Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Tejano Heritage Banquet Oct. 7 Honors Educators Idalia Davila, Dr. Emilio Zamora

KINGSVILLE - October 01, 2010

Contact: Dr. Manuel Flores
manuel.flores@tamuk.edu or 361.593.3401

A professor who has written several books on the Mexican American experience in the United States and a South Texas educator and rancher who fought to restore her family’s ranching heritage are this year recipients of the Tejano Service and Tejano Heritage Awards, respectively.

Idalia G. Davila, reading and science teacher of Webb County I.S.D. in Bruni, and Dr. Emilio Zamora, professor of history at the University of Texas, will be honored at the annual Tejano Heritage BanquetThursday, Oct. 7, at noon in Ballroom A of the Memorial Student Union BuildingThe meal is free.

The banquet will also feature the Tejano Heritage Exhibit as well as artifacts from the Davila family ranching history and a book-signing opportunity with Zamora.

The Tejano Heritage Award is presented annually to an alumnus who has lived the legacy to the Tejano culture and worked to preserve Tejano tradition. The Tejano Service Award is annually presented to an alumnus who is a public servant, educator or politician who has contributed to Tejanos and Hispanics through their work.

About Idalia Davila

Davila was born and raised in San Diego, Texas, and is a 1966 graduate of San Diego High School. While in high school, Idalia was a cheerleader, president of the Future Teachers of America, feature editor of the school newspaper and active in various extracurricular organizations. She received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Texas A&I University in 1971 and returned to get a Master of Education in 1983. “One of my most memorable experiences at the university was having the opportunity to travel to Mexico City with the Spanish Club and experience the beauty, culture, and history of the historic city,” she said.
Idalia and her family own and operate El Puerto Ranch, located 18 miles southwest of Hebbronville. The ranch is part of what was once a 17,713-acre Mexican land grant that has been in her family for almost 200 years. She conducted extended research related to the history of the land. In April 2008, El Puerto Land & Cattle was presented with the Family Land Heritage Award from the Texas Department of Agriculture and placed in the 2007 Family Land Heritage Registry in recognition of the family’s continuous contribution to agriculture production in Texas for more than150 years. The family ranch brand is also displayed in the Kleberg Center at Texas A&M University; its branded staircase is a collection of the oldest and most historic brands in Texas.

Davila has been an educator for 39 years. She retired in 2004 from the Jim Hogg County school district and currently teaches 6th grade science and reading. She has taught in the Hebbronville, Harlingen and Corpus Christi schools and considers her career in education a blessing and one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.

Davila devotes much of her personal time to historical-related community organizations and activities. Currently, she is a board member and secretary of the Jim Hogg County Historical Commission and an active member of the Museum Foundation of Hebbronville. Idalia has dedicated her time and effort to bringing speakers and authors to the community in order to raise awareness and appreciation of Hispanic heritage. She is involved in the preservation of historical county landmarks and the restoration of the old county jail that is the home of the Jim Hogg County Historical Museum.

She resides in Hebbronville, Texas with her husband Gilbert.  She is the mother of three grown children and has two grandchildren.

About Emilio Zamora

Zamora is a professor in the department of history and is associated with the Center of Mexican American Studies and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He specializes in Mexican American history, Texas history, and U.S. working class history.

His family has lived in what we now know as Texas since 1749. They moved to present-day Camargo, Tampaulilpas, during the Spanish colonial period.

Zamora developed a healthy work ethic early on, working in his parents’ grocery store after school and during the summers in the agricultural fields. He believes that understanding work experiences and related activities are essential in the study of history. His work demonstrates the importance of Mexican workers in U.S. history, particularly because they too have demonstrated the will to define their world on their own terms. That is, they have participated prominently in organizing and strike activity.

Zamora has authored and co-edited six books. In December 2009, Texas A&M University Press published Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II, a book about Mexican American workers in Texas during the 1940s. It is a home front study of Mexican workers in Texas, examining the experiences of the people at home during a period of war. There is little to no scholarly examination of the home front experience of workers in Texas, much less of Mexican workers in Texas.

What Zamora discovered is that Mexican activists inserted themselves into the larger hemispheric arena of Mexico-U.S. relations and used the U.S. Good Neighbor Policy to claim their rights. He also shows that the expanding war-time economy provided significant but unequal opportunities, especially for women and minority workers in Texas, to recover from the hard times of the Depression.

In his research, Zamora primarily used the archives of the Fair Employment Practice Committee, an agency established through executive order, to implement the nation’s first non-discrimination policy in employment. He also used documentary and archive materials from sources in Mexico as well as collections from the League of United Latin American Citizens and the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers.

Zamora has also joined with Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez in editing an anthology published by the University of Texas Press in November 2009 that is entitled Beyond the Latino World War II Hero: The Social and Political Legacy of a Generation. The publication includes essays by authors from throughout the country who examine the wartime experiences of Latinos and Latinas in the military and at home. All the authors use oral narratives collected by the Latino Latina World War II Oral History Project, directed by Rivas-Rodriguez at the University of Texas. Zamora’s essay in the anthology is entitled “Mexican Nationals in the U.S. Military: Diplomacy and Battlefield Sacrifice.”

He is currently working on a translation of a WWI diary by Jose de la Luz Saenz, a co-founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens. The diary, Mexican Americans and the Great War, was first published in 1933 in Spanish. It is the only known written account by a Mexican soldier and one of the few diaries written by a member of the U.S. military. This book also analogizes the war against totalitarianism with the fight for equal rights at the home front, and anticipates and announces the new and regenerated Mexican cause for equal rights that emerged during the inter-war years.

Throughout his career Zamora has brought scholarly and public attention to the difficult conditions under which Mexicans have worked and the inspiring acts of self-organization. Beyond his scholarly accomplishments, Zamora is active in the university and Mexican American communities. He also directs the East Austin Oral History Project in collaboration with the Clase magica, an after-school program for children from Sanchez and Zavala elementary schools established by the Texas Center for Education Policy at the University of Texas.

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