Modern Day Tejanas

The Texas Story Project.

There’s a scene in the biopic Selena where Edward James Olmos’ character, Abraham Quintanilla, discusses how exhausting it is to be a Mexican-American. He comments that we have to be twice as perfect for Anglo and Mexican cultures to be accepted. Yet, beyond the Anglo and Mexican culture is a culture that has survived for over 300 years. This is my story of how I met a fellow Tejana that starts in the 1700s.

In 2014, I met Teresa. We were part of a Facebook group for Kappa Delta Chi alumna living in the Austin area. We both lived in Pflugerville and had boys who were 2 years old. Thankfully, she reached out and invited me over for dinner. It’s hard making friends as a busy working mom so I am so grateful she was better at reaching out to people than I was. My husband, son, and I went over to her home for a delicious meal and to meet her family. 

We kept in touch over the years and became closer friends when our sons were in the same kindergarten class. Our boys had to do a school project about their family’s heritage. When I asked what country they decided to put as their family’s country of origin, she jokingly said, “Texas?” We both knew that we were descendants of Tejanos and each has a family member that has traced our Tejano lineage.

Throughout the years, we noticed little things we had in common. We are both sisters of Kappa Delta Chi, both attended Girls State, both attended National Hispanic Institute programs, both grew up in South Texas, both live in Pflugerville and both have Perez as our maiden name. We knew we had to be related.

She mentioned that she knew her family came from Camargo, Mexico and ended up in Texas. I asked my father if he could share the Perez names he traced. He sent me a picture of the historical marker for the San Jose de la Mulada Ranch in Starr County down in South Texas. The ranch was owned by Pedro Jose Perez born about 1735 who originally came from.... Camargo, Mexico! Thanks to my father’s work and Teresa’s aunt’s work, we learned that Pedro Jose is both of our ancestors. My family descends from his son Francisco and her family descends from his son Gregorio. Although we called ourselves Kappa Delta Chi sisters and Pflugerville neighbors, we can now call each other Primas Tejanas.

Karinna Perez Cantu is a social worker, writer, and actress. She has lived in Central Texas for 23 years but still considers herself a Valley Girl. 

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