UT Pulls Out Historical Treasures To Mark Mexico’s Bicentennial

As Mexico celebrates its bicentennial, UT is honoring the occasion in a fitting way — an educational tribute.

Two hundred years have passed since Mexico got its independence from Spain, and 100 have passed since the Mexican Revolution. So the related treasures from the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection have been pulled out and put on proud display.

“Frente a Frente: The Mexican People in Independence and Revolution, 1810 and 1910” opened with a reception Thursday evening, 200 years to the day since the call for independence was made on Sept. 16, 1810.

Michael Hironymous, who coordinated the exhibit, was only too happy to point out its many highlights. One of his favorites was the Augustinian prayer book of José María Morelos, the priest and rebel leader who led the Mexican War for Independence.

Morelos had the book on the day he was executed by Spanish authorities in 1815, Hironymous said. It may even have been the volume he used to prepare for his death.

Anyone who has flipped through Spanish-language TV in the past few days knows that despite some of the difficulties Mexico is now facing, including ruthless drug violence, the country is as excited to celebrate its bicentennial as the United States was in 1976. There have been concerts, parties, and dancing galore.

While Thursday’s reception wasn’t quite as high-spirited as a street party, there was excitement in the air. ¡Ahora sí!, the Spanish-language newspaper, wrote a cover story about the exhibit last week. And at the opening, an atmosphere of warmth prevailed. Philanthropists Joe and Teresa Lozano Long turned out, as did dozens of students, professors, and alumni.

Among the alums was Marco Portales, BA ’70, and his wife, Rita. Portales is now an English professor at Texas A&M, and he recently wrote a pictorial history of the Mexican Revolution called Why Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata Wore Cananas.  

For the uninitiated, Portales was happy to explain that cananas were the leather bullet belts that the revolutionaries wore across their chests like sashes. 

Portales was pleased to see Sept. 16 celebrated and Mexico’s history studied, especially by those of Mexican descent. “It’s part of their ancestral roots,” he said. “It empowers many Mexican-Americans, and we need all the empowerment we can get these days.” 

The exhibit is in Sid Richardson Hall, which also houses the Briscoe Center for American History. It will be up until April, so check it out. 

Image courtesy of the Benson Latin American Collection


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