Preserving Hispanic HeritageFree Access

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Hispanic Heritage is a time period honored and celebrated by many from September 15-October 15. Hispanic culture is prominent in Atascosa County and has been since before the county’s official creation in 1856.

José Antonio Navarro, Gregorio Esparza and Pedro Huizar are a few notable Hispanics whose descendents still carry on their legacies in Atascosa County today. Rodriguez and Leal families share the stories of their early ancestors, as well.

Navarro was born in San Antonio, but was later given over 18K acres of land by the Mexican government around 1825. He settled near the Atascosa Creek for a time, but for reasons not clarified left the land to live in San Antonio. In the 1850s, he returned to his ranch in the community of Amphion and donated land for the first county seat in what is now Atascosa County and thus became “the father of Atascosa County.”

Though many people settled the area long before then there’s very little information available about the early Hispanics of Atascosa County. What were the surroundings like before streets, stores and gas stations came to this area? What did early Hispanics do to survive? What was their daily routine and way of life? Why was information not passed down?

It is difficult to answer questions like these with few details or no information to go on. Many different things can attribute to the lack of information. What is important for current and future generations is the importance of preserving Hispanic culture.

“Our ancestors came here hundreds of years ago,” said Mary Gallegos. “…it is of utmost importance and as a respect to them that we embrace our heritage. We do that by sharing our culture and preserving our traditions.”

Gallegos is a descendent of Gregorio Esparza, a defender of the Alamo. Sharing his legacy and that of her family is highly valuable to her. Gallegos spent an afternoon sharing with me what could be likened to a treasure box filled with memories, documents, photos and various memorabilia she’s collected over the years. It has been a process in which she is passionate and enjoys sharing.

The preservation of Hispanic heritage is crucial in the aspect of our country’s rich and diverse past. There are many things you can do to help in conserving the history of your ancestors and family.

Write things down. When a family event occurs, for example a wedding, birth or death write the experience down. Tell who was there, what you felt and when it was held. Family recipes in Hispanic culture are a popular heirloom to be passed down. Foods families shared around the table go hand-in-hand in writing family stories. Write them down in a special book or type them. Be as detailed as possible. It may not seem important during the moment, but those stories could provide much to future generations later on.

Talk to your elders and family members. Ask them questions about their upbringing, special memories and anything else that may give you an insight to the roads they traveled in life. Any questions about their parents, grandparents and even known health issues from before that could be useful information later on. Allow them to tell their stories and appreciate the details they have to offer. Be sure to record those conversations whether it be through writing, voice or video.

Digitize any and all items possible. One of the best ways to conserve historical documents and photos is to create digital copies of them. Digitizing items helps to provide a secondary file in case of a flood, fire or damage. This process also allows photos and documents to be shared with others easily and attach them to family trees. If digitizing memorabilia isn’t for you, be sure to store those items in dry areas and in plastic containers, if possible.

Keep family traditions alive. The holidays prove to be a time when families gather together. Every family does things differently, and those events that are special to them should continue to span through future generations. After all, the best family stories are ones often created when the family is all together.

Atascosa County is rich in Hispanic heritage and is why we continue to honor it each year. Encourage others to find out more about their early family members. Continue to preserve their history and keep telling the stories of Hispanic culture.

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