The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, in collaboration with writer, journalist and documentarian John Phillip Santos, has published a new podcast, “Becoming Texas,” that challenges the dominant stories of Texas’s historical narrative and shines a light on the role Tejanos played, post-1836, after the state won its independence from Mexico.
Santos has served as a distinguished senior lecturer in the UTSA Honors College since 2010 and holds an honorary title of Distinguished Professor of Mestizo Cultural Studies. “Becoming Texas” grew out of an Honors College class project in which Santos challenged his students to look past myths perpetuated in movies, folklore, textbooks and accepted narratives to find more complete stories of Texas, particularly focusing on Tejanos—Texans of Mexican heritage—who lived north of the Rio Grande.
“The Institute of Texan Cultures has a long history of presenting stories beyond what we get in textbooks or movies,” Santos said. “Thanks to the ITC’s involvement, this new podcast will take numerous untold stories beyond the classroom and into the digital realm where the San Antonio community can find them.”
Santos explored a wealth of content from his honors students as he pieced the podcast together. Among the findings that caught his attention was student Christian Montano’s research into corridos or Mexican ballads. During the podcast, Montano discusses the topic with musician and educator Juan Tejeda, who explains how music was a medium to record and distribute information. Santos also included details from student Joshua Wilson, who discusses State Representative J. T. Canales’ 1918 and 1919 investigations that revealed Texas Rangers as the culprits in massacres of Mexican Americans.
In other parts of the podcast, Santos draws on his colleagues in Tejano studies, including the “Refusing to Forget Project,” a collective of scholars formed at the 2014 National Association of Chicano Chicana Studies Tejano Foco (Texan Focus) conference. Those conversations describe lynching tactics, land theft, state-sanctioned violence against Tejanos and oral histories which refute official accounts made by predominantly Anglo Texas Rangers and other law enforcement officers.
“History is a difficult topic, filled with conflict, not just wars, conflicts of perspectives and stories,” said Veronica Rodriguez, who served as ITC interim head curator when the project was initiated. “The podcast will inform some, inspire others and confirm what many have discussed at the dinner table, at historical meetings and on front porches. This was a worthy undertaking, and exactly continues the purpose ITC was created for.”
“Becoming Texas” resulted in a thought-provoking podcast that gave students a chance to work on a project they could add to their resumes. This exemplifies the goal of the university’s Classroom to Career initiative, which charges instructors with providing real-world experience and an understanding of how a student’s work could impact the community.
The UTSA Honors College is an exemplar of classroom-to-career learning. Home to roughly 2,000 hardworking, achievement-oriented, conscientious students across all majors, the Honors College offers one of the most unique experiential honors curricula in the nation, combining experience-based coursework with learning outside of the classroom in a way that is highly customized to meet each student’s goals.