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Tejano Advisory Committee

September 3, 2012

by Selena Pasillas, UTSA Special Collections Intern

Texan’s of Mexican decent are known to most as Mexican-Texans or Texas-Mexicans, but for those that distinguish themselves as Mexican-Texans, prefer to be known as Tejanos.  The Institute of Texan Cultures, created the Tejano Advisory Committee, also known as the Tejano Task Force, to create an exhibit showcasing the history and culture of the Tejano community. The advisory committee conducted research, community meetings, oral histories in order to communicate a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Tejano. For many Tejanos it is not just name— there is a sense of pride, community, family, and culture that comes with being a Tejano, and with the opening of the Tejano exhibit, many had the opportunity to view and see what the Tejano community contributed to the state of Texas.

Over the summer as an intern with UTSA Special Collections, I had the opportunity to process the archival records of the Tejano Advisory Committee. My project included arranging, describing, re-housing, and digitizing the collection. The Tejano Task Force was chaired by Phyllis McKenzie, a research associate for the Institute of Texan Cultures, which was on display from 1996-2000. The mission of the Tejano Project was to “foster an understanding of the history and culture of Tejanos while encouraging appreciation of their contributions. The Tejano exhibit encourages acceptance and appreciation of our differences as well as our common humanity.” The exhibit incorporated the ideas and concerns of the Tejano community through a series of community meetings held throughout Texas.

The Tejano Task Force was composed of an interdepartmental team of Institute of Texan Cultures staff members: Patrick Chavez, Matt Solorio, Phyllis McKenzie, Tom Shelton, Sally Wiskermann, David LaRo, Willie Mendez,  Leo Beneavidez, Patty Burrus, Laurie Gudzikowski, and Lorenzo Galvan Jr. The task force took the stories of first, second, and third generation Tejanos and created an exhibit that documented their struggles, history, and culture in Texas.

Group photograph of members of the Tejano Advisory Committee: From (Top) Left to right: Tom Shelton, Laurie Gudzikowski, Cindi Gonzales, Phyllis McKenzie, Lorenzo Galvan Jr., Sally Wiskermann. (Bottom) Left to right: David LaRo, Matt Solorio, Leo Beneavidez.

Phase one of the exhibit began in December 1994 and was completed and opened in March 1995. The exhibit included architecture, miniature dioramas showcasing life in San Antonio in the 1790’s, and an interactive video featuring three mannequins designed to give the visitor a sense of what life was like during the Spanish Colonial Era.

Brochure for the Institute of Texan Cultures Tejano exhibit, 1999.

Phase Two of the exhibit began in December 1995 and opened in March 1996 and was comprised of installations of Tejano life from the Spanish Colonial period through the 1970s. The themes of the exhibit were Tejano conceptions of community and identity. The first two sections were Colonial Roots and Family completed in 1996 and 1998, while the last two sections Work and Community and Family Life were installed in 1999 and 2000.

An inventory of the records are now available online as well as a number of digitized transcripts of the community meetings held throughout the state in preparation for the exhibit.

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