rowdy. Rowdy can be seen just after installation in a Paisano photograph.

Paisano picture of roadrunner topiary from September 24, 1996

Rowdy topiary photographed by Stephanie Dubick for a September 24, 1996 issue of the Paisano. (UTSA Student Publications Collection, UA 01.05)

All was well for the plant-covered bird until December 1997, when Rowdy was found lying on the grass. According to the newsletter, suspicions were split between an accident and an act of vandalism, but there was very little evidence to go by. Rowdy was moved to the greenhouse for repairs.

Cartoon version of Rowdy from the 1990s

An older version of the Rowdy logo, from before the 2008 redesign. The topiary’s shape was based on this illustration. Courtesy UTSA Communications.

This is where the formal record ends. It is also readily obvious that no topiary exists on the Student Union lawn today. I began to wonder about the outcome of the toppling incident, and whether Rowdy was ever restored to its spot near the Window Lounge. Since caring for Rowdy was a groundskeeping responsibility, I decided to talk to them first.

Quick research revealed that campus plants are in the care of the Facilities department. I contacted a Facilities employee who was around at the time of the 1997 incident. She was happy to field my questions, but, unfortunately, she wasn’t able to answer many of them. Rowdy’s former caretaker retired several years ago, taking firsthand knowledge of the toppling’s aftermath with her. Rowdy’s removal date is also unknown, but I learned that it was removed due to rust.

I contacted the campus police next. Since there had been a suspicion of vandalism, I hoped to get my hands on a copy of the police report filed. This turned out to be impossible as well; the police archives do not go back far enough. The officer I spoke to was able to give me a crucial piece of the puzzle, however. In speaking to some of his colleagues who were on the force during the incident, he learned that it was not thought to be vandalism in the end.

Having exhausted other resources, I shifted my search to photographs. One day near the HEB Student Union ballroom, I spotted a familiar character in the wedding portrait of two alumni who married on campus in 2009. Standing on the grass behind them is a haggard Rowdy! This discovery was my cue to look for more photographs, and I found a few good ones. Photographs of the topiary from the years 1996 to 2010 exist, and by 2014 it seems to have disappeared for good. The jewels of my search are closeups taken in 2007 by the UTSA Communications and Marketing department. Rowdy’s foliage is artificial in these pictures, rather than the natural vines which were originally used.

Rowdy topiary on the Student Union lawn, 2007

Rowdy topiary on the Student Union lawn, 2007. Photograph by UTSA Communications and Marketing department. (UTSA University Communications Photographs, UA 16.01.01)

Most specific details have been lost to time, but I can assemble a plausible “life history” for the Rowdy topiary based on my findings. My imagined timeline is as follows: roughly the first year of its existence, from its 1996 installation to the fall semester of 1997, was uneventful. After it toppled over in December of 1997, it was removed for repairs. All of the plant material was stripped so the frame could be welded back together. Fake leaves may have replaced real leaves at this time, or maybe later. In either case, Rowdy was placed back on the lawn once repairs were complete. Things were quiet and uneventful again for its remaining years. Its covering of artificial vine was replaced as needed until maintenance became an uphill battle. Artificial plants don’t last long in our local climate and the topiary’s iron frame gradually rusted over the decade-and-a-half it stood in place. Rowdy was eventually removed for good.

Today, the Rowdy topiary is largely forgotten. Its base is still on the Student Union lawn, empty and easy to overlook. Sometimes Rowdy can be spotted in UTSA Today news articles which use old photos, such as the article announcing the opening of the Dreamers Center. Beyond this, it only exists as an obscure piece of campus history trivia.

Topiary base and detached foot as they appear in 2019

Topiary base and detached foot as they appear in 2019. Photograph by Jessica Mitchell.

Celebrate Mexican Independence Day with Chiles en Nogada!

September 13, 2019
Margarita Carrillo Arronte, Mexico : the Cookbook (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2014), 397. [TX716.M4 C37 2014]

As you are preparing for your family’s Mexican Independence Day dinner this Monday evening, consider making one of these chiles en nogada recipes. Chiles en nogada, or chiles in walnut sauce, is one of the more patriotic dishes you can make, with all of the colors of the Mexican flag represented without any alterations to the dish. Not only does this dish look patriotic, it was also created around the same time Mexico became an independent nation. As Palazuelos and Tausend note in their book México the Beautiful Cookbook,

This dish…was created by the imaginative Augustine nuns of Puebla for a visit by Mexico’s very own emperor, Don Agustín de Iturbide, who, after the War of Independence, lasted a mere eleven months in office.

Susanna Palazuelos, Marilyn Tausend, and Laurie Gruenbeck, México the Beautiful Cookbook : Authentic Recipes from the Regions of Mexico (San Francisco: Collins Publishers, 1991), 214. [TX716 .M4 P35 1991]
Susanna Palazuelos, Marilyn Tausend, and Laurie Gruenbeck, México the Beautiful Cookbook : Authentic Recipes from the Regions of Mexico (San Francisco: Collins Publishers, 1991), 215. [TX716 .M4 P35 1991]

In addition to being patriotic, chiles en nogada is also seasonally-appropriate as it is often served in August and September when walnuts are at their ripest. If you are wanting to produce a more traditional dish, you may want to soak the walnuts overnight in milk, which would require you to start your preparations on Sunday. The recipes provided here will give you options for more traditional preparation, faster prep, and a vegetarian option as well. The vegetarian recipe comes from El Cocinero Vegetariano, which was written in Spanish, so our Student Clerk, Carla Burgos, kindly translated it for those who need an English translation. Vegans can use an egg replacer and sub vegan cream cheese and milk for this recipe. Click on the links below to download the recipes transcribed by Carla:

Not feeling like chiles en nogada? Our now-defunct blog La Cocina Histórica featured several patriotic dishes from Josefina Velázquez de León’s book Los 365 Menus del Año in a 2015 post about Mexican Independence Day. See all the recipes here:

If you try one of these recipes, let us know in the comments how it turned out!

Introducing our new Special Collections Librarian, Stephanie Noell

September 4, 2019

Greetings, Top Shelfers! I am delighted to join UTSA Special Collections as the new Special Collections Librarian and continue the work of my predecessor, Agnes Czeblakow. My responsibilities include promoting Special Collections through collaborations with faculty on integrating Special Collections materials in their classes and through outreach and fundraising activities. In addition to promoting Special Collections, I will be acquiring, maintaining, and preserving rare books for the Rare Books Collection. My previous professional positions and academic programs have prepared me well for my duties here.

Before moving to San Antonio, I lived in Savannah, GA and worked as a Research and Instruction Librarian at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). This position required me to work closely with students and faculty on research instruction and learn a little about a lot of very different creative fields. I also worked closely with the Archives and Special Collections Librarian to promote Special Collections materials like fashion periodicals, animation archives, and artists’ books. My experience at SCAD strengthened my instruction skills and opened up the world of artists’ books to me, so I am excited to combine both of these interests in the growing artists’ books holdings of Special Collections as well as the expanding Special Collections instruction program here at UTSA.

Prior to working at SCAD, I was a Librarian at Mountain View College (MVC) in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas where I worked with many first generation, nontraditional, and other underserved student populations. My liaison responsibilities with humanities, social sciences, and technical skills departments at MVC required me to collect materials in support of our programs and of interest to our students. Since many of our programs focused on Texas, Mexican-American, and African-American history and culture, I collected titles for the library to further student knowledge in these areas. My experience with underserved student populations will help me bridge gaps for some of UTSA’s first generation students who may not be familiar with archival collections. And collecting materials for more specific subject areas will aid me in identifying rare books that would be a good fit for UTSA’s Rare Books Collection. I am especially excited to continue growing the Mexican Cookbook Collection!

While I am new to San Antonio, UTSA is not the first UT campus I have worked at, nor is it my first Special Collections Librarian position. Prior to MVC, I was the Special Collections Librarian over the Texas Labor Archives and Texas Political History Collection at UT Arlington. In my role at UTA, I loved making connections with researchers, activists, and political leaders through Special Collections visits, exhibit openings, and community events, so I am looking forward to doing outreach to promote UTSA’s amazing Special Collections materials.

The impetus for my original (2007) move to Texas was graduate school. I received my MS in Library and Information Science as well as a MA in Environmental Philosophy from UNT in 2011. My philosophy program focused heavily on Latin American environmental philosophy, so I did a lot of background research in Latin American history and culture as a result. This focus formed a thread that has woven its way throughout my career thus far and I am looking forward to continuing this professional tapestry at UTSA. So watch this space, Top Shelfers, for future highlights of the gems of UTSA’s Rare Books Collection!

Student Clerk Position Available for 2019-2020

August 26, 2019

UTSA Libraries Special Collections is seeking one student clerk for the 2019-2020 school year.  Interested students may apply by submitting a resume and cover letter to

Job Title: Student Clerk (reporting to the Manuscripts Archivist)

Location: Work will primarily be performed at Main Campus, but availability to work occasional hours at Hemisfair Campus/ITC (801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd.) in downtown San Antonio is desirable.

Start Date: September 2019 (depends on date of application)

Duties and Responsibilities: With training from the Manuscripts Archivist, carry out basic tasks in the Special Collections department. Activities may include re-housing and creating inventories of collections, photocopying and scanning, creating and entering metadata for digital collections, assisting with exhibit preparations, staffing the reading room desk, and other duties as determined.


  • Student employees must be enrolled on a half-time or greater basis during the semester of employment.
  • Graduate student preferred. May consider undergraduates with demonstrated relevant experience.
  • Strong attention to detail and willingness to perform repetitive tasks.
  • Ability to work under minimal supervision.
  • Some lifting of boxes required.
  • Willingness and ability to work in conditions with occasional exposure to dust and mold.
  • Familiarity with scanners, image editing software, and Microsoft Excel a plus.
  • Ability to read cursive handwriting is a plus.
  • Ability to handwrite (print) neatly is required.

Work Schedule: Flexible during office hours, Monday-Friday

Hours per Week: Up to 19

Wage: $10/hr

How to Apply: Submit resume and cover letter or any questions regarding the position to Special Collections at

A Month in Special Collections: June

July 23, 2019

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