By the time the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock in December of 1620, there were people already living in what one day would become the great State of Texas.
Those settlers would later become known as Tejanos, or Texans.
On Thursday at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, those pioneers who settled South Texas were remembered, and those who helped bring their story to light were honored.
It was the sixth annual Tejano Summit, a two-day event that is part of the university's Hispanic Heritage Celebration. This year, the event kicked off by honoring the people behind the recently unveiled Tejano Monument on the lawn of the state capital.
"This summit is bringing the best historians in the state and nation who understand Tejano history and Tejano culture," said Dr. Manual Flores of TAMUK.
Dr. Cayetano Barrera, a medical doctor from McAllen who served in a M.A.S.H. unit in Vietnam, is a historian at heart. He has undergone years of research, inspired by tracing the roots of countless families and documents that he says shed light on the early settlers of South Texas.
Barrera's effort, and that of a collective group of supporters, led to the Tejano Monument on the capital grounds; the validation of a piece of Texas history long overlooked, which some say has been ignored.
"When I noticed this omission in our chapter, I thought we need to do something about it, and fortunately there was a lot of people that thought the same way, and they said it's about time," Barrera said. "The sentiments are ready, in other words, and they asked, 'Are you trying to rewrite history?', and I said no. We just want to include a chapter, our chapter, in the history book of Texas, and the icons at the capital."
Barrera, along with several other historians, businessmen and a noted sculptor, came up with the monument depicting the lives of the early Tejanos.
The Tejano summit will continue on Friday on the campus of Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
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