History Department
History Department

More than a scholar, Professor Emilio Zamora

Wed, July 16, 2014
More than a scholar, Professor Emilio Zamora
Prof. Emilio Zamora

These days, it would not be odd to find someone with a Spanish surname in the U.S. military. Neither would it be surprising if the soldier was a schoolteacher or if he was inspired to write a war diary. Such circumstances were less common in earlier times.  

Almost one hundred years ago, José de la Luz Sáenz a Mexican-American school teacher from Realitos, Texas fought in World War I and wrote a diary that registered his observations as a member of the 90th Texas-Oklahoma Division.  Aside from recording the experiences of American doughboys, Sáenz spoke as a Mexican American by noting throughout the diary that he and his buddies were making the ultimate battlefield sacrifice so that future generations could use them to claim equal rights at home.  

After his discharge from the military in 1919, Sáenz became a civil rights leader with the League of United Latin American Citizens, which he co-founded.  He also published the diary in 1933 as Los méxico-americanos en la gran guerra y su contingente en pro de la democracia, la humanidad, y la justicia (San Antonio: Artes Gráficas).  Professor Emilio Zamora has translated and edited the historically important diary as The WWI Diary of José de la Luz Sáenz (Texas A&M University Press, 2014).  The Texas Book Festival has selected him as a featured author to speak on the war diary in October 2014.


Zamora has not limited his work to the Sáenz diary.  He delivered a Distinguished Lecture in 2013 entitled "From Texas Farms to the Americas, Alonso Perales and His International Call for Mexican Civil Rights."  He delivered the address on Perales, another important civil rights leader from Texas, as part of the 30th Annual Charles L. Wood Agricultural History Lecture Series hosted by the Department of History at Texas Tech University.  Zamora presented two other keynote speeches in 2013.  His talk before the Mexican American School Board Association in Austin, “The Tejano History Curriculum Project,” reported on his educational initiative funded by the Walmart Foundation and the Tejano Monument, Inc.  The second presentation, “The Mexican American Library Project, A Retrospective,” was part of a Spring Symposium at the University of Texas at Austin, sponsored by the Center for Mexican American Studies, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection.  More recently, Professor Zamora shared a special recognition with his wife, Dr. Angela Valenzuela, Professor in the College of Education, from Ahora Si, the Spanish-language supplement of the Austin Statesman.  The Distinguished Couple Award acknowledges their community engagement work in Austin.

Zamora’s professional activities outside the university continue in 2014.  Austin City Councilman Mike Martínez appointed Zamora to the seven-member Hispanic/Latino Quality of Life Advisory Commission which will be advising the Austin City Council on how the city can best address issues affecting the local Hispanic/Latino community.  He is also co-directing (with Professor Andres Tijerina, Austin Community College) the "Handbook of Tejano History Project," an initiative of the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) to increase the number of entries on Mexican American history in the Association’s Texas Handbook Online.  Zamora is also a co-Author/Consultant (with Professor Walter Buenger, Texas A&M University, College Station) for the Pearson Publishers seventh-grade Texas social studies textbook which will appear in print and in electronic form in 2015. 

Zamora is an Associate with the Center for Mexican American Studies and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  He has received seven best book and article awards from professional organizations.  Besides Sáenz’s diary, Zamora’s recent publications include Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas, Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II (Texas A&M University Press, 2009).  He is also an elected member of the Board of Directors of the TSHA, a life-time Fellow with the TSHA and the Texas Institute of Letters, the 2007 recipient of the Fulbright García-Robles fellowship, and a current Fellow of the Barbara White Stuart Centennial Professorship in Texas History at The University of Texas. During the academic year 2013-2014 Zamora is fellow at the Institute of Historical Studies of UT.


“The Texas State Historical Association Launches the Tejano History Handbook Project” on Not Even Past

“Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas; Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II” by Emilio Zamora (2009) on Not Even Past

"Emilio Zamora honored with second Tejano Heritage Award," Sep. 2012

"UT Historian leads major Tejano history curriculum project"

"Emilio Zamora to Participate in Unveiling of Tejano Monument"

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