EDINBURG — Francisco Guajardo is passionate about the history of the Rio Grande Valley.
There is an excitement that overcomes him as he speaks to Jerry and Janet McVey of Donovan, Illinois, about the early pioneers of South Texas.
He stands before a display on the second floor of the Museum of South Texas History in front of a quote by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the Spanish explorer who is the first European to see and document the Rio Grande River.
The quote comes from de Vaca’s published account, “Relación,” about his experiences from 1528-1536 when he explored North America.
In “Relación,” de Vaca mentions the native people of South Texas, saying, “These people love their offspring the most of any in the world, and treat them with greatest mildness.”
Guajardo, chief executive officer of the museum, believes that the quote perfectly captures the spirit of the people of the Valley.
Jerry and Janet appear to agree with Guajardo.
The Illinois couple were visiting the Museum of South Texas History on Saturday morning for the 30th annual Pioneer and Ranching Crafts Day, an event that featured music, food, demonstrators in costume and living history demonstrations.
“It’s a good way to connect what I think is historical about this region with an understanding of how we are today,” said Guajardo. “In many ways, it is an event that is a bridge event — a bridge to the past. A bridge where people can celebrate themselves, who they are as historical beings and who they are as people from the Valley, or who they are as visitors who may try to find a deeper understanding of this place that they visit. We bring out the arts. We bring out the historical artifacts. We bring out the galleries and the museum.”
Among the artifacts on display were guns and rifles dating back to the Texas Revolution and the Civil War.
Don Drefke of McAllen describes himself as a Texas history aficionado. Dressed in Civil War garb, he shared his knowledge and love of his historical gun collection with visitors to the museum.
“I’m just trying to present this old but of history for people,” said Drefke, who has also volunteered at the Palo Alto Battlefield for roughly 10 years. “Lots of people are interested in guns. I’ve been doing this for about 20 to 30 years at least. I come every year. It’s a good event.”
Ann and John Giovanazzi of Grandview, Iowa, attended the event dressed as Buffalo Bill and Louisa Cody.
“We do reenactments here in the Valley when we’re here for the winter. We also do them in Le Claire, Iowa in the spring and the summer,” said Ann, who said it was her second time attending the event.. “We’re just here volunteering here today for the museum and kind of floating around and talking with people about history and Buffalo Bill’s life and what it was like in pioneer days.”
“I hope (visitors) get a lot of the education and learn some new things, and kind of get interested in some stuff that happened in their past and how fun it is to relive that,” Ann continued.
Steve Stark of Winterset, Iowa said that he heard about the museum from some friends, and he decided to finally visit the museum when he found out about the event.
“I’m not a history aficionado, but the older I get, the more interesting it is,” Stark said.
It is this growing interest in history that Gutierrez hopes to share with visitors to his museum.
“I hope people take away a greater sense of humanity,” Gutierrez said. “That is to say, how is it that people here have been humane and good and productive? How is it that people here have a history, have stories to tell? Stories of, on one hand struggle, but also perseverance and triumph. It’s a good people. These are hardworking people who love their offspring and treat them with greatest mildness. This is what we’re about.”