Texan Cultures, did I say? You betcha.
The State of Texas cares and honors the ethnicities that have called Texas home, over the years, and who make up her vibrant population, celebrating meaningfully the cultural heritage they brought with them.
This sentiment has been institutionalized by the Texas State Legislature in 1965, and now administered by the University of Texas/San Antonio (UTSA) through its adjunct, the Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC). It is a museum and a library. All these on the site of the Texas World’s Fair -- 1968 Hemisfair Expo, which originally featured the Texas Pavilion.
In fulfillment of its mandate, the Institute of Texan Cultures serves as the State’s center for multicultural education. It conducts studies in ethnic and cultural histories, presenting these in a variety of offerings, with exhibits, programs and annual events such as the very popular Texas Folklife Festival and the Asian Festival.
The facility is a tad to the south end of Downtown San Antonio, near the vicinities of The Alamo Shrine and the River Walk. It is part of the block where the Convention Center is located, as well as the Tower of the Americas (a 750-foot observation tower cum revolving restaurant), and across the freeway from the 64,000-seat Alamodome, to name and identify a few of San Antonio’s other major attractive destinations. The complex sits upon a campus of some four acres plus, with over 6000 square meters of interactive exhibits and displays. The library is the repository of manuscripts, rare books, personal papers and over 3.5 million historical photographs and 700 oral histories. They also conduct teacher-training workshops and outreach programs for schools and other groups.
The diverse Texan ethnic communities represented in ITC are listed in big and highly visible signs just above the souvenir shop, as one enters the lobby. I took to listing them. And here they are: Wendish, Lebanese, French, Swedish, Denmark, Dutch, Belgian, Italia, Irish, Spanish, Norwegians, African-American, Mexican-American, Hungarian, Swiss, Native American, Filipino, Scottish, Jewish., Chinese, Anglo, Polish, Czech, German, Japanese, English. I did not notice the signs for South Asian Indians and Koreans, although I know that their local ethnics have had activities at the ITC.
It was “Wendish” that caught my curious mind. As an ethnic group, that sounded strange to me, not having come across the term until then. I naturally had to look it up. It appears that they are of “Slavic” extraction from eastern Germany and they have their own community in Serbin, Texas to where they settled as immigrants in the 1850s. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, they celebrated their 30th festival, hosted by the Wendish Heritage Society and the St.Paul Lutheran Church. I do not believe that there is a great number of the Wendish in Texas, perhaps just about less than a thousand. Nonetheless, it is evident that the size and numbers in any particular ethnicity is not a major consideration in being recognized and celebrated by the State.
In my part of town, which is the northwest quadrant of San Antonio, we have new arrivals from Myanmar, Somalia, Vietnam, Iran and Palestine. I surmise that eventually, these communities abloom from these later arrivals will also be encompassed and participate in the celebration of Texan cultures.
Since March of 2012, the Institute of Texan Cultures has had for its Executive Director, Ms. Angelica Docog, recruited by UTSA from a previous posting with the Charlotte Museum of History in North Carolina. And before that, she was affiliated with the Colorado Historical Society as its Director of Interpretive Service.
She happens to be the first female executive director of the Institute and also the first Latina-Asian to hold that post. Evidently, she enjoys the respect and admiration of her peers in the museum sciences and administration which is a special field of study for curators, researchers, historians and of art, sciences and anthropology.
To be precise about it, Angelica is not really of the more common Philippine-American ethnicity of which we have quite a population in much of the US. She is truly more of a relatively rarer mix. Filipina-Mexican. Thus, Angelica is really Fil-Mex! Her mom, Maria Jimenez-Castro, is from Guadalajara, the capital of the Mexican State of Jalisco. Her father is Francisco Docog, a US Navyman from Bicol. Frank Docog, while in the Navy, also pursued studies in Dental Medicine, and served as a Navy Dentist in the later years of his US Navy career. After retirement he spent another ten years with the Veterans Administration. Angelica’s parents, now in their 80s, live in San Diego.
Angelica was born in San Diego, California, one of three children of Maria and Frank. I seem to recall that she mentioned having resided and attended school in Subic where her father served at least two tours of duty. And as part of Navy personnel’s family, Angelica experienced active travels and residences in other parts of the world following her Dad’s Navy assignments. The last time she visited Manila was some eight years ago.
She pursued her undergraduate studies in Seton Hill College (now a coed University) in Greensburg, Pennsylvania and her Master’s in History Museum Studies at Cooperstown, New York. She also pursued additional studies in London. She has taught Museum Education as an adjunct faculty member of the University of North Carolina and University of Colorado. She sits on the advisory board for Smithsonian Affiliates as well as in the Asian Pacific Committee of the American Association of Museums. Since moving to San Antonio, she has also become a member of the Philippine Women of America, Inc. and of the Bexar County Historical Commission. That is the county to which San Antonio belongs.
The Institute Texan Cultures, being an affiliate of the Smithsonian, will be hosting its travelling exhibit in May next year.“Singgalot: The Ties that Bind,” a history of the Filipino Community in America, will be coming to San Antonio.
San Antonio, Texas is indeed a major American tourist destination. For Filipino inbound tourists to the US, however, the preferred visits are usually to the West Coast or to the Eastern Seaboard, principally New York. Those are where the larger concentration of Filipinos in America can be found, of course. San Antonio, on the other hand, has proven to be a new and favored relocation venue because of its very reasonable cost of living, a good pool of manpower and as cited in this blog, the cultural amenities. Quite a number of business organizations have moved over, too. Incidentally, San Antonio ranks No. 7 in the US’s 10 biggest cities, with a population just about 1.5 million.
Folks, in your spare time, you may wish to surf the internet and check on ‘TexanCultures.com’ and/or you may google “The Institute of Texan Cultures.” It will be a leisure, well spent.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
His e-mail is: [email protected]
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.