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A Guide to Hispanic Texas

A Guide to Hispanic Texas
Compiled with the assistance of Ann Perry and Deborah Smith

For the Texas traveller, this guide helps one find and appreciate Hispanic culture.

January 1996
This book is out of print and no longer available.
365 pages | 8.5 x 11 | 197 b&w photos, 9 maps, 2 line drawings |

Hispanic culture is woven into all aspects of Texas life, from mission-style architecture to the highly popular Tex-Mex cuisine, from ranching and rodeo traditions to the Catholic religion. So common are these Hispanic influences, in fact, that they have been widely accepted as a part of everyone's heritage, comfortingly familiar and distinctively Texan.


This new edition of Hispanic Texas contains all the guidebook entries of the original volume in a compact format perfect for taking along on trips throughout the state. Entries are arranged by region:



  • San Antonio and South Texas
  • Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley
  • El Paso and Trans-Pecos Texas
  • Austin and Central Texas
  • Houston and Southeast Texas
  • Dallas and North Texas
  • Lubbock and the Plains



Within each region, a city-by-city listing details the historic and modern sites and structures that bear Hispanic influence. Descriptions of local festivals and events, public art, museums, natural areas, and scenic drives enhance the entries, which are also profusely illustrated with historic and modern photographs and other illustrations.


  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Region 1: San Antonio and South Texas
  • Region 2: Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley
  • Region 3: El Paso and Trans-Pecos Texas
  • Region 4: Austin and Central Texas
  • Region 5: Houston and Southeast Texas
  • Region 6: Dallas and North Texas
  • Region 7: Lubbock and the Plains
  • Abbreviations
  • References
  • Index

Helen Simons is an editor with the Office of the State Archaeologist, Texas Historical Commission, and Cathryn A. Hoyt, a former staff member of the commission, is a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin.


Country roads and modern highways have long since replaced the foot paths, ox-cart ruts, and horse trails of the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Beside these new roads in 1936, to celebrate its centennial, the State of Texas placed granite monuments as memorials to the people of the frontier-the early hunters and gatherers, the explorers and missionaries, traders and settlers, cowboys and miners, statesmen and heroes, men and women. Continuing that tradition, the Texas Historical Commission, the state agency for historic preservation, has since the 1950s placed hundreds of historical markers across the state. The familiar bronze plaques and medallions are located near archeological sites in rural areas and attached to buildings in the towns and cities to commemorate the people who built the state--the American Indian, Spanish and Mexican, Czech, German, Irish, French, and Polish, the African- and Anglo-American--Texans all.


The Quincentennial observance of Columbus' arrival in the New World offered a special occasion to single out one group of these Texans for special attention--the Hispanic Texans. As used here, Hispanic Texans include people of Indian-Spanish-Mexican descent, both those who have lived here since long before state lines were conceived and more recent immigrants from Mexico. We have used the word Hispanic for want of a better word that includes people of all of these cultures through time. When referring to modern Texans in particular contexts, the terms Mexican-American and Spanish-speaking are more appropriately used. As we single out these people, however, we find not a focus but a broadening of view, a realization that theirs is indeed a heritage in which all Texans share.


Hispanic influence permeates almost all aspects of contemporary Texas life. Its presence is felt not only in solidly material worlds such as architecture, ranching, and foodways, but in the more intangible universes of language, music, and folklore. So familiar are many of these influences that they are scarcely recognized as Hispanic in origin, but simply as comfortingly familiar and uniquely Texan.


A catalogue of all aspects of Hispanic heritage in Texas is beyond the scope of this volume, which focuses on historic sites and structures. Yet, a catalogue limited solely to places and buildings, even with the inclusion of brief historical descriptions of the individual sites and properties, cannot express the depth and breadth of Hispanic heritage in Texas. The Spanish Colonial missions, for example, arose from the period of exploration that preceded them and were part of Spain's effort to protect its New Spain holdings from the intrusion of other European nations. The Indians for whom the Spanish built the missions had lived in Texas for thousands of years before the explorers arrived, and their lives were changed drastically in the centuries that followed. Mexican immigrants of more recent times--the pastores, vaqueros, braceros, and railroad workers--have played an important role in the development of the modern state but are associated with few historic monuments. It is our hope that users of this guidebook will be inspired to pursue a renewed interest in all aspects of Hispanic history. From missions to mariachis, the choice of reading material is excellent--and getting better every year.


Many different approaches have been taken in Texas guidebooks. A few dealing with the entire state and many dealing with only one region take a tour approach, leading the visitor from one place to another along a set route. Some guides that attempt the state as a whole simply list cities and towns alphabetically and allow visitors to find their own way around. We have adopted a compromise approach, dividing the state into seven regions, each planned around a major visitor center (such as El Paso, San Antonio, or Laredo). From these centers, which are presented first in the section, the visitor should be able to plan long tours or short side trips. Following the entries for the major center, other towns and cities in the region are listed alphabetically, and the map that accompanies each region can be consulted for locations.


Although the guidebook entries illustrate many aspects of Hispanic heritage, comprehensive coverage simply was not possible. Buildings, places, and sites that receive official historic designations are limited, generally, by a rule that they be at least fifty years old. In addition, historic buildings of the recent past often are selected for their association with important people or events or for the buildings' architectural significance. Thus, as is true for any ethnic group, there is a gap between the culture of the common folk and what is generally considered historic or significant, and the closer those resources are to the present, the broader the gap becomes. To bridge this gap, we have included in the guidebook a selection of Hispanic community churches, festivals, public art, and institutions that reflect both modern adaptations of Hispanic heritage and the culture of contemporary MexicanAmericans, who make up almost 26 percent of the state's population.


These "recent" selections, too, often are indeed samples and not comprehensive inventories. For example, festivals held in major cities, especially San Antonio, are nationally and even internationally known and at tract hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Celebrations in smaller cities and towns may be regional or even local in their attraction and are not widely publicized, although they are equally important as expressions of community identity. The inclusion of selected resources that are local in importance and recent in time assumes on the part of the reader a level of interest that goes beyond mere tourism. It is hoped that those who use the guidebook will be inspired by these entries to look around and discover other cultural treasures on their own. With the clues provided in the guidebook in hand, the visitor may find other adobe houses in West Texas, roadside shrines in South Texas, neighborhood parks and churches in Central Texas Hispanic neighborhoods, small-town fiestas, and interesting collections of artifacts in small museums off the beaten path.


We have also included a sample of parks and scenic drives that allow a glimpse of the historic environment once inhabited by the Indians of Texas and traversed by the early explorers and missionaries. Complementing these are places where buffalo and Longhorn cattle can be seen in non-zoo settings. While no large, free, wide-ranging herds remain, both of these hardy beasts have survived the threat of extinction and are living reminders of our Indian and Spanish past. One other living creature that played a vital role in the changes resulting from European contact is the horse, but no guide is needed for seeing this animal at work or at play wherever you travel in the state. And museums and art galleries offer a wide range of views of the roles that buffalo, Longhorns, and horses have played in the West and its myths.


Official state historical markers in Texas have been in place since the 1930s, and some private markers are even older. These early markers will reflect the scholarship of their era. The routes of the early explorers, especially, have been interpreted and and reinterpreted many times since the first Texas Centennial marker was placed in 1936. While some of the markers may be in error, they are nevertheless important as expressions of community pride and as statements of our recognition of the importance of Texas' early history under the sovereignty of Spain and Mexico.


A guidebook such as this, while serving as an introduction to the best-known expressions of Hispanic heritage in Texas, can also be used as a means of evaluating what has been omitted from our inventories. It can be used indirectly to help us identify periods of history or kinds of things that are under-represented or missing entirely. And it can provide us with a good idea of the amount of work that still needs to be done before we can truly say that we have identified and preserved a representative sample of Texas' Hispanic past.