South Texas has grown drastically over the years and continues to grow with the help of women.
For many years, women have not been recognized for their contributions but it has recently been proved that women are no longer behind the crowds of men and have stepped forward to be seen.
Texas A&M University – Kingsville (TAMUK) received an addition to its art collection last Thursday, a mural in dedication to women who have impacted South Texas.
The mural was painted by Dr. Arnold Gonzales, Texas A&I alumnus, and named Mujeres A Traves Del Tiempo, spanish for “Women across time.”
The mural, which took three years to complete, was made in four pieces that make up an 8-feet tall, 16-feet wide mural with 16 women that have made history in South Texas.
The women vary from educators, politicians, artists, philanthropists, an ambassador to Great Britain, aninternationally-known music star, and a traditional soldadera from the Mexican Revolution.
The women in the mural include Merideth Leigh Howard, Helen Campbell Kleberg, Dr. Clotilde P. Garcia, Henrietta Maria Morse Chamberlain King, Petra Vela de Vidal Kenedy, Frances Tarlton “Sissy” Farenthld, Sarita Kenedy East, Irma Lerma Rangel, Jovita Gonzalez de Mireles, Juliet V. Garcia, Mary Alice Gonzales, Anne Armstrong, Selena Quintanilla Perez and Carmen Lomas Garza.
The mural clearly shows “women across time” as it depicts the women between a 19th century woman at the left and a 21st century woman at the right, symbolizing the time between centuries.
The university was painted in the background, reflecting the role the university played in educating the area.
TAMUK held a reception on March 27 for the unveiling of the mural which included words by the president of TAMUK Dr. Steven Tallant, Dr. Terisa C. Riley, Sissy Farenthold, and the artist Dr. Arnold Gonzales.
Tallant said he is proud to have the mural on campus and hopes the mural will inspire students to “see what they can become and what they can do with their lives as they read the stories about these women and the impact they had on society in South Texas.”
“It’s more than just covering a wall with beautiful women, it tells a story,” Tallant said.
“This [was] a very special day in everyone’s life and my life. This has been a dream of mine, through others, for the last few years. I think this group represents the broad array of what they did,” Tallant said.
Riley, senior vice-president for fiscal and student affairs at TAMUK, said “We are absolutely thrilled to have this mural on our campus. It will remain on display permanently so that our students will have these women to look at as role models and learn more about women in south Texas.”
“Those women paved the way for us and the mural is an incredibly powerful symbol of that for everyone, “Riley said.
Farenthold, one of the women featured in the mural, shared her remarks at the reception.
Farenthold said she has looked forward to the occasion and shared memories of her life in South Texas including boycotts and how women were degraded in her time.
“I hope the mural will encourage young men and women to wonder about the stories and to find out what happened,” she said.
When the artist spoke of the mural, Gonzales told the story of how the artwork came to be and thanked Tallant for giving him the freedom of choosing the theme of the painting.
He said the idea started with TAMUK art professor Dr. Wissinger proposed the idea of a mural on campus and strongly suggested Gonzales for the job.
“I painted [the mural] because I believe that women should no longer be footnotes in the history books of Texas or any book,” he said.
“It is my hope that all individuals, young and old, women or men, when viewing this mural will take the initiative to research the contributions made by women like the ones on the mural,” Gonzales said.
He recognized the women in his family and as he closed his remarks, the audience felt the emotion while he dedicated the mural to his mother and wife and described the women as “my life.”
After the mural was unveiled, plaques were given to the women in the mural and the families of the women that were accepting on their behalf.
Mary Alice Gonzales, educator featured in the mural, said she feels honored to be featured on the mural. “It’s a part of history and to me it’s important to encourage other young women to go into education. There is so much to be done,” she said.
Rhiley Farenthold, grandchild of Sissy Farenthold, said she felt proud that her grandmother was included in the mural. “There are no words to describe how it feels. She is a remarkable woman appreciated by many and it’s great to see that first hand,” she said.
Dr. Tallant recognized Dr. Juliet V. Garcia, one of the women featured on the mural who was not able to attend, was announced that day, by the white house, one of the “top 40 Hispanic educators in America.”
Facilities Management was responsible for the frame and screen that protects the mural and improved sound system in the ballroom where the unveiling took place.
The mural will remain in the ballroom permanently for everyone to see and bronze plaques will go up to show the names of the women in the mural.