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Remembering Nickie Valdez, Pioneering San Antonio LGBTQ Activist

April 15, 2021

For sixty years, Nickie Valdez served San Antonio’s LGBTQ community as an ardent activist. As early as the 1960s, Valdez worked to secure equal rights for gay women and men. She served on the board of the San Antonio Gay Alliance (SAGA), San Antonio Lesbian Gay Assembly (SALGA), San Antonio Lesbian/Gay Political Caucus, and was instrumental in the formation Dignity/San Antonio in 1976. Dignity was founded to accommodate lesbian and gay members of the Catholic church.

Nickie would sit on the steps of her local parish church, making herself available for gay and lesbian people who may have felt excluded by the church. She spoke with leaders of the many religious communities in the San Antonio area, urging them to include LGBT people in their outreach and ministries.[1]

Articles and photos about Valdez’s activism frequently appeared in local LGBT publications.

Nickie’s life partner, Deb Meyers shared Valdez’s passion for advocacy. Together they participated in social justice events and were leaders of DignityUSA’s Couple Ministry and Committee for Women’s concerns.[2]

The couple met in 1985 and were formally married in June of 2015. I had the opportunity to meet Nickie and Deb in 2017 when I gave a presentation at First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Antonio. I spoke about the importance of preserving our individual and collective histories and participants at the event brought their personal archives to share with the group. I spoke at length with Deb and Nickie and had the privilege of viewing some of materials they had collected over their decades together.

Nickie Valdez passed away on December 25, 2020 with her spouse of 35 years by her side. She may be physically departed from her beloved San Antonio LGBTQ community, but her legacy will be remembered for decades to come.

[1] “Nickie Valdez, Pioneering Catholic Lesbian Advocate, Dies on Christmas Day,” [], retrieved on April 15, 2021.

[2] Ibid.


March 25, 2021

After experiencing Winter Storm Uri, March has brought the much needed spring weather to Texas, a time for many outside activities. For this blog post we showcase pictures of people enjoying the outdoors during spring. In this set of photos you will see images from early 20th century to the 1990s.

Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas cadets playing cards during their annual spring hike, ca 1912. (General Photograph Collection, 081-0015)

Eloise Ohlen cooking a meal at Brackenridge Park Tourist Camp, 5/9/26. (San Antonio Light, L-0618-B)

Corrinne Heubaum holding a large beet, 5/17/26. (San Antonio Light, L-0619-F)

Betty Jameson (left) and Mrs. J. Lee Wilson at a golfing tournament in Brackenridge Park, 3/37 (San Antonio Light, L-1553-L)

Harry Wiedenfeld on a paddle boat, 3/40. (San Antonio Light, L-2413-G)

Spring Magic Festival at El Mercado, 3/17/85. (San Antonio Express News, E-0285-133-13)

Spring break on the North St. Mary’s Street Strip, 3/17/90. (San Antonio Express News, EN1990-03-17-12)

100 Years Ago in Texas: A Selection from the General Photograph Collection

January 6, 2021

For our first blog post this year we display a few images that give us a glimpse of Texas in 1921.  They show typical small businesses in a time before chain stores.  Views in rural communities reveal streets reminiscent of the 19th century.  At the same time, urban areas were growing fast.  We selected one image to illustrate the expanding role of military bases as one of the vehicles of growth.  There were no major events in Texas that year other than the tragic flooding that took place in Central Texas in September, caused by a dying hurricane moving over the area.  At least 215 people died, including 51 in San Antonio.  Most of these photographs are copies from family collections.

La Gloria, 101 South Laredo Street, San Antonio, one of many small neighborhood grocery stores before the arrival of chain supermarkets. (098-1119, courtesy of Patti Elizondo)

Brooks Field, San Antonio, the primary military airship facility in the state.  (075-0913, courtesy Express Publishing Company)

Pontoon boat outside the Gunter Hotel on North St. Mary’s Street, San Antonio, during the flood of September 9-10.  (091-0290, courtesy of Minnie Campbell)
Main Street, Granger, Williamson County, September 10.  (098-0193, courtesy of Dan Martinets)
Business district of Gallatin, Cherokee County.  (081-0663, courtesy of Gertrude Gatlin)
Barbecue held to bring farmers and townspeople together, Victoria.  (084-0487, courtesy of Margaret Virginia Crain Lowery)

Lane family and friends picnicking at Anderson Ways, Galveston Island.  (117-0058, courtesy of Andrew Grohe)

Del Rio boy scouts on a rattlesnake hunt, Val Verde County.  (091-0301, courtesy of Jo Beth Palm Fawcett)

Working From Home…What Have We Been Up To?

July 29, 2020


Special Collections staff on Zoom

Since the end of March, Special Collections entered unfamiliar territory when we began working remotely due to COVID-19. While telecommuting has its challenges, we’ve learned to adjust and have made telecommuting a pretty successful work model for ourselves and for our patrons. While we aren’t able to provide the exact same level of service, we are actually able to accomplish quite a bit. All of our hard work over the years digitizing material and creating finding aids and inventories, has allowed us to continue providing reference assistance and reproduction services. Of course, there are some inquiries we are unable to assist with remotely, but we are committed to as soon as we are able to return to campus. During our time working from home, we are also working diligently on a wide range of projects such as:

Our students have also been able to continue working for us from home. They are an invaluable part of our team and their contributions help us enhance access to our collections. You can read about their projects here.

Though our reading room isn’t open, we are here for you. Please reach out and we will support your needs as best we can!


Juan Nepomuceno Cortina

July 13, 2020

Today in Texas history, marks the beginning of what is known as the first Cortina War.  On July 13, 1859, Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, shot Brownsville marshal, Robert Shears, after watching Shears violently drag to jail one of Cortina’s former ranch employees.  This conflict came after much racial tension between Anglo and Mexican Texans.  Here are two images of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina from the General Photograph Collection.

(General Photograph Collection: 073-0842b)

(General Photograph Collection: 092-0193)

Pride presentations during a pandemic

July 1, 2020

For the last couple of years, I have had the good fortune to partner with the San Antonio Public Library (SAPL) during Pride month. In 2018 and 2019, I curated a Pride exhibit at the Central Branch and had hoped to do so this year. Unfortunately, the exhibit did not happen due to the pandemic. However, we were able to pivot and coordinate three virtual presentations on San Antonio’s LGBTQ history which were hosted by three branches of SAPL.

Delivering presentations online was definitely a learning curve for me. I love presenting in person, interacting with the audience, being able to read their expressions as I speak. I don’t have that luxury during a Zoom presentation. Instead, I peer into blocks with names, initials, or avatars. Despite the weirdness of speaking to blocks, I enjoyed giving the presentations. I recognize that for many months to come, this will be our “new normal” and I need to find ways to engage a virtual audience just as I would in-person participants. I am always delighted to talk about San Antonio’s LGBTQ history and using a virtual platform facilitates reaching a broader audience. 

There a so many nuances to San Antonio’s queer past and UTSA Special Collections has a wealth of materials that document those subtle layers. Fortunately, our LGBTQ collections don’t only get trotted out once a year during the month of June. Pride is celebrated all year long and there are many opportunities for us to share our queer materials with students and our community. Last year from June to September, UTSA Special Collections participated in the creation of an award winning exhibition at the McNay Art Museum: TransAmerica/n. I wrote three blog posts for the McNay during the exhibition, each exploring a different facet of San Antonio’s queer history and highlighting many of the LGBTQ materials held by UTSA Special Collections. 

Media coverage of our queer collections gets the word out beyond the confines of the archives and into the public sphere. As we work to grow our LGBTQ collections, reaching out to the public is imperative as there are unique materials in private collections that might one day need a permanent home. Additionally, queer history is one layer of San Antonio’s cultural heritage that deserves exploration and recognition, an important thread in the city’s historical fabric, one that many San Antonians might not be aware of. 

Urban-15 Pride presentation, Images, UTSA Special Collections. View this presentation at  http://Pride, Proud, Present. Collecting San Antonio’s Queer Memorias


Juneteenth Celebrations

June 22, 2020

Last Friday, we celebrated Juneteenth. Juneteenth (June + nineteenth), is the “most popular annual celebration of emancipation from slavery in the United States”, as defined by Henry Louis Gates Jr. It commemorates Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, on June 19th, 1885, bringing the order to reestablish Union control over Texas and thus the news of the 13th Amendment and the abolition of slavery to the state, two and a half years after it had taken affect. Juneteenth Day as a holiday started the year after. This holiday has managed to endure through Reconstruction and Jim Crow, gaining strength due in part to migration, freedman colonies and the Civil Rights Movement. While it has particular significance in Texas because of it’s origins, Juneteenth is a symbol of total  freedom from the slave trade across all states, including Texas.

For a more thorough history, check out this PBS history written by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

San Antonio has celebrated Juneteenth throughout the years. The San Antonio Express News covered the celebration in 1982 to 1984, which took place on E. Commerce Street and other locations. Larger celebrations took place in other Texas towns, as described in a couple oral history interviews from the Institute of Texan Cultures oral history collection. Included are Dr. I.J. Lamothe’s oral history, from Marshall, TX, as well as Marian and A.L. Holbert interviews, from Palestine, TX. Their conversations on Juneteenth can be found on pages 85-87 and 32-34, respectively.

Every year, UTSA holds a Juneteenth Day celebration. Including poetry and musical performances as well as a performance by the African American Studies students, it is a lively event.juneteenth Last year, Special Collections tabled at the event to show materials from the Peyton Colony Records, a freedman’s colony (just north of San Antonio), as well as the Washington Family papers, of which a large portion are digitized and can be accessed here. There was also a bill of sale for a slave from the Israel Worsham papers from before 1885, which was read aloud by Dr. Karla Broadus to a very powerful and somber effect. UTSA Libraries also tabled to provide more than 60 books and DVDs for check out to students and faculty that attended the celebration. This year, with the spread of COVID-19, UTSA still held the celebration virtually on rowdy link. It was recorded and can be experienced here.



Wish to learn more about Juneteenth? 

Check out this list of materials from UTSA Libraries:

Online Access:

Juneteenth Texas : essays in African-American folklore by Abernethy, Francis Edward

Available through UTSA libraries:

Juneteenth : a celebration of freedom by Taylor, Charles A

Juneteenth, unique heritage : an historical analysis of the origin and evolution of the 19th of June celebration in Texas by Williams, David A

Juneteenth : a novel by Ellison, Ralph

Black Lives Matter 2020 by Brodie Harmon, they/them

June 15, 2020

Brodie Harmon, they/them, is a graduate student in the Art History department and works with public services, outreach and digital content here at Special Collections. 

“We cannot let the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor go unnoticed or unaddressed. Nor can we ignore the countless other Black people and other people of color who have lost their lives to senseless acts of violence. We must call out and condemn these racist acts, stand together in the fight for justice, speak out and enact change. On behalf of UTSA’s entire leadership team I want to convey to Black students, faculty and staff in the Roadrunner community that we see you and we will continue to fight alongside you. Black Lives Matter.”

UTSA President Eighmy released these words of support amidst the growing protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.  As a student, it is reassuring to know that I attend a school that is not afraid to speak up and show their support against racism and police brutality.  At the same time, I know many who feel very frustrated and want to show public support despite the equally growing Covid-19 pandemic.  In response, we the graduate students of Special Collections, are considering and creating projects that reflect not only the support of UTSA Library’s Special Collections, but also our own personal support. My fellow grad student, China Whitby, has a planned digital exhibition that includes black history and activism in the works, and I am creating this blog post to share resources for students interested in educating themselves more about how UTSA has taught Black Lives Matter in the past. 

In researching how UTSA has supported BLM, I discovered this:

Front page of class website showing class title in white superimposed over photo of black students laying down on the ground holding protest signs

#BlackLivesMatter: Critical Perspectives

This page has been archived by Special Collections here, and is a collection that includes physical collection material (such as the poster shown at the end of this post) as well as material in the Internet Archive.  According to the introductory page, “This course was first offered in the spring of 2016. After the semester finished, archivists from UTSA Libraries Special Collections gathered class materials and student work, then created this site in order to make the content available for further study and research.”  Looking under the Guiding Principles, you can find quotes and student project links about many facets that include Black families, justice, women, queer and transgender topics.  For those of you interested in finding more materials on critical race theory and the discourses covered in the class, the syllabus is posted along with the textbooks (most of which are available as ebooks through the UTSA Library), as well as the Learning Modules list of the online articles and videos.  This is like a gold mine, and gives people the opportunity to educate themselves with the plethora of academic and community-driven information in their own homes.  Another page that we have archived as a part of our preservation of UTSA Black Lives Matter material is #wematter, a blog created by black female students in the class in order to give a voice to intersectional feminism and personal experiences as black women in the STEM fields.

#wematter opening page showing a drawing of a black woman with natural hair with the hashtag superimposed in white over her face.

#wematter front page in the internet archive.

With the current covid-19 restrictions, some people may not feel comfortable going out in public and protest, but there are so many different ways to show support, with the first step being education.  I know I will read all of the materials provided by these fantastic sources, and I appreciate the Special Collections Librarians of yesteryear who gathered this course material and publicized it for future students and the community.  We must remember in these tense and emotional times, that one of the simplest things we can do is to create a discourse, understand that there is a problem with racism in this country, and learn to educate and better ourselves as a community.  We can continue to be silent no longer.  We at UTSA support Black Lives Matter, and here in Special Collections, we wanted to reiterate our support and help the spread of information by sharing this one-of-a-kind course material that our professors and students created in a handy blog post to give everyone a chance to virtually explore literature and materials about Black Lives Matter.  We also encourage students and friends who are curious about what else Special Collections has to offer to check out our archives of African American History and Activism.  We also have a completely digitized Guide to the San Antonio Black History Collection that consists of archived material including businesses, churches, schools and newspapers from our city’s black community.  While we are not physically open at this time, know that we are still here, and we support all of our students and hope for your safety as you navigate these tense times.


Stress Reduction with Special Collections

June 1, 2020

There is no shortage of stressors these days and folks are finding all sorts of ways to reduce tension. Some people are baking up a storm while others are decluttering their homes. Other popular de-stressing activities include coloring and puzzles.

Header from our now-defunct blog, La Cocina Histórica.

No matter how you choose to reduce stress, Special Collections will try to be there for you, even when we are working from home. For the cooks: though much of the collection is locked up tight on campus, there are still a few ways to access our cookbooks. First, check out our digitized cookbooks! These are mostly handwritten recipes with some typed options and even a few recipes in English. Also be sure to check out our now-defunct blog La Cocina Histórica for plenty of recipe ideas! Our previous rare books librarian, Juli McLoone transcribed, translated, and tested dozens of recipes and wrote all about her experiences on the blog, so there are plenty of options.

For the declutterers: as you tidy up your home, keep an eye out for materials you could donate to us! Typical items of interest to our researchers include letters, diaries, scrapbooks, legal documents, meeting minutes, brochures/fliers, and videos/audio. Our department is especially interested in materials that document the diverse histories and development of San Antonio and South Texas, with a particular emphasis on Mexican Americans, African Americans, LGBTQ communities, San Antonio authors, women’s groups, and activism/activists. Though we are not able to accept physical materials while we are working from home, we would love it if you could set those materials aside for when we are back on campus. If you have any questions, email us.

This 1993 image of Dolores Huerta is our most popular puzzle thus far.

Our staff have also come up with a few activities using our collections and we hope you enjoy them. First, we have digital puzzles! Head on over to our Jigsaw Planet page to put together digital puzzles featuring images from our archives. If coloring is more your speed, we have a few printable coloring pages for you. Download them by clicking the links at the bottom of this article.

No matter what, we hope you are staying safe and healthy and we look forward to seeing our patrons again in person when campus opens back up. For information on when that might be, keep an eye on the UTSA Coronavirus Updates page.

Student Appreciation: work from home edition

May 5, 2020

This week on the blog, we are taking a moment to show our team of student workers our appreciation. Even with our rapidly changing reality, our students remain an integral part of Special Collections. Their ability to quickly adjust to working from home, taking online classes, and handling rapidly changing living situations and schedules is more than admirable-it’s amazing!

Here’s a glimpse into each of our students’ new realities:

China Whitby:

Hello Everyone, my name is China Whitby, and I am a first-year Graduate Student in the Art history and Criticism department. When I am not swamped by schoolwork, I love to spend my time reading, play video games, board games, and arguing with my friends over the DC Multiverse. Working from home these past few weeks has been a significant adjustment, but I am determined to make the most of my forced staycation. 20200305_105915The hardest part about this transition has been getting myself into the mindset of working on my homework at home rather than on campus, I only use my house to eat, sleep, and relax so actually doing homework here has been a bit challenging. But, now I have a mostly stable routine that balances my health and responsibility

I recently finished transcribing a magazine called “SNAP.” The articles are charming and do a fantastic job of capturing events and celebrations that affected the San Antonio community. I highly recommend this magazine to anyone interested in learning about how national events like desegregation and integration affected San Antonio and Texas at a local level.

Carson Crouch:

CarsonI’ve been working from home on my back patio enjoying the beautiful sunshine! I always make a cup of coffee before settling in and getting to work. I’m currently doing research on setting up a digital exhibition and I can’t wait to see it come to fruition!

(Carson is an undergraduate Art History student. She has worked in the Special Collections reading room at the JPL assisting patrons. She is graduating later this month, and we while we are sad to see her go, we are very excited for her!)


Carla Burgos:


It has been a difficult transition working at home from the workplace. At work, I only focus on one thing at my desk: transcribing, pulling books from the shelves, making mylar covers for the antique books, or little boxes to put these books in. At home, the biggest challenges were adjusting on many happenings going on such as my job duties, homework, children’s online schooling, and my husband’s job as he is working at home, too. My husband and I have to ensure we take turns to preparing meals for breakfast and lunch to feed them as each of us had very different lunch times.

As the weeks went by, the chaotic confusion calmed down to become more routine, as we familiarized with our places and our work/school performance improved. We are still adjusting though.

I am now transcribing the new cookbook, Cocinera Mexicana written in 1888. It is fascinating to explore the ingredients used in each recipe, see how these meals were prepared, and compare how differently words were spelled back then.

(Carla is an Art History graduate student. To learn more about Carla’s transcription work, check out her blog post: On Transcribing Recipe Books.)

Brodie Harmon:

My experience moving from school to home has had its ups and downs.  Before the quarantine, I worked at the front desk of Special Collections, answering the phone and helping students and patrons who come in to do research at the Reading Room.  I also transported carts of materials to and from the vaults at GSR to the JPL, and had side projects such as scanning documents and re-shelving in the book vault.  I definitely miss the quiet days of sitting in the Reading Room and working with the other great students and librarians in our corner of the library.


Since the self-isolation has begun, I have had to juggle wrapping up my final grad classes, getting all of my thesis preparation done, and figuring out how to work from home for the first time in my life.  I also have plenty of distractions to keep me busy (with two dogs, five rats and a roommate), and finding ways to distinguish ‘work time’ from ‘regular home time’ has been quite a journey.  It has definitely tested my self-discipline, haha, but I have found a way to designate a desk in my room and quiet time to work throughout the week.  Weekly Zoom meetings with the librarians have also been a big help in keeping up with each other and retaining a bit of structure!

What I have been working on during this quarantine has been editing video transcriptions from our Media Library.  I started off with vintage UTSA commercials from the 1970s, listening and taking notes of my edits for the transcription file, then fixing them so that they match the original audio to the best of my ability.  I have enjoyed working on these and have learned a lot about how to format transcriptions and the way captions are broken up with the progressing time stamps.  It’s also nice to know we are working hard to make these videos more accurate and accessible!  My latest video that has been uploaded is an interview clip with Ruben Bonilla as he discusses Willie Velasquez and their activist work as a part of our Southwest Voter Registration Project archives.  Check it out here!

Everything has been different from one week to the last, with unexpected family issues and ever-changing due dates.  I know we are all trying our best in these uncertain times, and my biggest advice is to take it one day at a time.  If we just take it day by day, we can get through this!

Arianna Borazjanian:

Transitioning to working at home instead of on campus has had its fair share of difficulties. One of the issues I’ve faced while trying to work from home has been balancing a good schedule between my class assignments, work for Special Collections, and things in my personal life. I’m very appreciative of how everyone has been so understanding and flexible, since this is my first semester working for Special collections.

ariannaOne of the things I miss about working on campus was getting to interact with everyone else who works in Special Collections, while we still have weekly Zoom meetings they aren’t the same. Everyone was so welcoming and getting to chat with them in between tasks was always really nice.

Since some of the work has been limited due to the transition I’ve been working more on rare book transcripts on San Antonio’s history and oral history transcripts of the The La Jita Girl Scout group. The video transcripts I’ve been working on have been quite interesting, I don’t know that much about Girl Scouts in general since I’ve never been one but learning that most of the camp was built by young women back in the 1950s and 60s was really inspiring. With that being said I look forward to continuing to work for Special collections as long as I can!

(Arianna is a Studio Art undergraduate student.)

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