By CHRISTY HOPP, Dallas News
AUSTIN — Finalmente.
After 12 years of planning, Texas leaders unveiled a Capitol grounds monument Thursday honoring Tejanos, the first Spanish and Mexican descendants who introduced laws, Longhorns and legacies to Tejas.
The nod to 500 years of history and those who introduced the cowboy culture to the Lone Star State was seen by many, as Gov. Rick Perry said at the dedication, as “long past due.”
From the speakers — lawmakers, historians, community leaders — the struggle for recognition was as lightly veiled as the statues of vaqueros and cattle behind them. It was not easy becoming the 19th monument on the grounds, or getting $1.1 million in state financing, or $1 million in private dollars, or the prominent placement at the grand south entrance to the Capitol.
The politics of the moment and the monument hung over the 1,000 people gathered there.
Just a year ago, the same site featured a rally as large, with citizens protesting strong Republican pushes for a host of proposals to discourage illegal immigrants and punish those who hired them. The proposals were decried as platforms to legalize racial profiling.
State leaders who were key to pushing through the monument also were instrumental in those immigration bills that ignited the GOP base. On Thursday, they looked out on the mostly Hispanic crowd and saw the political realities of the days ahead.
“As I’ve said before, the future of Texas is tied directly to the future of our Hispanic population,” said Perry, who named as one of his five top agenda items last year the banning of “sanctuary cities,” where police are prohibited from asking those stopped about their immigration status. That proposal failed, but Latinos have also protested redistricting maps that he signed into law, arguing in court that they diluted the group’s voting strength.
In his speech Perry touched on the mutual values, also raised in GOP strategy memos, that could help attract Hispanics to the party.
“We share the desire for safe neighborhoods for our families, for the opportunity to succeed based on our own merit, we share the core values of family, of faith and of hard work,” the governor told the crowd.
He pointed with pride to some of his appointees, the first Latinas on the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and Texas A&M’s board of regents, along with the first Latina secretary of state.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst reiterated the coming demographic wave in Spanish, saying, “The future of Texas is the future of Tejanos and Hispanics.”
Hispanics, now one-third of the state’s population, have grown big enough to be heard, and now seen at the Texas Capitol. Their recognition is coming.
This report appeared on the Dallanews website