An intimate group of 15 gathered at the San Antonio Central Library Saturday morning for the introductory meeting to the San Antonio Heritage Workshop series.
Though not officially partnered with the Tricentennial Celebration Commission, The San Antonio Living History Association hosted the meeting and provided information to attendees about the coming four heritage workshops, which will take place May through August, at the Institute of Texan Cultures Auditorium.
The meeting aimed to gather artists, historians, and members of various heritage groups to discuss plans for the cultural and historical presentations, that will take place during the City’s Tricentennial Celebrations in 2018.
“We hope to have more meetings like today’s to see how we, as different organizations, can support each other,” said Phillip De La Peña, vice president of the Living History Association.
The presentations will feature visual art as well as artifacts exhibitions, with a strong focus on living history reenactments.
Bob Benavides, chair for the Living History Association, stressed that the reenactments would play a key role to providing visitors with an accurate and informative portrayal of San Antonio’s 300-year-old history.
“Anyone could give historical information in regular clothes,” he said, “But when you’re dressed up in a historical persona delivering that information, you become an expert. People, and kids, will listen to you.”
In attendance Saturday morning were members of various cultural groups such as The Canary Islands Descendants Association, as well as descendants of Texans who fought in several battles in the San Antonio area.
The Living History Association is partnering with Colectiva and the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures to host future workshops that will provide tools and educational opportunities for attendees to accurately present their respective portion of history and culture to the City’s residents and visitors in 2018.
The group as a whole, De La Peña said, is hoping for a variety of cultures and heritages to be presented.
“We all represent 300 years of history in San Antonio,” he said.
The second workshop, “Methods and Techniques of Historical and Cultural Interpretation,” will be hosted by the Institute of Texan Cultures and will help participants develop techniques for interpreting historical artifacts and presenting that information effectively. The workshop will take place on Saturday, May 14 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Joel Settles, Colectiva member and director of performing arts at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, said he is looking forward to working with groups on acting skills at the third workshop, “Acting Methods and Techniques,” to help bring the city’s history to life.
“Our mission is to tell the stories as best as we can so the audience can walk away with the real experience of that historical event,” he said.
The Colectiva-led workshop will be held on Saturday, June 25 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The final two workshops will be hosted by the Living History Association, and will guide participants in researching and developing a historical persona, as well as the opportunity to construct accurate historical clothing for their presentations.
De La Peña said fully committing to a historical persona, down to the clothing, is critical since the dress is a person’s “first glimpse into the interpretation.”
Though they are open to any suggestions for Tricentennial celebrations, the Living History Association has proposed to focus on four eras in San Antonio history: Spanish Colonial, Mexican, Revolutionary, and early statehood.
Hilario De La Peña, president of the Living History Association, said above all, accuracy is perhaps the most important aspect of the living history presentations.
“We are ambassadors of the city wherever we’re going to be presenting,” he said. “It is incumbent on us to impart to the public accurate historical interpretations. We want (visitors) to go away with factual information, not opinions.”
The meeting concluded with a tour of the library’s Texana/Genealogy department, but not before Vice President De La Peña shared with the group the importance of coming together and sharing San Antonio’s history, especially with young children.
“As a child, seeing the Battle of the Alamo presentation made me fall in love with San Antonio history,” he said. “Your presentations can make a difference.”
For more information on future workshops, call 210-273-1730 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Top Image: President of the Canary Islands Descendants Association Mari Tamez (right) talks with a workshop attendee. Photo by Camille Garcia.