by Lazaro Hernandez, Claire Hogan, and Scarlett Klein
AUSTIN- He is a man you will not find in many Texas history books.
On Feb. 27, Jose Antonio Navarro, a little-known hero of the Texas Revolution, was honored with a cenotaph dedication ceremony at the Texas State Cemetery. The ceremony coincided with his 220th birthday.
A self-educated lawyer and statesman, Navarro was one of the three Tejano signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. Born in San Antonio, where he lived from 1795 to 1871, he was one of the earliest supporters of Texas independence. Navarro was a central player in the events surrounding the revolution and a close friend of Stephen F. Austin.
The audience was filled with descendants of Navarro, many of them able to trace their ancestry back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Speakers included multiple historians, Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, and Sylvia Navarro-Tillotson, a direct descendant of Navarro who was instrumental in bringing about the event.
For her son, James Tillotson, the event was a monumental occasion.
“It seems that history is often recorded by the dominating political force wherever you are. Not just old white men, but whatever the dominating political force is. In Mexico, they don’t write much about the Indians who were there. I think that it’s really interesting that people are still very interested in some of what these other contributors did.”
Tillotson said he is impressed by Navarro’s refusal to denounce Texas.
“He was imprisoned in Mexico by Santa Anna for two years and tried as a traitor to Mexico… he was told that all he had to do was foreswear his allegiance and he said no. Can you imagine being in a prison for two years? They promised him money and a title and all he would have had to do was denounce Texas.”
Numerous Texas historical societies were represented at the dedication ceremony, including The Tejano Genealogy Society of Texas and the United Daughters of the Republic of Texas.
Lorenzo Lopez, a member of The Tejano Genealogy Society of Texas, hopes that more people will become aware of Navarro’s legacy and impact on the state.
“There’s a lot that happened that we aren’t taught in schools,” he said.
Many descendants at the ceremony said that they were not aware of Navarro’s accomplishments and legacy until they reached adulthood, having not been taught about him in public schools.
Mary Ann Wiles, a 7th generation descendant, would tell her teachers about him as a child. For her, the dedication ceremony was a long time coming.
“The event encapsulates so much. In San Antonio, they don’t even know about him. His bust should be in the state capitol,” she said.
Visitors can view Navarro’s memorial in the Texas State Cemetery which is free and open seven days a week.
Gallery: Navarro Dedication Ceremony
For more information on Jose Antonio Navarro: