Portrait highlights one of Waco’s founders at Hispanic Heritage Arts Show

Romero's portrait of Jacob De Cordova gained a spot in the exhibit once it was confirmed that Cordova played a crucial role in the establishment of Waco. Molly Atchison | Editor in Chief

One of Waco’s many hidden artistic gems is the Art Forum, an independently owned art gallery and studio dedicated to showing local and regional art. From Sept. 14 to Sept. 29, The Art Forum of Waco hosted the Hispanic Heritage Arts Show, which displayed the work of 33 artists from Waco and the surrounding areas.

The show was curated by Monica Shannon, a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Waco and is the executive director of the Texas Fine Artists Association. Shannon, along with the owner of the Art Forum, artist Jesus Mario Rivera, brought together exactly 100 works from hispanic artists to celebrate hispanic culture and the artist’s talents. One piece in particular stood out from the crowd.

Roy de Romero painted a portrait of Jacob De Cordova, and brought it to be displayed at the forum.

“I said, ‘Roy, we don’t really do portraits, because portraits are very personal and they don’t sell,’” Shannon said. “‘Well do you know who that is?’ he said, ‘that’s Jacob De Cordova. Most people don’t know this, but he’s the founder of Waco.’”

According to the Texas State Historical Association, Jacob De Cordova was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, in 1808. De Cordova moved to the U.S. in the early 1800’s, and in 1839 he moved to Galveston, where he was elected a state representative, and accrued wealth through buying and selling land to settlers in Texas. As part of this land-acrwal, he surveyed the Brazos River Valley, where he “laid the town of Waco”

Romero and Shannon discovered that the De Cordova family has resided in Waco for decades, and that Jacob De Cordova was an immigrant from Jamaica who came and founded the city of Waco.

“He was a very wealthy man, probably the largest landowner in Texas … and yet most people don’t know who this man is,” Shannon said.

According to one of De Cordova’s descendant’s, David De Cordova, De Cordova was an incredibly influential part of Waco’s history, and his descendants feel a strong connection to Waco.

“[Jacob] De Cordova thought it was a beautiful spot for a city, right in the middle of Texas,” David De Cordova said.

David De Cordova has spent the past 20 years diving into the history of his thrice great-great-great-grandfather, and Jacob De Cordova’s influence in the cotton industry and the politics of Texas. According to David De Cordova, De Cordova descendants are currently planning a large family reunion in Waco in Fall 2019 in an attempt to bond through ancestry. However, they are not the only party involved in preserving their ancestor’s place in history.

As a representative of the hispanic community of Waco, Shannon felt that the De Cordova portrait was an important representation of hispanic history in Waco, and so on the opening day of the exhibit on Sept. 14, the Art Forum invited State representative Doc Anderson and Kyle Dever, and the two made a proclamation stating De Cordova was the father of Waco. Members of the De Cordova family were in attendance, and received these declarations with open arms.

“Being that he’s hispanic, it kind of fit in with the chamber,” Shannon said. “The Hispanic Chamber really kind of gave rebirth to it.”

Shannon and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce researched in depth with the Historic Waco Foundation and other archival services to ensure the authenticity of the De Cordova claim, and they discovered that it was the truth.

Currently, the painting is still with Romero, and it is uncertain where he will choose to show it next.

As the event comes to a close, the Art Forum will be moving to a Dia de Los Muertos exhibit, which will begin on October 31. For more information, visit their Facebook page.