Texas A&M University-Kingsville

History of Riviera Documented by A&M-Kingsville Students, Faculty, Staff

KINGSVILLE - December 16, 2008

Contact: Jason Marton
jason.marton@tamuk.edu or 361-593-4143

Work placed in local time capsule, to be opened 50 years later

KINGSVILLE (December 16, 2008) — Last year, the community of Riviera celebrated its 100th anniversary. It was decided among celebration planners and administrators to make a documentary illustrating the history of the town. On Saturday, December 13, 2008, the finished documentary premiered in Riviera High School, and its makers—faculty, students and staff of the department of communications and theatre arts at Texas A&M University-Kingsville—joined the leaders of Riviera to view the finished product.

“This is the most extensive documentary project the department has been involved with for the last quarter century,” said Dr. Manuel C. Flores, associate professor of journalism and student publications adviser.

Flores said that the project involved three months of research work using the South Texas Archives, on the A&M-Kingsville campus, and the book Riviera Texas: A Small Town in God’s Country by Idella Underbrink Strubhart.

Dr. Carl Saltarelli, assistant professor in the communications/theatre arts department and director of the university’s radio station, directed and edited the film, using a predominantly student crew working for free. Several students also acted out scenes in period clothing, and many period pictures were used from private collections and the South Texas Archives. Interviews were taped with more than a dozen of the descendants of the pioneers who helped establish Riviera, as well as longtime residents.

“Once we started the project, we began to realize the value of documenting the interviews of the first and second generation Riviera citizens,” said Saltarelli. “We also wished we’d have started sooner.

“The patriarch of the Hubert family, Pat Hubert, passed away before we had a chance to interview him. He was a star baseball player in his day, and coached the stars of the future in the little league system. Our crew taped his funeral services the day of and transmitted them to mourners in the Parish Hall, on a projection screen we set up.” Saltarelli noted they were able to interview wife Goldia for the production.

Out of the 30-plus documentaries Saltarelli has worked on since 1979, he said that this one was the largest, racking up 15 hours of taped footage and more than 200 hours of editing time.

“It is a complete and very accurate history of how the city and this area near Kingsville was developed,” said Flores.

Also playing a major part in the production was Fred Bell of the Riviera Beautification Association, who was a planner of Riviera’s centennial events and one of the initiators of the documentary idea. Retired A&M-Kingsville education professor Dr. Mark Walsh recommended Saltarelli and Flores to Bell, who has been very happy with the department’s work on the project.

“The experience working with the university was fabulous,” said Bell. “They’re all really dedicated. They gave of themselves, using a lot of personal time. They’ve done a real community service.”

Bell saw the documentary in its entirety for the first time on Saturday, having only seen portions up to that point. Following the showing, a DVD of the documentary was sealed in a time capsule, filled with mementos of Riviera history, to be displayed as a stand-alone exhibit in the Riviera Historical Museum. Currently under renovation, the museum also plans to show the documentary to visitors on a regular basis.

The time capsule is scheduled to be opened 50 years from now.

The Riviera documentary is the latest in a list of video and audio productions the department has been involved in this year. In July, Flores and Spanish lecturer Marco Íñiguez Alba, along with a number of students and department staffers, provided research and voiceovers for the piece, “Hispanics in the Media: 200 Years of Spanish Language Journalism in the United States,” produced by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

One of the students involved in that project, master’s student Adriana Garza, also made a five minute video production on pioneering journalist Francisco Ramirez, using the archives of the University of Southern California.

For 2009, Flores said that the department plans to start work in June on a video production detailing the history of South Texas media.

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