Remember the Alamo (Documents)

Remember the Alamo (Documents)
University of Texas, Bexar County spar over Hispanic archives

AUSTIN, Texas — It’s not the battle of the Alamo. But one San Antonio official is waging a modern-day war of words in his efforts to retrieve historic Spanish and Mexican documents returned to San Antonio.
At issue is a collection of priceless Hispanic documents that currently is housed at the University of Texas at Austin. The materials detail Southwestern life between the early 1700s and 1836 — the year Texas lost the famous San Antonio mission fort but won its independence.
Gerry Rickhoff, the county clerk in Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, wants the university to hand over the collection, some 250,000 to 300,000 pages. He and others contend the school has not been active as a good archive steward.
“These records don’t have a voice,” Rickhoff says of the Spanish Archives, as the collection is called. “I am the voice for these records … I want them back. And I’ll go to whatever measures it takes.”
At one point during the heated back-and-forth, Rickhoff fumed that he might have to travel to Austin and “come and take it.”
Bexar County turned the documents over to the university for preservation and translation 100 years ago. University officials contend they have taken good care of the archive and have told Bexar County officials the collection will not be moved.
“These are documents that are critical to the state of Texas, and we feel that what’s best for the state of Texas is that they remain here,” says Dr. Patricia Ohlendorf, the university’s vice president for administration and legal affairs.
Ohlendorf says university administrators will continue to hold discussions with Bexar County officials regarding the documents, and in the meantime, will provide Rickhoff with microfilm copies of the archives.
The Mexican government abandoned the archives in Bexar County in 1836. Written by Spanish-speaking priests, diplomats, military officials and others, the papers detail the cultural and political history of Texas’ vast Bexar district, which encompassed more than 100 present-day counties.
In 1899, Bexar County commissioners asked the university to take custody of the documents. The school since has built its Texas history collection around those records, which refer to such famous characters as Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett.
But 100 years later, just 14 percent of the documents have been translated, Rickhoff complains. He says with one person translating the collection part time, the job would take about 200 years and violate the county’s deal with the university.
Don Carleton, director of the Center for American History, says that translating the collection isn’t as simple as it sounds. When the university received the documents, he says, they were in such disarray that it took years to organize the pages enough to even create an index for the collection.
The translating has been going on steadily since the 1930s, he says. But Carleton couldn’t predict how much longer it would take, although he says he is willing to work with Bexar County officials to pick up the pace.      nAUSTIN, Texas — It’s not the battle of the Alamo. But one San Antonio official is waging a modern-day war of words in his efforts to retrieve historic Spanish and Mexican documents returned to San Antonio.
At issue is a collection of priceless Hispanic documents that currently is housed at the University of Texas at Austin. The materials detail Southwestern life between the early 1700s and 1836 — the year Texas lost the famous San Antonio mission fort but won its independence.
Gerry Rickhoff, the county clerk in Bexar County, where San Antonio is located, wants the university to hand over the collection, some 250,000 to 300,000 pages. He and others contend the school has not been active as a good archive steward.
“These records don’t have a voice,” Rickhoff says of the Spanish Archives, as the collection is called. “I am the voice for these records … I want them back. And I’ll go to whatever measures it takes.”
At one point during the heated back-and-forth, Rickhoff fumed that he might have to travel to Austin and “come and take it.”
Bexar County turned the documents over to the university for preservation and translation 100 years ago. University officials contend they have taken good care of the archive and have told Bexar County officials the collection will not be moved.
“These are documents that are critical to the state of Texas, and we feel that what’s best for the state of Texas is that they remain here,” says Dr. Patricia Ohlendorf, the university’s vice president for administration and legal affairs.
Ohlendorf says university administrators will continue to hold discussions with Bexar County officials regarding the documents, and in the meantime, will provide Rickhoff with microfilm copies of the archives.
The Mexican government abandoned the archives in Bexar County in 1836. Written by Spanish-speaking priests, diplomats, military officials and others, the papers detail the cultural and political history of Texas’ vast Bexar district, which encompassed more than 100 present-day counties.
In 1899, Bexar County commissioners asked the university to take custody of the documents. The school since has built its Texas history collection around those records, which refer to such famous characters as Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett.
But 100 years later, just 14 percent of the documents have been translated, Rickhoff complains. He says with one person translating the collection part time, the job would take about 200 years and violate the county’s deal with the university.
Don Carleton, director of the Center for American History, says that translating the collection isn’t as simple as it sounds. When the university received the documents, he says, they were in such disarray that it took years to organize the pages enough to even create an index for the collection.
The translating has been going on steadily since the 1930s, he says. But Carleton couldn’t predict how much longer it would take, although he says he is willing to work with Bexar County officials to pick up the pace.     



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