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September is Tejano Heritage Month

September 12, 2008

This month has been designated Tejano Heritage Month by Governor Rick Perry. According to the website of Texas, the organization sponsoring the festivities, the goal of the month-long commemoration is to “elevate and celebrate the lives and legacies of Tejanos” and to educate Texans about Tejanos’ contributions to the state’s history and culture.

Many Tejanos, or Texans of Mexican or Spanish descent, played an important role in supporting the Texas Revolution. Tejanos were also present at the Alamo in 1836, as seven men in Juan N. Seguin’s unit entered the garrison on February 23; remained after William B. Travis sent their commander to Goliad with a message requesting reinforcements; and were among the Alamo defenders killed in the March 6 attack. These men were Juan Abamillo, Juan A. Badillo, Gregorio Esparza, Antonio Fuentes, Damacio Jiménez (Ximenes or Jimenes), Toribio Losoya, and Andrés Nava. Scholars have identified two other Tejanos, José María Guerrero and Carlos Espalier, who are also known to have died defending the Alamo.

The DRT Library contains several primary sources relating to Tejano Alamo defenders. For example, the John W. Smith collection (COL 917) contains the papers of a prominent San Antonio businessman and politician. Smith also managed several persons’ estates, including that of Toribio Losoya. The documents regarding Losoya’s estate include a statement by Erasmo Seguin, Judge of the Probate Court of Bexar County, dated February 6, 1838 appointing Smith administrator “of all and singular the goods and chattels, rights, and credits of the said Torribio Lasoya [sic] deceased.” In other words, Smith was empowered to pay debts Losoya owed others and collect debts owed to him. A second document in this file contains the “field notes of a survey of an [sic] league of land” that includes measurements of boundaries, notations of landmarks, and a small map of Losoya’s Texas property.

Other materials about Tejano Alamo defenders Carlos Espalier, Gregorio Esparza, Antonio Fuentes, Toribio Losoya, and Andrés Nava can be found in the James B. Lefler Research Papers (COL 1127). Lefler was a historical researcher and Pennsylvania resident, and his collection contains copies of documents he gathered at other repositories, particularly the Texas General Land Office. As stated in the inventory to this collection, the documents concern “the grants awarded the heirs of the men for their service to Texas, and include certificates, surveys, patents, and documents submitted in support of land claims.” A complete inventory of the materials in this collection is available at the DRT Library.

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