ACC history professor Dr. Andres Tijerina grew up as migrant farm worker and went on to become an award-winning author. He spoke to Accent about his experiences and achievements.
ACCENT: What inspired your passion for history and learning?
TIJERINA: Growing up as a migrant farm worker, I was part of a school system that tried to make me quit school so I wouldn’t get a degree or a diploma — but become a worker. Because I wasn’t allowed to go to school like the other children, my desire for education grew. By the time we were in the 7th grade, my siblings and I were all a grade year ahead.
ACCENT: What motivated you to write books about history and Mexican history in particular?
TIJERINA: People called us Mexicans, denied us schooling and said, “We don’t hire Mexicans.” I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t just a Mexican, but a Mexican American.
ACCENT: Tell us about your books and the process of writing them.
TIJERINA: My book on Mexican American history is titled “Tejanos & Texas Under the Mexican Flag,” and the U.S. history textbook that I coauthored with William Montgomery, “Building a Democratic Nation,” is being used in classes at ACC. It took me 10 years to write each book. I wrote late into the night on weekends and holidays for years.
ACCENT: How did it feel to be honored with the award from the American Association of State & Local history for “Tejanos & Texas Under the Mexican Flag”?
TIJERINA: It was a vindication for me. It was a victory because I had been in other lines of work. As Executive Director for the state of Texas, I was the highest ranking Mexican-American state employee at the age of 33. I left all that and become a writer, and I was wondering if I had made the right decision. When I won the awards, it proved that I made the right decision to become a writer and full-time professor.
ACCENT: You’ve worked at colleges all across Texas, why did you choose to become a part of the ACC faculty?
TIJERINA: I get to live in Austin, which has some of the richest archives in the world, and ACC gives me the support, appreciation and facilities to write books and teach. I’m very grateful for ACC.
ACCENT: If you could tell students one thing about Tejano history, what would it be?
TIJERINA: Everything that people brag about, and associate with Texas: longhorns, stallions, boots and hats… its all Mexican. But not only in the visual sense but the family values, laws and education. If it weren’t for Mexicans, Texas would be Ohio
Editor’s Note: This interview has been condensed and edited.