Special Museum keeps story of Central Texas Hispanics, alive

Did you know "Calle Dos" was Waco's Hispanic "Main Street"?
louis garcia.JPG
Posted at 11:32 AM, Sep 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-25 18:17:07-04

During this Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor those who helped Central Texas grow not only among Hispanics but for all of us.
Alberto Everett brought his family to Waco to show them where he went to college. Back then, he says Waco seemed a world away from today.
Everybody seemed to know Waco has a rich history, but they had few, if any details, especially when it came to the Hispanic Community,
"Did i know much about the city's Hispanic Heritage when i went to school? Did anybody know much about it? it was never really thought of it or heard of it, or heard about it," said the West Texas man.

That's why, several years ago, leaders of the Hispanic community, joined hands to preserve their history and their important role in Central Texas History. Louis Garcia, Chairman Waco Hispanic Museum was an idea from Alex Rodriguez. Mayor Pro Tem at the time. She had an idea to try to promote Hispanics continuing, but also to show people that we have been since the beginning," said Louis Garcia, Chairman of the Waco Hispanic Museum. And that idea became the Waco Hispanic Museum in 2013. It was located in the South Waco Community Center near Speight and Valley Mills... an area that became known for Hispanic culture, but certainly not where it started.

En muchas comunidades hispanas una Calle es el centro de cultura....In many Hispanic communities one street becomes the the center of culture.
Miami has SW 8th street, or "Callle Ocho". Waco had Calle Dos. But much of Calle Dos has faded into history. Second street at Washington Avenue gave way to the Waco Convention Center and nearby hotels. A little stretch of it still exists off Franklin, but closer to the neighborhood that made 2nd street its "Main Street" you'll find only hints of it and the headquarters for the "Neighborly" Companies.
But in its heyday, Garcia says Calle Dos... rocked.
"We have this classic Catholic church first Mexican Baptist located down there, and we had an organization called "sociocultural". They started doing it, and then they hosted dances and weddings and a big celebration like September the 16th.," he recalled.
Garcia and others want to preserve that kind of camaraderie, but he says modern times make that tough.
"We've, we've lost the culture of togetherness. Okay, we still do things kind of separated but back then, People come from every city wide celebration. So, for three or four days," said Garcia.
He hopes as more people learn about the culture here, they may take up some of those traditions, and as more outsiders tour the museum, word of the Hispanic contribution to Central Texas will spread
"We bring Baylor groups these are individuals just coming to Waco so they get a taste of what they're getting into," he said.
A taste Alberto Everett may have missed, but one he intends to make his family aware of.
"Everybody wants to know how this was created, or built.
There's a story behind it. Everybody wants to know good story.," he said.
He says the story of Central Texas remains on good hands with the descendants of the people who built it.
It doesn't just take people to build a community... it takes personalities.
Those personalities influence how a community grows.

Loribel Arriaga describes, the importance of her children learning about the community in which they're growing up.
"I consider it very important to know the truth, to see it and learn if we don't know it," she said.
And to further that goal, local leaders started the Waco Hispanic Museum, showcasing people you've probably never heard of, but who had a big influence on not just Waco, but all of Central Texas.

A lot of us know about the Wacoan's, the Native Americans who settled here along the Brazos, and a lot of us know about the Mexican heritage of Texas, which is once part of Mexico. A few of us know about the individual stories, the people who made Central Texas, what it is today.
Politicians, to police officers, to business leaders to laborers, who built Central Texas one brick at a time, all have a place in the Hispanic Museum, along with a special focus on popular local entertainers... including "Nos Favorito" Leonardo Montelongo, who kept folks entertained for more than a generation."Monelongo had a radio station for over 30 years and KRZI every Sunday morning, one station for two hours, sometimes three hours" he said. Montelongo paved the way for stations like "La Ley, ciento quatro punto uno", which now broadcasts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,

"LIttle Joe Hernandez down in Temple is really important to a lot of people. He's done a whole lot for folks everywhere. He's really involved" said Garcia. And it's imporant to remember that groundbreaking Tejano entertainers, had to have day jobs to make ends meet. " A good friend of mine Moses Villarreal was also a brick layer. Because he was a musician, he had a band. But he can also show me building as we go through town and he says, "you know, I helped build that or I helped build that today," said Garcia. That's right Moses Villlarreal laid brick by day, and entertained by night. "Moses, was on TV several times, and then they would go all over Texas at the point at which they're, they have bands now doing it but not as much as they did back.then." said Garcia. In fact, many say we may never see the numbers and the kinds of bands our neighbors started in their own garages or carports.

The Santos and Lopez families get special treatment for their drive to start the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Judge Felipe Rena, has his own section, featuring his elevation to judiciary. And you can see Longtime Waco City Council person Alice Rodriguez in several locations. And just as the families of Central Texas celebrated, adapted and evolved. Garcia wants the museum to follow that path.. "like to see this place because I would like to see it bigger, but we had more room to display stuff. And I would also like to somehow find a bigger location," he said.
A bigger location to suit its bigger mission, to give Central Texans a better sense of themselves, througjh the stories of those who came before them.

"The importance to my children? it's of the utmost importance. It powers life.," said Loribel. So the museum continues passing on the story of how we got here, and helped build the Central Texas we know today.