Dr. Carlos Cuéllar, assistant professor of history at Texas A&M International University (photo), will hold a book signing reception to present his newly published book, "Stories from the Barrio: A History of Mexican Fort Worth" Tuesday, June 3, from 6-8 p.m. in the Student Center Rotunda.
His book is a landmark research piece and an attempt to trace back the history of the Mexican community in Fort Worth, Texas back to 1880, when many families moved to that city from Mexico and other parts of Texas in search of a better life.
Originally a research project for Cuéllar's doctoral dissertation, the book emerged from the scholar's astonishment at how little historical documentation was previously available concerning the rise of the fastest-growing ethnic minority group in Fort Worth.
"Even though 20 percent of the population of Fort Worth is Mexican American, I found that no one had done their history," Cuéllar said, "I investigated Forth Worth history books and none of the books included even the word 'Mexican'. My goal was simply to take a previously ahistoric people and make them very visible, and show that their contributions to Fort Worth were important to the growth of that city."
Relying on Census data, city directory entries, newspaper articles and hundreds of residents he met along the way, Cuéllar records the early history of Forth Worth and of the generations that followed the early Mexican immigrants that made Cowtown their home.
Starting from the earliest barrios that have now expanded to historically white neighborhoods, Cuéllar's book is a seamless collage of realities experienced by those who saw everything including the clash between traditional Mexican and American values, the rise of the entrepreneurial class among Mexican Americans, the Chicano movement and the aspirations by Mexican Americans to public office.
Through the help of a church secretary named Hope Ayala, Cuéllar met a multitude of residents who opened their homes and hearts to share their stories for his book. As a result, he said he experienced the power of oral history in recounting the past.
"I realized the importance of oral history and the importance of school children asking about their parents' lives because once they are gone, those stories are gone forever," Cuéllar said, "If anything, I would like this book to demonstrate that people need to be more aware of their family's history and roots and to promote a desire to investigate their roots."
Cuéllar said he hopes the residents who helped bring the project to fruition will receive the book with open arms.
"I hope that people from Fort Worth will rejoice and be happy that someone finally acknowledged the contribution and experience of their lives. It's a previously untold story that I think will be a rich story," he said.
He also said he hopes his work will encourage further research on the area.
" I think this is a start and hopefully, it'll spur more people to do similar work," he said, "I hope this will be a tip of the iceberg and that more of the iceberg will be uncovered.
For further information on Cuéllar's book, please contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at 326-2180, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit offices located in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 268.
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