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San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce records

October 14, 2013
Cámara Mexicana de Comercio seal, MS 126

Cámara Mexicana de Comercio seal, MS 126

As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, we would like to highlight the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce records.

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is the oldest organization of its type in the United States, having been chartered on May 31, 1929, by five local businessmen from Bexar County as the Mexican Chamber of Commerce. Its purpose was to encourage and promote trade and cultural relations between San Antonio and Mexico, to disseminate data and information relevant to the San Antonio business community, and to provide technical assistance to the business community in the form of seminars, workshops, and trade shows. Its activities for membership social interaction have included dances, awards ceremonies and luncheons, business mixers, events for the Mexican Consul, celebrations of Mexican holidays, golf tournaments, banquets, and community outreach.

First San Antonio Mexican Chamber of Commerce, 1931, MS 126

First San Antonio Mexican Chamber of Commerce, 1931, MS 126

The Chamber was organized by Don Enrique Santibanez, Consul General of Mexico in San Antonio, who became its first president. The first meetings were held in May and June of 1928 under the sponsorship of Santibanez. Given the deep historical and commercial ties and tensions between the U.S. and Mexico, the chamber’s primary emphasis in its early years was to promote trade, policy and cultural harmony. During this time, Chamber activities were characterized by efforts to develop an active network of officials and Chambers of Commerce in Mexico. The social climate and subsequent barriers to Mexican American pushed the San Antonio Chamber to go beyond the traditional scope of Chambers of Commerce, and into one of dual social and business advocacy.

First Mexican American Chamber of Commerce Convention, 1939, MS 126

First Mexican American Chamber of Commerce Convention, 1939, MS 126

In 1987 the Mexican Chamber was renamed the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The name change was indicative of globalization emphasizing their relationship with all of Latin America and also the diversity of San Antonio Hispanic businesses.

Consul's luncheon, undated, MS 126

Consul’s luncheon, undated, MS 126

The chamber had an active alliance with Mexico’s President Salinas de Gortari and Commerce Secretary Herminio Blanco to coordinate the North American Free Trade Agreement’s (NAFTA) public education and promotion campaigns among Mexican-Americans in the United States. With NAFTA’s passage, the Hispanic Chamber was recognized as a critical component in negotiating the many compromises which made it possible, and also as critical to its future success, again serving as the cultural and commercial connection.

The Hispanic Chamber has always provided outreach to the San Antonio community. Outspoken advocacy of educational programs, establishment of a scholarship fund, and publicly stated positions in civic matters have distinguished its contributions to the city. In recent years, the chamber’s role has broadened to include advocacy on behalf of small, minority- and woman-owned businesses.

Letter of correspondence regarding an installation banquet of new officers for the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, July 15, 1950, MS 126

Letter of correspondence regarding an installation banquet of new officers for the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, July 15, 1950, MS 126

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC) Records include materials that reflect the history, work and policies of the Chamber between 1931 and 2008. Documents include correspondence, membership directories, yearbooks, bylaws, newsclippings, newsletters, legislative agendas, registers, photographs, press releases, invitations, scrapbooks and paper copies of the website. Of note is an impressive collection of photographs that document chamber board members, activities, and businesses in 20th century San Antonio.  An extremely limited collection of material from the records have been digitized and are available in our digital repository.

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