Historic Guerrero Viejo Collection Donated to A&M International

A collection of historical color photographs of Guerrero Viejo, Mexico has been donated to Texas A&M International University by Dr. Raul and Mrs. Anne Vela.

The collection includes eight large matted and framed color photographs taken by Dr. Heriberto Sánchez in the 1950s. They show Guerrero Viejo as a bustling community before the city was swallowed by the waters of Falcon Dam, and Guerrero Viejo inundated, abandoned, and nearly forgotten. Among the scenes captured in the collection are the city's suspension bridge, theatre, school, the Plaza Vicente Guerrero; and the interior and exterior of the city's church, "Nuestra Sra. del Refugio."

Dr. Charles Jennett, president of A&M International, expressed his gratitude to the Velas for their generous donation. He said the historic collection will be an invaluable record for generations to come.

"It is a priceless addition to our special collection and will be an important part of our growing border history holdings," noted Dr. Jennett.

Dr. Carlos E. Cuéllar, Assistant Professor of History at A&M International, helped to coordinate the collection's transfer to the University. He said the Guerrero Viejo Collection provides a visual memorial of the historic colonial town.

"The bulk of these remarkable photographs were taken at the height of the town's existence just before the building of Falcon Dam. Had it not been for these photographs, those images, like the city itself, would have been lost. We are extremely grateful that Dr. Raul and Mrs. Anne Vela have selected A&M International as the new home for their wonderful collection of pictures of Guerrero Viejo," said Dr. Cuéllar.

Founded in 1750, Guerrero became one of the principal cultural and trade centers of northern Mexico and southern Texas by the 19th century. But the city's influence began to wane in the late 1880s after the railroad bypassed it in favor of Nuevo Laredo. The Mexican Revolution further weaken the city in the early 1900s. Still, Guerrero managed to survive until 1954 when the construction of Falcon Dam necessitated the submersion of the city beneath the waters of the man-made reservoir.

"The rising waters forced the remaining residents of that proud community to relocate. Some moved to Guerrero Nuevo, a community established for displaced residents. Others moved to Nuevo Laredo, Laredo, and Zapata," said Cuéllar.

Over the decades, a handful of tenacious Guerrero Viejo residents and their descendants kept watch over the sunken city, a task made easier in recent years as declining water levels exposed the crumbling community once again.

"Today, the ghost of the former vibrant community still stands as mute testimony to the remarkable resilience of a proud, pioneering people," said Cuéllar.

Persons who wish to view the Guerrero Viejo Collection are invited to visit the University's Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, where the collection is displayed on the second floor. The collection may also be viewed on the University's Home Page on the World Wide Web at http://www.tamiu.edu. From the pull-down menu on the "Killam Library" button, select "Information and Services" then select "Special Collections."

Dr. Cuéllar said he hopes the remarkable collection will spark others to make their memories and photographs available to this University.

"This is only the beginning of a great collection of memorabilia on the life and culture of this historical region. The University welcomes any similar collection relevant to the history of Guerrero Viejo, the City of Laredo, and South Texas," he said.

For more information, contact Dr. Cuéllar at 326-2626 or the University's Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at 326-2180.

University office hours are from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday - Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu