Hector P. Garcia Fellowship Announces 2020 Recipient

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Highlighting the legacy and continued impact of his work for equality for Chicanos everywhere, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has awarded the 2020 Dr. Hector P. Garcia Fellowship. Garcia (1914-1996) ranks among the most important figures in Mexican American history. He was a physician, soldier, political advisor, and civil rights activist who founded the American GI Forum in 1948 to organize veterans to fight for educational and medical benefits. The annual fellowship, valued at $1,000 and sponsored by the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation, is provided to encourage scholarly research using the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, which are held in the Archives and Special Collections Department of the Mary and Jeff Bell Library.

This year, Dr. Antonio Vásquez, lecturer with the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, was selected as the 2020 fellow. Vasquez says he hopes to the incorporate Garcia’s life and impact in his working manuscript tentatively titled, “Tejano Agricultural Labor and Diaspora in the Southern United States.”

“The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers represent the most extensive archival material on the American G.I. Forum, which is significant,” said Vásquez. “The collection also contains related material on Latino community activism, past research, and photographs from the period under study for this project – I am eager to visit and learn, and grateful to those who made this possible for scholars and educators like me.”

Following its inaugural debut back in August 2019, Vásquez says he learned of the fellowship through his department chair and knew immediately the opportunity was too important to miss. As a lecturer of Latina/o Studies, Vasquez’s teachings focus on the intellectual formation of Mexican American Studies, Mexican American political thought, policy making, immigration, race, and culture. His latest research examines the significance of Tejano agricultural labor migration and community activism in the southern United States during and after the period of the Bracero Program – a diplomatic agreement between the U.S. and Mexico for the use of Mexican farm labor.

“I have learned about the life and work of Dr. Garcia through my academic studies as well as my teaching in academia,” said Vásquez. “Through my research, my larger hope is that others, especially students, learn the value of understanding past struggles for social justice – we are not alone. This is why taking time to conduct archival research is so invaluable.”

While the fellowship initially required recipients to physically visit the Garcia collection at the Bell Library, the recent COVID-19 epidemic now encourages researchers to utilize the Bell Library’s online portal to access Garcia’s papers, including personal files such as military service, correspondence, medical records, activism, along with photos, audiovisual materials, and other artifacts donated by late doctors memorial foundation.

“The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation is honored that Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has selected such an outstanding recipient for the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Fellowship,” said Cecilia Garcia-Akers, Foundation President, and daughter of the late Dr. Hector P. Garcia. “We are delighted that Dr. Antonio Vásquez will be conducting research on this very important project. All research regarding the most extensive collection in Mexican American Civil Rights will contribute to the public's knowledge of Dr. Hector's dedication and contributions to the betterment of the United States – we are proud to be able to provide funding for this project.”