De León Symposium to honor family, history, culture

The silver anniversary year of the annual Martin de León Symposium on the Humanities, a joint effort between the University of Houston-Victoria and Victoria’s de León Club, will commemorate Victoria’s founding family while celebrating and educating the public about Mexican-American history and culture.

This year’s 25th annual symposium will be from 9 to 11 a.m. April 9 at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts, 214 N. Main St. The event is free, but participants must have a ticket, which can be picked up beginning Monday at the Welder Center box office or by calling 361-570-8587.

The symposium is part of three days of events focused around Victoria’s colonial history, family spokeswoman Blanche de León said. The reunion will help bring together family members, who are now spread out from Maine to Mexico.

“We are a family whose names and members are now as diverse as our family history,” she said. “We would like for the community to join in our family celebration.”

De León said her family’s ancestors settled in the area in the early 1800s. Though the family was forced from the area during the Texas War of Independence, some still remain, and the reunion will mark a return to South Texas roots for many.

“We selected the date because Don Martin de León made his request for an empresarial contract to settle a colony on April 8, 1824,” de León said. “The year 1836 marked a dark period in history, as the family was forced to leave its homes in Victoria. But 175 years later, we are using this as a homecoming of sorts for descendants of the 10 children of Martin and Patricia.”

Three scholars will give presentations at the symposium:

  • J.F. de la Teja, chairman of the history department at Texas State University-San Marcos, will discuss “The Case for Studying Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas.”
  • Joseph Chance, University of Texas-Pan American retired professor and chairman of the mathematics department, will give a talk titled “The Liberal Party of Northern Mexico and the Dilemma Created by the Texas Revolution.”
  • Carolina Castillo Crimm, a professor of history at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, will talk about “Powerful Women All: From Patricia de la Garza to Mantiana Benavides.”

On April 8, a dedication of a monument to Placido Benavides, Alcalde, Guadalupe Victoria, will occur at 2 p.m. at the City Hall Plaza in downtown Victoria. An honoring of ancestors will follow at 4 p.m. at Evergreen and the surrounding cemeteries.

Other events on April 9 will include family photographs in various locations downtown, a Catholic Mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and a banquet, auction and dance at Club Westerner.

“The de León family is the founding family of the city,” said UHV English professor Dan Jaeckle, who has served on the symposium advisory committee since its second year. “An understanding of the de León family is an understanding of the origin of Victoria.”

The de León Club was organized in 1965 and named after the city founder, Martin de León. The nonprofit seeks to enhance education through scholarships and participation in civic, nonpolitical events, and to promote cultural pride.

For more information, contact de León at 361-573-2657 or

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Ken Cooke 361-570-4342