The Spanish pioneers who eventually followed de Vaca and his fellow explorers brought their language and religion. They introduced new agricultural practices and crops, and brought horses and cattle. Their traditions in architecture, art, music, and their contributions in law and medicine are essential parts of the foundation of Texas.
One of the earliest and most notable Hispanic Texans was Jose Francisco Ruiz. Born in 1783, Ruiz served both as a public official and military officer. He was first elected to public office in 1805, as a regidor on the San Antonio cabildo, or city council. Ruiz then served as a lieutenant with the Bexar Provincial Militia and later sided with the Independent movement. Ruiz attended the historic Washington-on-the-Brazos Convention of 1836, where he was one of only two native Texans to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836.
Jose Antonio Navarro from San Antonio de Bexar was the only other native Texan to sign the declaration. Navarro served as a member of the State Legislative of Coahuila y Texas, commissioner of the DeWitt Colony, and deputy to the National Mexican Congress representing Coahuila y Texas.
To celebrate the rich contributions of these and other Hispanic Texans, we take pride in observing National Hispanic Heritage Month each year from Sept. 15th through Oct. 15th. Hispanic Heritage Month honors the culture and legacy of Americans who have family roots in Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.
In Seguin, Texas, the Seguin Heritage Museum is paying tribute to Hispanic Heritage Month with a new exhibit displaying traditional Hispanic dance costumes. In San Marcos, the students of the San Marcos Mariachi Academy, ages 10 to 17, kicked off this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with a musical tribute at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Museum of San Marcos.
So much of what we love about Texas originates with our Hispanic heritage. Many of Texas’ foods, music, art, celebrations and traditions are rooted in Hispanic traditions. Museums and cultural centers offer beneficial opportunities to learn more about our Hispanic traditions. Museo Alameda in San Antonio is said to be the nation’s largest Latino Museum and the first formal Smithsonian affiliate. Among the many historic sites are the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, El Paso Mission Trail, Goliad State Park and Historic Site and Nacogdoches’ Stone Fort Museum.
We can trace much of our nation’s Hispanic roots back more than 480 years to the arrival of Cabeza de Vaca and the 80 men who landed with him in the vicinity of Galveston Island.