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Exhibit To Tell History Of 'Tejanos In Texas'

Tejanos In Texas exhibit
The "Tejanos In Texas" exhibit focuses on the contributions made by Tejanos during the first 200 years of Texas, long before Texans were remembering the Alamo.

When many people think of Texas history, they think of the state’s Mexican rule and the Battle of the Alamo.

However, Mexico only ruled over Texas for 12 years, from 1824-1836, and Texas as a province was founded in 1690, under the control of Spain, according to Rudi Rodriguez, president and founder of Texas Tejano, a San Antonio-based organization dedicated to historical research and publications.

“In June of 1690, the famous explorer Alarcon came with authority to proclaim this area as a new province of new Spain, and he proclaimed it Tejas,” Rodriguez said. “The local Indians are shouting Techas, and the Spanish interpret that in writing as Tejas and Texas, as you can use the jota (“j”) and the “x” as the same spelling, and that’s where Texas gets its name.”

In recognition of the early Tejanos, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum will tell the state’s life story through three exhibits from Texas Tejano and a lecture entitled “Tejanos in Texas.”

The exhibits will be on display in the Katy and E. Don Walker, Sr., Education Center Gallery through April 30.

On Thursday (March 29), Rodriguez, a Texas historian for more than 25 years, will discuss the Tejano background, the exhibits and the work Texas Tejanos had done across the state during the exhibit’s opening reception, from 5-8 p.m. in the Walker Education Center Atrium.

“Texas history can never be complete without the story of Tejanos being told,” Rodriguez said.

Tejanos, descendents of the first Spanish, Mexican and indigenous families on the Texas frontier, have nothing to do with Mexico as a country, Rodriguez said.

“It’s been a historical omission, but the Republic of Mexico was not created until 1821,” he said. “The other big misnomer is that anybody Hispanic in Texas was Mexican, when the historical/chronological point is that Mexico doesn’t get created until 1821.”

Two of the three exhibits, “Tejanos in Texas Heritage” and the “Tejano Portrait Series,” focus on the contributions made by Tejanos during the first 200 years of Texas.

These contributions include establishing the first presidios (forts), roads, governmental system and villas (towns), including San Antonio (the capital for 130 years), Goliad, Victoria and Nacogdoches.

“The first ranches along the Guadalupe River and the Sabine River and the Red River and the Nueces River ultimately produce the first ranching economy, and guess what they’re harvesting on the ranches? Longhorn and mustangs,” Rodriguez said. “The art of cowboying, if you will, has been in existence for 150 years before the Battle of the Alamo, when typically—when Texas history is written—it begins in textbooks.”

Polly Rodriguez
Jose Policarpio "Polly" Rodriguez, one of the state's first Texas Rangers.

The final exhibit, “A Tejano Son of Texas Exhibit: Jose Policarpio ‘Polly’ Rodriguez,” tells the contributions and accomplishments of the man for whom Polly, Texas, was named.

Among Polly’s accomplishments, he was an early Texas gunsmith and surveyor; was a two-term justice of the peace and county commissioner, as well as an election judge for Bandera County; served with the legendary 2nd Cavalry, which boasted such commanding officers as Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston and Joseph E. Johnston; helped create the first school district and courthouse in the state; and was one of the first Texas Rangers, according to Rodriguez.

After converting from Catholicism to Methodism, he became one of the first 100 Methodist ministers in Texas and was a circuit writer for the next 35-36 years of his life in Texas and Mexico.

“The myth and lore in Texas Ranger history has never cited Tejanos as members of, well, a lot of things, much less the Texas Rangers,” Rodriguez said, adding that by today’s standards, Polly would have been considered a founder and charter member.

“I don’t know that they thought of themselves as that (the first members); they were just doing the right thing,” he said. “We have memoirs from various men—not just Polly, but we certainly have his verbal accounts where he says very modestly, ‘We were on the frontier and because we were, the state allowed us to protect our communities, so we grabbed our rifles and our horses and went riding after bad guys and Indians.’

“But he never said ‘We were part of the elite first Texas Rangers,’” he continued. “We do that for them hundreds of years later.”

The mission of Texas Tejano, which was established four years ago, is to bring awareness and education and help elevate and celebrate the Tejano heritage and legacy in Texas through its collections of artifacts.

“It’s one of a kind exhibit because we have probably one of the only two exhibits that exist or that have ever been done in the state of Texas,” Rodriguez said.

For more information on the exhibit, call the Sam Houston Memorial Museum at 936.294.1832, and for more information on Texas Tejano, visit




SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
March 26, 2007
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Writer: Jennifer Gauntt
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