Christmas Weekend

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said yesterday that the Donald Trump indictments impacted his campaign for president. Here is his quote:

“I would say if I could have one thing change, I wish Trump hadn’t been indicted on any of this stuff. I mean honestly, I think from Alvin Bragg on, I’ve criticized the cases, I mean someone like a Bragg would not have brought that case if it was anyone other than Donald Trump, someone like that is distorting justice, which is bad, but I also think it distorted the primary.”

Sorry, Dude. You can’t run against Trump unless you are willing to take and call him out. You have let Trump own your punkarse from Day 1. Everyone knows you have run a lousy campaign. Quit whining.


I got my invitation yesterday to the H-Town Mayoral Inauguration on Tuesday, January 2, 2024. I am going.


Wow! If you are an H-Town Latino activist, this lengthy Chron article on preserving our history is must read. I am putting out the entire article. I hope the Chron doesn’t get mad at me. Here it is:

Houston Public Library’s Latino archive is a trove of Hispanic history. Critics say it’s neglected.

By Jhair Romero,Staff Writer

Felix and Angela Morales, the philanthropist owners of a local business empire, were known to be givers.

So when the heads of one of Houston’s most prominent Latino families were approached by a city archivist in the late 1970s, the Moraleses, with their legacies in mind, donated decades’ worth of their family photos, letters and other personal records to be preserved in what became Houston Public Library’s Latino archives.

But critics said the Morales Collection, not digitized and rarely displayed like much of the history stored away in the Latino archives, is largely inaccessible to the average resident and researcher alike.

The library’s Latino archives, documenting one of the largest Hispanic populations in the country, are languishing, critics said, due to decades of underfunding and disregard from Houston Public Library leadership — even after recent efforts to revamp the collections.

“They have a trove of information on people who have really made an impact on Houston’s Hispanic community,” said Blanca Blanco, a retired publisher trying to retrieve a collection of magazines donated to the library more than 20 years ago. “And they haven’t done a damn thing about it.”

A library spokesperson said the Hispanic collections “are not neglected,” and the archive “continues to be a proud cornerstone of Houston History Research Center.” 

Archivist Tom Kreneck said he was an enthusiastic outsider with “a fire in my belly” in the late 1970s. The then-30-year-old Kreneck had spent his academic career studying and admiring Houston’s Mexican-American community. He knew he had to build trust with the people whose culture and history he hoped to preserve when he established what became Houston Public Library’s Latino archives in 1978.

Kreneck, a burly, bearded white man with a deep Texan accent, launched an archives outreach campaign targeting aging Latinos whose personal histories might otherwise be lost. He spoke to the local newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, to spread the word. He wrote dozens of letters to Latino families and visited their homes and businesses to convince them to donate. 

Family by family, the collections grew and were housed at what is now the Houston History Research Center in the Julia Ideson Building downtown. Kreneck said the archives, originally focused on Mexican-American history, became one of the country’s leading collections of its kind.

“Knowing that my family is part of the history of Houston, I couldn’t be more proud,” said state Rep. Christina Morales, whose grandparents, Felix and Angela Morales, donated the family’s personal records to the archives in 1979. “But we need to make sure that they’re preserved and told because (Latinos) had just as much a part in building our city as anyone else.”

Families like the Moraleses helped spur the archives’ early growth, but the 1980s brought its challenges, Kreneck said, as the city and its employees clashed over strained budgets and wages. He reluctantly left the Houston History Research Center, which houses the archives, behind in 1990 for a similar post at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where he stayed until his retirement. 

“It’s difficult to say what is the most meaningful thing that a person has done in their life,” said Kreneck, now 75. “No. 1 for me has to be developing Houston’s Mexican American collections.”

Houston’s population boomed, and Latinos became the city’s largest ethnic group in the decade after Kreneck moved south in 1990, but little was done with those collections in his absence, he said. The responsibility of maintaining the archives fell on other staffers in the Julia Ideson Building, and the collections remained mostly inactive until the early 2000s, Kreneck said, when the now-retired University of Houston Center for Mexican American Studies director Tatcho Mindiola Jr. and others began lobbying the city and its library system to replace Kreneck.

Although the group’s letters to library leadership and various committees were initially successful, the archival revival of the early 2000s was short-lived: The library hired someone to oversee the Latino collections in 2000, but the archivist left by February 2002. 

Eleven years passed as Houston’s Latino community rapidly grew and diversified. In mid-August 2012, Mindiola, a friend and colleague of Kreneck’s, met with library director Rhea Lawson about his efforts to revive the collection. The academic remembered the director telling him the library “has a lot of needs” and didn’t have the money to re-establish the collections and hire someone to maintain them, he wrote to colleagues. 

“The development and maintenance of our history via the archives is one of the library’s needs whether it is acknowledged or not …” Mindiola wrote in a letter that was preserved by the UH library system after his 2015 retirement. “Our seniors are moving on and taking our history with them. The experiences of our brothers and sisters from Mexico and other Latin American countries are not being preserved. The papers of important organizations and leaders are not being collected.”

Mindiola urged his colleagues to continue pushing and predicted their efforts “in all likelihood will show up someday in the Mexican American Archives.”

Meanwhile, other library collections thrived. The Family History Research Center at the Clayton Library, which houses genealogical research archives, underwent a multi-million dollar restoration in 2006. The African American collections were permanently moved in 2009 and given a dedicated space at the historic Gregory School in Fourth Ward after a major renovation. The Houston History Research Center at the Julia Ideson Building, home of the library’s local history archives, also received a 21,000-square-foot expansion wing and renovation.

It wasn’t until April 2013, after Mindiola said he helped coordinate a push from Mayor Annise Parker’s Hispanic advisory board, that another Latino collections archivist was hired at Houston Public Library.

“There was a lot of excitement that we were able to move the needle,” said Holly Flynn Vilaseca, who sat on the advisory board in 2013. “There’s so many untold stories and real history. It was a big deal to have someone focus on … collecting from members of the community.”

When she entered the post that April, Mikaela Selley, then a UH graduate student, began tackling the backlog of archive materials that had built up since Kreneck left in 1990. She streamlined processing, created detailed finding guides and even began planning outreach programs to, like Kreneck did 35 years prior, build relationships with the people whose history she was maintaining.

The educational programs and exhibits she curated highlighted the experiences of Latino soldiers in World War II, the cultural contributions of the city’s Latino musicians and President John F. Kennedy’s impromptu visit with a local League of United Latin American Citizens chapter just a day before his assassination in November 1963.

Then the early hype died down, Selley said, and she became bogged down by her archive work and extra responsibilities handed down to her by the library’s leadership, such as oral history projects. 

Her pleas for more resources to help process the backlog and make it more accessible by digitizing the archives were ignored, she said. Only the occasional volunteer or intern helped with archive duties, she said, and her workload made it difficult to build trust with donors and the community. 

“A lot of my time was spent apologizing to people,” Selley said. “I was mending relationships.”

Selley said during her tenure only 9% of the materials were accessible online, a fraction of the thousands of personal papers, business records, photos and more in the library’s possession. As of October 2023, three-fourths of the 101 individual collections in the Latino archives were processed, according to the library. 

Selley, who is Mexican American, said she also faced a challenging workplace culture that included stereotyping and tokenism. “I think a lot of HPL staff simply do not know how to speak to other staff from different backgrounds,” Selley wrote in a 2021 employee survey about her experience at the library.

A library spokesperson responded to requests for comment by stating that “Dr. Rhea Lawson firmly denounces racism and stereotyping in any form.”

With Selley’s frustrations mounting — with leadership, the lack of resources and the cultural insensitivity —  she said she left the library in 2021, again putting a pause on the archives that so many sought to revive. 

Felix and Angela Morales had already spent decades in Houston when Kreneck, the archivist, approached them in the late ’70s. Their renowned business empire included the city’s first Mexican American-owned funeral home, which opened in 1931, and Pasadena’s KLVL, the first Spanish-language radio station serving the Gulf Coast. 

The Moraleses, then in their 70s, didn’t need much convincing.

“The family whose papers are accessible takes its proper place (in history),” Kreneck wrote to them in a September 1978 letter, “while those whose papers remain inaccessible are often inadequately interpreted or entirely overlooked.”

The Morales Collection includes hundreds of photos and newspaper clippings, timeworn and yellowed. There are snapshots of Felix and Angela as young adults at their wedding in 1928, as successful business owners in the 1950s and as loving grandparents in the 1970s. Personal letters and other records document the business dealings that led to the couple founding the family’s funeral home and even how Felix eventually lobbied his powerful friends in Congress to help establish the Moraleses’ historic radio station.

The collection traces Felix and Angela’s lives from when they were born in 1907, just weeks apart, to the early 1990s, covering Felix’s death in 1988. Angela bolstered the archive with even more family records before her own death in 1994.

Like most others housed by Houston Public Library’s Latino archives, the Morales Collection, housed in more than 20 archival storage boxes, is not digitized and can only be viewed in person at the Julia Ideson Building. 

Even in person, certain materials are restricted. Photos, for example, can be viewed only a few at a time with an appointment. The Morales Collection contains around 700 photos.

Christina Morales, Felix and Angela’s granddaughter who now runs the family funeral home and represents portions of the East End, the Heights and the Northside in the Texas House, said she’s considered asking for her family’s records to be returned.

“It’s very upsetting for me because the last time I (saw the Morales Collection), I left with the feeling of relief that they were in good hands,” Morales said, recalling a visit to the Latino archives during Selley’s tenure. “If they’re not going to be stored properly, they should return them to the families.”

Blanco, the retired magazine publisher, has tried for months to recover a collection of periodicals donated to the library in 2001 that wasn’t digitized or otherwise displayed by Houston Public Library. 

Viva! Magazine, which Blanco published as an insert in the now-defunct Houston Post, documented Latino life and business in Houston in the early 1990s. Its pages highlighted everything from the toll of AIDS on the local Hispanic community to the struggles of Mexican American high school students in the East End. 

Prominent Latinos from Houston’s past and present also graced Viva!, such as the late Leonel Castillo, the city’s first Hispanic controller, and then-municipal judge Sylvia Garcia, who went on to be a Harris County commissioner, a state senator and now a U.S. congresswoman.

“As far as I know, that magazine has been sitting for years in boxes,” Blanco said. “They have done nothing with them, and these magazines have a lot of history of Hispanics who made impacts in our communities.”

Blanco’s dilemma with the library has been complicated by the absence of a donor agreement between the two sides. The library confirmed Blanco never signed such an agreement when she handed over her magazines, but it said that even without a signed contract, the collection is “the absolute property of City of Houston and Houston Public Library.”

David Contreras, a historian with the League of United Latin American Citizens who has for years preserved local Latino records, said the work of processing Viva! should have been done decades ago. He recently visited the archives, and he said it took him just a few hours to create a detailed catalog of Blanco’s publication.

“The Houston Public Library has not dedicated the same resources to the Hispanic collections and the digitization of our history as it has for other collections,” Contreras said. “It’s not fundamentally fair, not equitable.’”

Contreras once celebrated the archives, but in the years since Selley, the previous archivist, left the Houston library system in 2021, the 72-year-old said he’s been dismayed by the lack of progress in growing the digital collections. 

“We’ve gone backward instead of getting better,” he said.

Contreras has proposed forming an oversight committee to ensure the Latino archives don’t ever fall into disarray again.

A library spokesperson said the archives have one full-time staff member today. In 2022, the library also dedicated $250,000 of a $500,000 Houston Endowment grant to the archives.

Houston Public Library and its Latino archives are also supposed to be ramping up for the eventual opening of the new Hispanic History Research Center that would serve as a repository similar to the genealogy center at the Clayton Library and the African American History Research Center.

The proposed center is still years away, with the design phase slated to begin in the 2024 fiscal year, according to the library’s capital improvement plan. The Hispanic History Research Center would be included in Houston’s Buffalo Bayou East master plan, and City Council recently allocated more than half of the $19.5 million slated for the project to purchase property on Navigation Boulevard near Turkey Bend.

The retired academic Mindiola, now 84, said he’s skeptical after his experiences with library leadership.

“It takes time and it takes money, but we’re not a priority,” he said. “You have got to keep pushing these folks.”

Selley is more hopeful for the future of the Latino archives. In the library’s African American, genealogical and local history collections, she said, there are models for how an archive can thrive. 

Those archives have their own repositories and dedicated teams tending to and digitizing them. They regularly host sitdowns with authors, history lessons and workshops on how to navigate the collections.

Houston Public Library’s Latino archives — for now — have none of that.

“That archive has an obligation,” Selley said. “You don’t get to pick and choose who you serve or who you prioritize. Yes, it’s a challenge, but you’re supposed to hire leadership up for that challenge.”

The Houston Landing has been investigating the problems at the City of H-Town Library Department. It is not a well-run library. I have a few things in my files that some folks might want to preserve. I am certainly not handing my stuff over to the H-Town library folks unless they get their act together.


For those who follow the NFL, this is your weekend. There are two games tomorrow afternoon and evening, a full day of games on Christmas Eve, and three games on Christmas Day.  Christmas Day, the Chiefs host the Raiders. We are all wondering if Taylor Swift will spend Christmas Day in Kansas City.

I received a Christmas card yesterday from Paola Gonzalez, Pasadena ISD School Board Member. Thank you, PISD Board Member Paola Gonzalez. That makes it four cards this Christmas season. One from a school board member, one from a former state representative, one from a former mayor, and one from the President of the United State of America.

Last night I watched Miracle in Bethlehem, PA on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. I liked it a lot. 

The featured photo is the National Children’s Chorus who were on the Today show this morning. Cool.

Three days until Christmas Day. I will do my Christmas Day grub shopping later this afternoon. Christmas Eve I will visit my best friends. I hope all goes well for your families this Christmas weekend.

Stay safe.

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