State Rolls Out Hispanic Heritage Tourism Guide

Everybody who knows Texas history knows the state's story begins with Spain almost 500 years ago.

"We've had Spanish explorers from the 1500s, and then we have the Spanish and French battling it out essentially for what is now the state of Texas into the 1700s,” Brad Patterson with the Texas Historical Commission said.

In the 1990s, the state created the Texas Heritage Trails, an effort to get visitors on the road to learn about Texas' past. Now for the first time, it's specifically highlighting how Latinos shaped the state we know today.

"The Tejano heritage in Texas can be seen in all aspects of our culture,” Patterson said. “It's in the names of our places; it's in the architecture."

Laura Esparza oversees the Emma S Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, just one of more than 100 sites singled out as important to the Tejano culture.

"I think this really helps all of us that are cultural workers to make sure that the stories are being told and being told right,” Esparza said.

Heritage tourism is a big moneymaker, raking in $2.2 billion in spending and making up about 10 percent of all travel in the state each year. That could be a big boon to heritage sites like Esparza's.

"I know that it will bring in more visitors to the MAC and to important historical sites all over the state, and that thrills me. I just think that that is so important that visitors get out and see all the incredible riches that our state holds,” Esparza said.

With a growing Latino population, historians hope the focus on Hispanic heritage will not only bring out more visitors but also give all Texans a deeper understanding of how the state became what it is today.

The Hispanic heritage guide could be the last big tourism push from the Texas Heritage Trails program. As of now, state lawmakers have not set aside funding for the program past this summer.

If you'd like a copy of the Hispanic heritage guide, you can order one online or download an electronic copy for free at TexasTimeTravel.com.