News Column

Hispanic Heritage Center Gets Funding Boost

July 8, 2013

Elaine Ayala

The Alamo (file photo)
The Alamo (file photo)

The Hispanic Heritage Center of Texas, a long-proposed San Antonio museum and research center devoted to widening the scope of Texas history, is half a million dollars closer to reality.

State lawmakers passed, and Gov. Rick Perry signed, a little-noticed bill funding it to the tune of $500,000. The bill also linked the nonprofit Tejano history center to the Texas Historical Commission, a move that founder Rudi Rodriguez hailed and called a turning point for the center.

"In an era of diversity and the awakening of the need to reach out to everyone in our state, I believe there's a genuine mood to reconcile, or square, our common heritage," Rodriguez said. "It has been absent."

Rodriguez, a San Antonio businessman and historian whose TexasTejano.com enterprise has produced books, films and exhibitions on Tejano history, long has advocated for a wider lens on Texas history.

According to a center prospectus, its mission will be to "champion the legacy and heritage of Tejanos in the 17th, 18th and 19th century, to preserve historic documents and artifacts and encourage scholarly research."

Its central goal: to "educate the people of Texas about Tejano history."

The nonprofit center was established in 2008 and has a board of directors.

Rodriguez said the state's financial support is a critical milestone, but the center still will need to seek City of San Antonio funding. He said the center will be part of continued downtown development, though Rodriguez could not yet name the location he is negotiating to lease.

It's a 7,500-square-foot space downtown that will house permanent and temporary exhibits, a reference center, lecture areas, a conference center with kitchen, a small plaza and a gift shop.

With a proposed annual budget of $1.3 million and a four-person staff, the center will create a "history walk" and a 12-by-12-foot architectural model of the Villa de San Antonio in 1835-36, among other features, Rodriguez said.

The center will continue to seek a larger, additional exhibition space at the redeveloped HemisFair Park, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez plans an Aug. 7 event to honor those who wrote and carried the bill: freshman Reps. Philip Cortez and Justin Rodriguez, both San Antonio Democrats, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

The center is scheduled to open in 2014.

eayala@express-news.net

Twitter: @Elaine Ayala

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