Overlooked history of Tejanas at the Alamo told in Hall of State at Fair Park exhibit
An essay at the Hall of State in Fair Park tells the debated story of María Andrea Castañon Villanueva, a Tejana survivor of the Battle of the Alamo. Some historians would later discredit Villanueva’s claim of being present at the Alamo while others believe she may have offered medical assistance to James Bowie.
Candelaria’s essay is one of several in a new exhibit curated by The Mexican American Museum of Texas and the Dallas Historical Society. “Tejanas at the Alamo: Conduits of Remembrance” seeks to share the lives of the Tejana Alamo survivors and celebrate their significant role in Texas history.
“Growing up in South Texas, I never heard any Hispanic or Tejano names mentioned in my studies,” Erlinda Huizar, a descendant of an Alamo survivor said. “And it wasn’t until the ‘70s that there was a push to include the Tejanos.”
Huizar is the third great-granddaughter of Tejana Alamo survivor, Ana Salazar Esparza. When organizers asked Huizar to write an essay about her third great-grandmother, she jumped at the opportunity to learn more about her family’s past.
Huizar, 68, would finally come to know her grandmother through her own research findings. “She was very strong and determined,” Huizar said. “Behind every successful man, there’s a woman, and I think that’s true of Ana.”
Esparza was married to Gregorio Esparza, an Alamo defender and cannoneer. Her time at the Alamo was spent caring for her children, cooking for the compound and tending to injured soldiers.
She would become a single mother with little to no money after losing her husband to the battle. The trauma she endured would force her to never look at the Alamo again, Huizar said. Esparza’s story is just one Tejana’s account of the history surrounding the women at the Alamo.
Several questions about the Tejanas at the Alamo remain unanswered, including an exact number of Tejanas that witnessed the battle and survived. According to Gustavo N. Hinojosa, president of The Mexican American Museum of Texas and the board of directors, limited documentation of Tejanas survivors posed a challenge for exhibit organizers.
“We realized that there was no consensus necessarily between the three major groups, that are the experts, as to who was there,” Hinojosa said. “At the time, apparently, their stories were not being deemed important enough to write about.”
Still, organizers of the exhibit believe it is better late than never to uncover these stories in hopes of more research efforts in the future, Hinojosa said.
“The message we would like people to take from the exhibit is people of Mexican descent who were originally Spanish settlers of Texas, were very much part of the history and of the battle,” he said.
The Mexican American Museum of Texas was founded in June of last year to share and celebrate the Tejano experience. Their next goal is to find a permanent location for the exhibit, which will run until April 8. “Tejanas at the Alamo: Conduits of Remembrance” is free and open to the public.
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