History Professor Teresa Van Hoy, Ph.D., began what she calls her “scholarly pilgrimage” in June 2011 when she became O’Connor Chair for the History of Hispanic Texas and the Southwest. As the O’Connor Chair, she has been granted two years for extensive research and to write a book. She receives the University’s support through course releases, which give her the time for presentations and lectures both on and off campus while focusing on her research as a Borderlands scholar.
The book she is working on is about the history of Latinos in the Borderlands, specifically on their contributions to Mexico’s fight with the French in the 1860s. Additionally, Dr. Van Hoy is examining the history of Cinco de Mayo. The “textbook story,” she said, simply declares that this celebration began when Mexico defeated Maximilian and the French, but there’s more to it than that. Hispanic-American newspapers bear witness to a mobilization among Latinos in the United States to help President Benito Juarez and the Mexican people fight and protect their land. In these accounts, small mining communities gathered together to raise money to send to President Juarez. Even after the French left, Mexico’s celebration of Cinco de Mayo continued to preserve Latino culture and celebrate their identity.
One of the goals of Van Hoy’s exploration is to highlight the Borderland people’s contributions and to find the true meaning behind celebrations of Cinco de Mayo. Although she is about one-third finished with her release time, she had already been working with this topic for several years. “As a historian, I am grateful for the O’Connor family’s vision in supporting history and for St. Mary’s commitment to historical study and outreach,” Van Hoy said.
By Rachel Grahmann, St. Mary’s Honors Program and English Communication Arts student