October 11, 2023 700 PM
ALPINE — On September 29, the Alpine Historical Association — alongside theatre students from Sul Ross’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts — hosted their first Hispanic Heritage Symposium at the historic Granada Theatre. The event was an effort to bring voices from Alpine’s Mexican American past to a wider audience by bringing folks together across the generational divide.
Sul Ross qualifies as a Designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, a title given to schools with at least a quarter of their student body identifying as Hispanic or Latino. The university’s host town of Alpine has also borne witness to a diverse past: in its early days, the town was split racially by the railroad tracks, and the south side was home to its Mexican community.
The south side of town was also home to the Centennial School, a segregated school for Mexican American children in grades one through eight that operated from 1936 to 1969.
Saul Garza — a Sul Ross alumnus and a member of the Alpine Historical Association — had the idea to bring the event to the big stage. His family came to Alpine during the Mexican Revolution — all his life, he had taken an interest in learning about his community’s past. “The south side was like a big family,” he said.
In order to bring that past alive, Garza — along with fellow historical association members Abbey Branch and Marjie Scott — harnessed the energy and talent of the Sul Ross Theatre Department.
The trio already had experience blending performance and history: in 2021, the historical association launched a series of ghost tours highlighting the Big Bend region’s storied history and rich folklore tradition, with proceeds going to fund scholarships for Sul Ross theatre students. “Collaborating with the theatre department made it fun,” Garza explained. “We thought: what would attract tourists to learn a little bit more about Alpine?”
They brought the same spirit to the symposium, where Sul Ross theatre students and Mexican American Alpine residents of older generations engaged in a Q&A. Attendees mingled before the event with free refreshments while they were serenaded with traditional Mexican tunes before filing into the theater, where students posed a series of interview questions to the older panelists.
Garza hoped that the event would become an annual fixture, with the goal of supporting Alpine’s historic Hispanic past — and its future, by getting students to engage with their school and their community. His philosophy is simple. “No matter what you do, make sure you come back and support where you got your education,” he said.