By Helena Hunt, Staff Writer
The Waco Hispanic Museum, created to celebrate Waco’s Hispanic heritage, is set to open by the end of this year. One of the final fundraising events took place Saturday, securing additional funding for the museum’s completion.
City councilwoman Alice Rodriguez introduced the idea for the museum to the city of Waco in 2012. The city supported the initiative and offered a space at 2815 Speight Ave. to house the museum.
It will celebrate a piece of Waco history that is often overlooked, said Louis Garcia, chairman of the Waco Hispanic Museum.
“The museum is an acknowledgment that we [the Hispanic community] exist here, that we helped Waco build and grow,” Garcia said.
The museum aims to bring back this forgotten side of Waco, Garcia said. It will showcase communities such as Sandtown, which occupied a part of Baylor’s campus from the late 1800s to the time it was vacated by urban renewal projects in the 1950s.
“There were several pockets of Hispanic communities here in Waco. going all the way back to what is now Baylor campus, Second Street and River Street,” Rodriguez said.
Garcia, Rodriguez and others have been collecting materials from local families that will help bring this history to light. They plan on featuring Waco’s foremost Hispanic families in a six-month rotating exhibit at the museum. Individuals such as Waco’s first Hispanic nurse, pilot and Baylor graduate will be commemorated in the museum as well.
All of the articles, photographs, and documentation that will form the museum’s collection has been donated by local families who are eager to see their ancestors recognized. The funding for the display cases, frames and preservation materials has been donated to the museum as well.
While Garcia and other members of the board are preparing to open the permanent location on Speight, they have displayed a popular temporary exhibit in the Historic Waco Foundation’s Fort House at 503 S. Fourth St.
El Paso master’s candidate Alyssa Chavira saw the temporary exhibit during her internship for the Historic Waco Foundation.
“It was really interesting,” Chavira said. “There’s a lot of history, and it goes back to the founding of Texas and the founding of Waco. I didn’t know the Hispanic history of Waco went back that far.”
Garcia said he hopes the museum will educate others on Waco’s history as well.
“We want to acknowledge that it was something that existed, the difficulties and hardships that we’ve had,” Garcia said.
The museum will not only educate Waco newcomers like Chavira. It will also allow the members of these Hispanic families to see themselves remembered by the city they call home.
“There’s a lot of families that have been here for a long, long time,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to bring back a lot of memories for some folks.”