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Campo Santo - What's Next For Holy Ground At San Antonio Children's Hospital?

Norma Martinez

Tejanos are historically known as the early Spanish settlers who lived in what is now Texas back in the 1600s.  Tejanos also played a role in the fight for Texas independence.  Today, Tejanos are considered the descendants of the early Spanish settlers and the indigenous Mexican population.  Though Tejanos have had a constant presence in the region for centuries, their role in Texas history isn’t as celebrated as other figures in Texas history, including the heroes of the Alamo – Travis, Crockett, and Bowie being the most famous. 

In 2016, a forgotten remnant of Tejano history was literally unearthed in San Antonio.  TPR's Norma Martinez had a chance to talk with Rudi Rodriguez, president and founder of TexasTejano.com, about the discovery.

Back in September 2016 the San Antonio Children’s Hospital was doing some excavation work for a children’s prayer garden, and they revealed there were remains on the grounds.  The site of the hospital was a campo santo – a holy ground – a gravesite for Indians, Tejanos, the early settlers, Canary Islanders, some of the Mexican soldiers who fought with Santa Ana.  The history goes, apparently that the graves, back in the 1920s when the hospital was being constructed, those graves – in 24 hours – were all exhumed, they were reinterred on the Westside of San Antonio.  But this recent construction reveals this was not the case.  A few months ago, UTSA archaeologists study the remains, they tried to find some of the descendants of the people they unearthed.  About a month or so ago, those remains were re-interred in the place in which they were found.  But you have a particular mission for this campo santo

I want to say that although the mission of Texas Tejano has been to produce traveling exhibits and documentaries…advocacy was never a part of the mission statement.  That came later.  This fits into the nature of what we deem as our responsibility as advocates.  The campo santo was formally put into play in 1808.  There were over 3000 souls that were buried there between 1808 and about 1859.   Where were our leaders then? What happened?  ¿Que paso?   I wish I would have been part of that fight.   Forward to now, that is our dilemma.  We seek remedy.  There are some wounds that are there and they’re open.  And they must be addressed.

In regards to the awareness of Tejanos in history, would you say that as unfortunate as this particular discovery was at the campo santo, that it at least brought more attention to Tejanos in Texas history?

Well, unfortunately in the wrong way.  But, yeah, absolutely.  One of the things we’ve heard over and over throughout our 15-year history with TexasTejano.com is we’re always told ‘I didn’t know about that.  I wasn’t taught that. I didn’t read that. I didn’t understand that.  No one told me.’  We (Tejanos) have only one Alamo hero who was given a Christian burial in 1836.  His name was Gregorio Esparza.  We would love to see a monument placed to commemorate not just the campo santo, but to elevate and celebrate the role of Tejanos in the fight for Texas independence.  They were fighting for their country – they were fighting for THEIR independence and for what they had at stake, which was their family and their love of the lands. 

Listen for a more in-depth interview with Rudi Rodriguez on a future episode of Fronteras

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1