Dr. Ray Keck has been Texas A&M International University's president for 9 months, about 270 days. He frequently notes that the University is the lead partner in the community's continued success.
On Friday, he'll become the ceremonial president of a Republic that only existed a scant 283 days, but helped set the stage for a unique and thriving bicultural community that TAMIU calls home.
Dr. Keck will be named President of The Republic of the Rio Grande in ceremonies scheduled Friday, May 17 at 8 p.m. at San Agustin Plaza. The event, which will include a re-enactment of the 1886 skirmish between the Botas and the Guaraches, rival political groups, is part of the Webb County Heritage Foundation's celebration of Preservation Week, May 12-18.
Keck, who holds a keen fascination for local history, said he believes the community needs to celebrate its colorful history and zealously guard historical and cultural treasures here.
"When approached about accepting this presidency, I saw it as an opportunity for me to further advocate the importance of historic and cultural preservation. Laredo is blessed to be home to two great cultures and rich historic and cultural confluences. They inform all that we do. For instance, at the University, this has led to our support of programs and performance opportunities that focus on our mariachi and ballet folklorico traditions," he explained.
"While this presidency is symbolic, I would hope that it would help to encourage Laredoans and visitors alike to explore the richness that surrounds us. From San Agustin Plaza with its Republic of the Rio Grande Museum to the restored St. Peter's Historic District, Fort McIntosh and the Azteca Neighborhood -- which is listed on the National Historic Register -- our community is steeped in history. I encourage everyone to expand on their appreciation of our local history by working with the Heritage Foundation to celebrate and retain our shared history," he said.
Keck said he also hopes that greater understanding will develop regarding the potential for historic preservation to help revitalize communities.
"A perfect example is the Villa Antigua Project which is a joint project of the Heritage Foundation and the County of Webb, clearly a dynamic partnership for downtown revitalization," he said.
The Heritage Foundation has a week of festivities scheduled, including:
Monday, May 13 - Proclamation of National Historic Preservation Week, 12 noon, St. Agustin Plaza.
Tuesday, May 14 - Historical marker Unveiling, Old San Agustin School, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 15 - Founder's Day Celebration and Annual Heritage Awards, San Agustin Ballroom, La Posada Hotel, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 16 - Groundbreaking ceremony for Villa Antigua Project at 10 a.m., Thursday, May 16, 810 Zaragoza.
Friday, May 17 - Inauguration of the President of the Republic of the Rio Grande, 8 p.m., St. Agustin Plaza.
For additional information, contact the Webb County Heritage Foundation at 727.0977, visit offices at 500 Flores Avenue or click on the Foundation's web site: www.webbheritage.org