SALSA names Mejicano Trailblazers, dedicates Family Trees

Staff Writer
Brownwood Bulletin
Three $1,000 scholarships were presented to Howard Payne University students during Saturday's ceremony at Wiggins Park dedicating Family Memorial Trees and honoring the first Mejicano Trailblazers of Brownwood Award winners. Scholarship recipients, from left, are Elena Standridge of San Antonio, Elizabeth Benn of San Antonio, and Melinda Mendoza of Houston.

Five Mejicano Trailblazers of Brownwood were recognized, and 39 Family Memorial Trees were dedicated Saturday in Wiggins Park during what is expected to be an annual event held by the Strategic Alliance for Leadership and Social Action (SALSA).

The Trailblazers honored are members of the first generation of Mexican-American families who settled in Brownwood. They are as follows:

• Lt. Col. Oswaldo Guarnero, Brownwood Junior and Senior High School and Howard Payne College track star in the 1930s.

• Antonio Hernandez, the first Mexican basketball player at Howard Payne in 1954.

• Raul Balderrama, 1-mile record holder at Brownwood High in 1957.

• Jane Andrade, honor student and Miss Brown County in 1959.

• Dr. Jose Rivas, Howard Payne professor of Greek and first Mexican in Texas to earn a doctoral degree in religious education.

“Just as others paved the way forward for us, we want to pave the way for even more,” said Dr. Juan Andrade Jr., SALSA organizer and Brownwood native who is president of the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute in Chicago. “We want to give back to the community.”

Andrade, who expressed gratitude to the families who donated trees and to the Brownwood municipal officials in attendance, was assisted in the presentation of Trailblazers Awards by SALSA official Raul Garcia. Garcia said the trees were planted in appreciation of the values and work ethic of the first generation of settlers.

The outdoor ceremony — for which chairs were separated by six-feet and face coverings were required — featured remarks by Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes, the presentation of three $1,000 scholarships to current Howard Payne University students, and a reading of the names of families who donated the 39 memorial trees planted around Wiggins Park earlier this year.

Mayor Haynes thanked the crowd that had gathered on a foggy morning, saying that their “attendance means a great deal. Your presence, your smiling faces, they really do matter.

“As city government looks around our city, every day we find ourselves with more needs than we have the financial resources to address them. Every day we try to allocate the funds of the city and the tax dollars paid by working citizens like you in a way that we know they will be well-utilized. So, as we look out this morning and see you participating, I am encouraged to know that the money that has been spent, and will be spent, in this park will be utilized for generations and generations to come,” Haynes said.

“About four or six years ago, we started the process of trying to refurbish our parks. This park, like so many of our others, had seen no updates since the 1960s or 1970s.”

Haynes listed a variety of projects recently completed across the city at other parks including splash pads and skate parks, along with enhancements at Riverside Park. “I’m pleased to say that now we’ve done some things at Wiggins Park, with much more to come.” He noted that the Brownwood Municipal Development District has set aside $50,000 for improvements at Wiggins Park.

“We will work with Dr. Andrade and others to find the very best ways to use those funds,” Haynes said as the audience erupted in applause.

Haynes read a proclamation declaring October 10 as Memorial Tree Dedication Day at Wiggins Park, saying that while the participation of so many at the event is meaningful, the donation of funds to plant the trees indicates the community’s willingness to be a partner with the city in the improvements.

“People take pride in where they spend their money, so it tells us that you will take pride in the improvements to this park,” Haynes said. “That’s meaningful, and I assure you, it helps us in investing in these facilities.”

The proclamation saluted the first families of Mexican descent who settled in Brownwood almost a century ago, exemplifying family values and a strong work ethic and going on to excel in pursuits of academia, education, media, military, music, law, civic engagement, social policy, health, medicine, science, railroad, grain storage, meat packing, manufacturing and many other industries — contributing to the quality of life and economy of the community.

“Thank you for all you’ve done for the City of Brownwood, and particularly for the beautification here at Wiggins Park,” Haynes concluded.

Andrade praised City Council member Draco Miller for being at the forefront of the effort to make improvements to the park, which is in his Ward 4. Miller was unable to attend Saturday’s event.

“I hope you will take a moment to thank him for his support,” Andrade said.

Andrade also thanked the mayor and Brownwood City Manager Emily Crawford, who was present, for being supportive of SALSA’s efforts. City council members H.D. Jones from Ward 1 and Ed McMillian from Ward 2 also attended.

Mexican-Americans comprised 28.5 percent of the Brownwood population in the 2010 Census, Andrade said, and he expects that the percentage will be even higher when results of the 2020 Census are made available. To ensure a valid count, a booth was available where residents who have not completed a Census form this year could do so.

During the ceremony, Andrade and Garcia presented three $1,000 scholarships to Howard Payne University students Elena Standridge of San Antonio, Elizabeth Benn of San Antonio, and Melinda Mendoza of Houston.

Tree memorials were donated in the names of Hilario and Petra Aguirre, Alonzo Wayne Aguirre, Santos and Aurora Aguirre, Juan Andrade Sr. and Julia, Daniel and Bennie Andrade, Zenaldo and Petra Comacho, Aristeo Cardenas, Herminia Cardenas, La Familia Cardenas (past, present, and future), Jose and Elvira Cardenas, Andres and Juanita Cardenas, Raymond Cardenas, Phillip and Rachel Contreras, Frank and Dominga Costilla, Johnny DeAnda, Guy Diaz Sr. and Margarita, Frank (Pancho) Escobedo, Olga Cantu Garcia, Santiago and Antonia Garcia, Ascension and Petra Gonzales, Teodoro and Sarah Gomez, Victoria Guzman, Los Siete de La Raza, Adolfo and Ofilia Martinez, Juan Perez, Martin B. and Maria M. Perez, Refugio Perez, Dan and Eulogia Ramos, Ramiro and Lola Perez, Andrea Romero, Esteban and Ester Romero, Thomas and Lorene Romero, Kelly Salazar Sr. and Irene, Juan and Rafaela Salazar, Refugia Sauceda, Roman Sauceda, Isabel and Jesusa Torrez, Jessie and Lucy Torrez, and Alvino and Maria Valadez.

Permanent markers in concrete are placed at each tree.