Missed Identity: Collective Memory, Adina de Zavala and the Tejana Heroine who Wasn't

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As greater attention is paid to Hispanic and Tejano contributions to Southwest history, many journalists, Tejano activists, and even historians have commandeered Adina De Zavala's life and legacy as an example of Tejano leadership and accomplishment. The grand-daughter of Texas's first interim vice president, Lorenzo de Zavala, Adina dedicated her ninety-three-year life to ensuring Texas's early history would not be forgotten amidst the state's explosive commercial growth. A reverent Catholic, she devoted her efforts to the preservation of the Spanish missions and corresponding histories in and around San Antonio that pre-dated Texas independence from Mexico, with a special concentration on the Alamo. Given constraints of race, class, and gender in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries, her options as an unmarried schoolteacher from a middle-class family with a Mexican surname were limited in racially divided San Antonio. Once she learned about her grand-father's legacy, she recognized in this rich heritage the opportunity to forge a new identity for herself as a preservationist of history, allowing her to be of service and to establish her own legacy. While scholars are correct in recognizing her contributions as a historian, teacher, and preservationist, those who label and elevate Adina as a Tejana activist have hijacked the role ethnicity played in her motivation. Instead, the convergence of her sense of isolation, economic uncertainty, and the emerging interest in Texas's early history provided her the ticket to transcend social spheres in which she could not have belonged and forge a sphere in which she could.

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