After 12 years of planning, Texas leaders unveiled a Capitol grounds monument on March 29 honoring Tejanos, the first Spanish and Mexican descendants who introduced many of our state’s proud traditions and culture.
This is el sueño (the dream) of McAllen family physician and TAFP member Cayetano E. Barrera III, M.D., as event emcee State Rep. Richard Peña Raymond said at the unveiling ceremony. Back in 2000, Barrera and his wife were walking the grounds of the Texas Capitol when they noticed that none of the statues or monuments recognized Hispanic contributions to the state. With his love of history and respect for genealogy, Barrera knew that the Tejano contribution was too important in the formation of Texas culture to ignore. And over the next decade, he worked as president of the Tejano Monument Committee to meet with sponsors, architects, engineers, historians, board members, legislators, and all other necessary contacts to raise support and funding for the monument.
The final product is a grand tribute to the Tejano contribution. It features 11 life-size bronzed statues mounted on slabs of pink granite: a vaquero on horseback corralling two longhorns, a Tejano couple with a baby, a young girl, a boy leading a goat, and an explorer gazing over the whole scene.
I had the great honor to spend time with Dr. Barrera and his family in February 2006 when I traveled to McAllen to interview him for a profile in our magazine – he was recognized as TAFP’s Texas Family Physician of the Year in 2005. I had only been working for the Academy for two months and this was my first official business trip. (As a bright-eyed 21-year-old, I even had to assure them at a big family dinner that I was old enough to have a glass of wine.)
Yellow legal pad in hand, I scribbled pages of notes on his practice, family life, and community involvement, blown away that one person could do so much. He explained with deep reverence the history of the land, his family’s ranch, and the culture of the area. He told me about his trip to the Capitol in 2000 and his work with the Tejano Monument Committee. And we traveled to Laredo to visit with sculptor Armando Hinojosa who at that time was working to translate the small-scale clay models of the Tejano monument to life-size wax figures that would later be bronzed.
As I made the long drive back to Austin from McAllen, I remember the feeling of awe and respect I had for Dr. Barrera for his ability to balance his family life and a busy practice, and his commitment to his community and the state.
Since then I’ve experienced a similar feeling of awe with each of the Physicians of the Year I’ve been privileged to profile, as well as the family physicians I get to know through different TAFP conferences and events. To me is what’s special about the specialty and our members – family physicians are uniquely bound to the communities they serve and often take on great responsibilities and causes that fall outside of their traditional practices but that benefit their patients and the larger population and show their diverse interests.
For Dr. Barrera, what was once a dream is now a reality. Congratulations on this great achievement!