Cinco de Mayo celebrates Texans, Tejanos — and freedom

Posted Thursday, May. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Topics: Cultural Arts, Holidays

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kennedy Cinco de Mayo is a new holiday to some Texans.

But maybe it shouldn’t be.

The hero of Mexico’s symbolic 1862 Battle of Puebla was a third-generation Texan from a family that was already in San Antonio during the American Revolution.

Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza’s army included hundreds of Tejanos and Americans, including his cousin and Texas Revolution hero Juan Seguin, by then 55.

Plus, Zaragoza chased out the French.

What more reason do Texans need?

If anyone says, “When I was growing up, we didn’t have Cinco de Mayo” — well, Fort Worth’s Cinco de Mayo party dates back at least 95 years.

In 1918, the Texas Spanish-language newspaper Prensa reported a “very lively” (translated) festival in Dallas and Fort Worth.

El Paso and San Antonio’s parties were bigger celebrations for proud Tejanos.

Texans and Tejanos have always stood side-by-side. In Texas’ victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, Seguin led a regiment of soldiers with names like Herrera and Flores and Menchaca alongside General Sam Houston’s army.

How Seguin wound up at Puebla with the much younger Zaragoza is part of a long and complicated borderlands story, but by then dictator Santa Anna had been ousted and Zaragoza commanded the forces under President Benito Juarez.

A Texan from Jim Wells County, Capt. Porfirio Zamora, led a regiment of Americans and Tejanos.

“They were called Tejanos,” great-grandson Pete Zamora of Rockport told the Rockport Pilot newspaper last week, but “many of them still felt Mexican in their heart.”

Edinburg Republican and former state Rep. Aaron Pena tried twice to pass a bill making Cinco de Mayo an official state holiday as Tejano Heritage Day.

“This day is not about beer or getting drunk, or car sales or furniture,” he said Saturday by phone.

“In the end, this is a day to celebrate liberty and the fight for independence. It’s about self-determination and a nation yearning to be free.”

That’s something Texans can celebrate.

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Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538 Twitter: @budkennedy

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