About The "Tejano Voices" Collection
The Tejano Voices Project focuses on one hundred seventy-six oral history interviews with Tejano and Tejana leaders from across the state conducted by Dr. José Angel Gutiérrez, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington. These interviews were conducted in 1992-2006 and emphasize the personal stories and struggles of the interviewees, many of whom are the first individuals of Mexican descent in their communities elected or appointed to government office. The interviews were videotaped, transcribed, bound, and placed in the UT Arlington Library's Special Collections Division, where they are made accessible to students, scholars, and the general public. All of the interviewees have signed deeds of gift/interview agreements, transferring all of their proprietary and copyrights for the interviews to the university. The interviews are unique, and reflect the history of the Tejano community as it pressed for an end to racial segregation in the state and access to political power in the post-WWII period.
Scholars agree that Tejanos and Tejanas in 20th century Texas have been under-documented and generally ignored in textbooks and general studies about Texas history and politics. This project makes available the personal recollections of seventy-seven Tejano and Tejana leaders from across the state, revealing their sometimes sad, other times poignant and triumphant, stories of struggle against racism, discrimination, and exclusion. These interviews are, in a word, inspirational.
Take for example Alicia Chacón, the first Tejana elected county judge of a major urban county, El Paso, in 1990. Her interview traces her political career from the early 1970s, when she began attending Democratic local, regional and national conventions, to her election as county judge. Or the story of Alberto Luera of Laredo who, in 1971, chaired the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) and founded Centro Aztlán, a social agency, two years later to help the indigent. Or consider Severita Lara's interview, where she recalls leading the 1969 student walk-out of Crystal City schools. This act of courage helped to foster a shift in power in the town from an Anglo-controlled school board to a board with Tejano representation for the first time. The political battle in Crystal--or as Tejanos call it "Cristal"--was a turning point Mexican American activism in the state. Indeed, these interviews full of such stories.
The project includes 125 interviews with men and 52 with women. The interviewees are from around the state, giving broad coverage to regional and local issues in communities like Houston, Laredo, Dallas, Eagle Pass, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Brownsville, and Robstown, to mention a few.
The interviewer for the project was Dr. Gutiérrez, the founding director of UT Arlington's Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) and a scholar of the Tejano experience in the state during the 20th century. Dr. Gutiérrez maintained an objectivity during the interview process and in his selection of interviewees. Working with a professional transcriber, he also audited and edited the transcripts for accuracy and precision.
The interviews have been heavily used by both college and high school students as well as a handful of scholars. As the social and ethnic composition of Texas continues its shift toward people of color, these interviews, documenting as they do the integration of Tejanos into the political process and social fabric of the state, will become even more important and in demand. To understand Texas, one must understand all of its people. The widespread availability of these one hundred seventy three oral history interviews helps students and others from across the state do just that for the largest minority group in Texas.