Latino History Tour

Waco’s Latino History far predates the city itself. The land of Central Texas once belonged to the Spanish empire, and then Mexico, until Texas fought for its independence in 1836. After almost another decade of struggle, Texas joined the United States and started down the path to becoming to Latino-Anglo melting pot it is today. Before long, a Spanish immigrant by the name of Jacob de Cordova came to town and officially founded the city of Waco. Ever since, for over a century, the Latino population of Waco has had a tremendous impact on the growth and development of the city. During the Mexican Revolution, Waco’s Sandtown neighborhood proved to be a safe haven for Latino immigrants and Latino Americans fleeing border violence. Then, with the closing of the Reservation, suddenly an area flush with large houses became available for little cost. And so Calle Dos was born, a thriving Latino-American community. The anchor of this community became the local mutualista, an organization that celebrates Latino culture, aids immigrants, works for the betterment of the community by providing healthcare, and education, and fights for worker’s rights. The Latino community had further shared its gifts and strengths with the larger Waco community through art, food, music, and houses of worship.

See on this tour some of the places, people, and events of Latino history that have made Waco what it is today!

Arvizu v. Waco Independent School District

When initial efforts to racially integrate the Waco Independent School District (WISD) proved insufficient in bringing about educational equality, community members like Pete D. Arvizu took to the courts in protest. The resulting legal battle, Arvizu…

St. Francis on the Brazos

The founding of St. Francis on the Brazos in 1924 marked the return of Franciscan missionaries to central Texas after a century’s absence. At the invitation of Rev. C.E. Byrne, the bishop of Galveston, Spanish Franciscan missionaries settled in Waco…

Tito's Downtown Barbershop

Waco entered an economic slump in the aftermath of the 1953 Waco tornado, urban renewal in the 1960s, and the Austin Avenue Pedestrian Mall in the 1970s and ‘80s. Many businesses either moved or closed their doors permanently during this time. Yet…

Sandtown Neighborhood

Sandtown was a vibrant and predominately Mexican American neighborhood that was active from the turn of the twentieth century to the 1960s. It encompassed the area of downtown Waco between Third Street and the Brazos River, and the seven blocks…

Calle Dos

Calle Dos emerged in the early twentieth century as a haven for Mexican immigrants fleeing border violence and rapidly developed into a center of culture and community for Waco’s Hispanic population. Prior to the establishment of Calle Dos, Mexican…

La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant & Cantina

La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant & Cantina serves as a landmark of the success of the Castillo family—one of the oldest Central Texas restaurant families still in business today. Family patriarch Antonio P. Castillo Sr. started the Castillo…

Abraxas Club

During the early 1970s, the rhythms of Austin's much-acclaimed music scene reverberated through McLennan County from Bellmead's Abraxas Club. Until the club's founding, Waco had remained relatively closed off to the music culture…

Ramsey Muñiz

When Ramiro “Ramsey” Muñiz ran for governor of Texas in 1972, he became the first candidate of Hispanic descent to run for the state's gubernatorial seat. Despite Muñiz’s controversial legacy, his career was, for many, as inspiring as it was…

Mutualista Hall (La Mutualista Sociedad de Jornaleros)

Mutualistas were first established in Texas during the late nineteenth century by Mexican immigrants. These mutual aid societies provided immigrants with a connection to their home country and a support network to meet basic needs as they forged a…

Jacob de Cordova

Settlers of the Texas Frontier were undeniably an eclectic bunch, and the founders of Waco were no exception. One of the main organizers of the new city was a Jewish, Jamaican-born Spaniard named Jacob de Cordova. De Cordova was not only instrumental…