The University of Texas-Pan American Library has been recently awarded a $61,695 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to process the Congressional Papers of Eligio "Kika" de la Garza II, who served the 15th Congressional District of Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives for 32 years.
The award, which will run October 2010 through September 2012, was one of 88 grants totaling more than $7 million given to projects in 36 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. Of that amount, $3.5 million went to 38 archival projects.
De la Garza, who first served in the Texas State Legislature from 1952 to 1964, was a U.S. Congressman from 1965 to 1997 spanning presidential administrations from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton.
Born in Mercedes, Texas in 1927, he grew up in Mission, Texas and attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School and Mission High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 17 and served until 1946. He attended Edinburg Junior College, now The University of Texas-Pan American. De la Garza was later instrumental in Pan American University being integrated into The University of Texas System.
During his terms as U.S. Congressman, he was a founding member in 1976 of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and served as chair from 1989-1991. As chair of the Agriculture Committee from 1981-1994, de la Garza oversaw major agricultural legislation. He was also integral in the passage of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the expansion of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).
Diane Tyink, reference/instruction/archives librarian at the UTPA Library and the principal investigator of the grant, said once de la Garza's Congressional papers are processed, they will be an excellent primary source for UTPA students, faculty, scholars, historians, journalists and other researchers interested in the Rio Grande Valley's history and development from the mid-1960's through the mid-1990's.
"During de la Garza's tenure in the House, he funneled federal monies into the Lower Rio Grande Valley creating infrastructure, including roads, water and sewer development, housing, hospitals, schools and bridges, that has allowed the Valley to become a model U.S.-Mexico border community," Tyink said.
According to Tyink, the library is currently processing approximately 657 linear feet of boxes of de la Garza's archival materials, which is about the length of two football fields.
The funds will provide staff support to facilitate the processing, which includes creating a structure of organization for the papers to enable easy access by researchers and reviewing the material for content to ensure exclusion of confidential materials. Review of the material also helps in the creation of "finding aids" for use by researchers to locate relevant information in the archive either in person or online through the library's Web site. The funding will also pay for supplies such as acid-free storage folders and boxes and promotional materials once the archive is officially opened to the public.
The library has also been working with the former Congressman on his oral history. Beginning in July 2009, a series of six interviews has been conducted covering his life. Library officials hope to have the interviews available for researchers and others by December 2010. Razzaghi said the UTPA Library would welcome similar archival collections from local political, historical and artistic figures.
"I think the best way to preserve these important papers is to donate them to libraries and especially local libraries where the individual is from. I think the jewel of an academic library is its special collection and archives since it is unique and many items in one archival collection may not be available in another," she said.
For more information, contact Tyink at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 956/665-2766.