I Am Texas: Modern Day Tejanas

There is a scene in the biopic Selena where Edward James Olmos’ character Abraham Quintanilla discusses how exhausting it is to be a Mexican-American. He comments that we have to be twice as perfect for Anglo-Mexican cultures to be accepted. Yet, beyond the Anglo-Mexican culture, there is a culture that has survived for over 300 years. Here is my story of how I met a fellow Tejana starting in the 1700s.

In 2014, I met Thérèse. We were part of a Facebook group for Kappa Delta Chi alumni living in the Austin area. We both lived in Pflugerville and had 2 year old boys. Fortunately, she reached out and invited me to dinner. It’s hard to make friends as a busy mom, so I’m so thankful that she was better than me at reaching out to people. My husband, son and I went to her place for a delicious meal and to meet her family.

We stayed in touch over the years and became closer friends when our sons were in the same kindergarten class. Our boys had to do a school project on their family’s heritage. When I asked what country they decided to put as their family’s home country, she said jokingly, “Texas? We both knew we were descendants of Tejanos and each has a family member who traced our Tejano lineage.

Over the years, we noticed little things that we had in common. We are both sisters from Kappa Delta Chi, both attended Girls State, both attended National Hispanic Institute programs, both grew up in South Texas, both live in Pflugerville and both have Perez as maiden name. We knew we had to be related.

She mentioned that she knew her family came from Camargo, Mexico, and ended up in Texas. I asked my dad if he could share the Perez names he had drawn. He sent me a photo of the San Jose de la Mulada Ranch Historic Marker in Starr County, South Texas. The ranch belonged to Pedro Jose Perez born around 1735, originally from… Camargo, Mexico! Thanks to the work of my father and that of Teresa’s aunt, we learned that Pedro José was our two ancestors. My family descends from his son Francisco and his family descends from his son Gregorio. Although we call ourselves the Kappa Delta Chi sisters and neighbors of Pflugerville, we can now call ourselves Primas Tejanas.

Karinna Perez Cantu is a social worker, writer and actress. She has lived in central Texas for 23 years but still considers herself a Valley Girl.

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