Sculptor to unveil Tejano Monument after a decade

Armando Hinojosa has just spent more than a decade of his life building the largest monument at any state capitol in the nation. The gargantuan Tejano monument, comprising of 11 life-size bronze sculptures, represents the Hispanic influence on the formation of Texas, which has long been ignored. It is a project that was finally approved by the state legislature in 2001 after more than 10 years of waiting.

Hinojosa, who just turned 69, has more than 40 years of experience sculpting. He’s done work for Sea World, Boy Scouts of America and different hotels and court houses around the country. However, he has never been so honored as for his last accomplishment.

“Since I’m a Hispanic, I’m proud for my kids, and all the kids in school when they come visit and see the plaques telling the history of Texas. In text books, it starts with the Alamo, and we were here before that. In Hollywood movies, Mexican guys played the bandits. We weren’t bandits.”

Hinojosa says that this is the first project in which he was given full creative liberty. He finished the last sculpture of the monument about a month ago, and it will finally be unveiled to the public in Austin on March 29.

“I know we need some Longhorns,” he remembers thinking as he was about to start on his long endeavor. “The Spaniards brought them here because they can survive hot weather and winter. There were no cattle or horses in the 1500’s. The Spaniards also brought mustangs, wild horses.”

That’s how he decided to first sculpt a hacendado (ranch owner) on a mustang, and since the Spaniards also brought goats, he added a little boy milking a goat. Over the years, the monument grew to include a little girl with a sheep, representing the importance of wool to the state; then a family, a worker, and a couple, representing the future. The guy with a brand represents the cattle business, and the Spanish explorer is at the top.

“I worked in clay and then cast the pieces in bronze,” says Hinojosa who retired from teaching when he received this project. He made the pieces in miniature first, and then in the last three years, enlarged them.

Sculptor to unveil Tejano Monument after a decade tumblr m0zu1kvbGn1r1767o people NBC Latino News
(Photos/David Hinojosa)

He makes sure to mention with an even-tempered passion how cowboy history originated from the Spaniards and that vaqueros are direct Mexican descendants. The word “rodeo” he says, is derived from the Spanish language, as is “lariat” (or rope), as well as others.

Hinojosa, who is from Laredo, Texas, says he is a proud Tejano, because his father came from Mexico and married his mother an American citizen who was a direct descendant of the founder of Laredo, Don Tomas Sanchez. His family inhabited Texas as early as 1755.

His wife calls him “a dreamer with boots on.”

She says that with the long hours and fervor that her husband dedicated to creating this monument in an abandoned warehouse in historical Laredo, she feels that it had always been meant for him.

“I worked constantly in my studio,” says Hinojosa. “I try to do my very best. I’m not a mediocre guy. I want things to look beautiful and realistic.”

His wife now calls him “Rip Van Winkle,” because she says it’s as if he just woke up and it’s 10 years later.

“He tells me ‘wow, our grandchildren are getting big,’” says Mrs. Hinojosa. “He has been so tunnel-visioned that it’s as if time has stuck for him.”

Hinojosa, however, says his biggest concern is what to do now.

“I need another job!,” he says laughing. “As long as I can see and use my hands, I’ll be sculpting and painting. I feel like I have to leave something behind.”

Sculptor to unveil Tejano Monument after a decade tumblr m0zrvbG8Td1r1767o people NBC Latino News

 

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