Dr Manuel Flores
Teresa Palomo Acosta has become a Tejana icon with her writing of “Tejanaland – A Writing Life in Four Acts.”
With this brilliantly written study, Acosta has emerged into one of the Lone Star State’s and nation’s significant women writers of Tejano(a)s. She has touched not only the souls of her readers of her, but also the souls and memories of brilliant Tejana authors like Jovita Gonzalez de Mireles, Sara Estela Ramirez and Elena Zamora O’Shea. Mireles, Ramirez and O’Shea comprise the troika of Tejana writers who soared above discrimination, prejudice and verbal assaults to tell the story of Texas and the Tejano(a) experience with grace and dignity. They unashamedly told the story of how the Tejano(a) – the first European setters of Texas – helped tame and settle this land.
After “Tejanaland,” we must add Acosta to the list of great Tejana writers. So, now there are four iconic Tejanas who have contributed significantly to the concept of Tejano literature and letters.
The title “Tejanaland” is a tribute to those three women writers who historically had the courage to write about themselves and the people who were not accepted in this land. But, the book is also a tribute to Acosta, who used this book as a “coming out” treatise on her knowledge of the Tejano struggle to survive and prosper in this difficult and at times foreboding land Tejanos have come to call home.
Acosta reviews the work of the legendary three in a chapter titled “Escritoras Tejanas – Serviendo la Gente/Tejana Writers Serving the People.” In it she details why these three brilliant Tejanas must be honored and treasured for their work. Perhaps the most poignant commentary is her review of O’Shea’s classic Tejano literary piece “El Mesquite.”
O’Shea chronicles the passage of time through the evolution of an ancient Mesquite tree which has seen the land evolve through the ages. It is a story of the early Spanish settlements between Nueces and Rio Grande.
Acosta asks, “Sometimes I have wondered why it is our forefathers who helped with their money, their supplies, and their own energies have been entirely forgotten?” Indeed, the early Tejana writers have all wondered why the vast expanse of territory that early Spanish and Mexican settlers helped tame in Texas is not mentioned by historians.
The story of Texas’ early settlers is not only worthy of praise, it deserves to be told with pride and sincerity so that all the people of Texas can know how Texas evolved.
With her words, Acosta has joined that magnificent group of Tejana writers who are helping tell the story eloquently, passionately and with an academic resolve to show Tejano(a)s belong.
Acosta’s contribution in the book spans three decades of her writing, from 1988 through 2018. She tells her story in four parts: poems, essays, a children’s story and plays. They all address cultural, historical, political and gender realities that she experienced from her childhood to the present.
The plays, set in the Central Texas Blackland Prairies where Acosta was raised, provide a unique Tejana vision of memory, identity and experience. Here is a quest to reinforce the power of feminist thought in Texas.
The essays focus on Acosta’s literary heroes Jovita González de Mireles, Sara Estela Ramírez and Elena Zamora O’Shea. The children’s story, “Colchas, Colchitas,” is based on Acosta’s most notable poem, “My Mother Pieced Quilts,” which pays homage to her mother de ella and the many women of her generation who employed needles and thread, creating both practical and symbolic artifacts.
“Tejanaland” is an iconic book, one that will be talked about in academic and historical circles for years. It should be part of the library of any person interested in the true story of Texas.
About the book
“Tejanaland – A Writing Life in Four Acts”
By Teresa Palomo Acosta
Texas A&M University Press College Station, Texas
Published in 2021
Available at amazon.com, Kindle $14.95, HC $22 and up. Also other websites like barnesandnoble.com and Texas A&M Press.
About the author
Teresa Palomo Acosta is cofounder and former vice president of the Ruthe Winegarten Memorial Foundation for Texas Women’s History. She is the author of many works of fiction and poetry and is coauthor of “Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History.” She lives in Austin.
This weekly column focuses on new and old books about Texas or related to Texas. It includes fiction and nonfiction books, reports on political and sports books as well as cultural or historical works. The common thread among these books is their relationship to Texas.
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