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Mexican-Texas History and the Creation of a Lasting Friendship Through Sister Cities

By Alicia Perez-Hodge

In September 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo sounded the grito for Mexican independence from Spain. After more than a decade of war, resistance, and bloodshed, Mexico won independence in 1821. The Mexican Constitution of 1824 officially created the state of Coahuila y Tejas, which included the territory that comprises modern day Texas. The City of Saltillo was the capital city of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas from 1824 until 1836, when Tejas became the Republic of Texas.

State Flag of Coahuila y Tejas


From Nemisis to Friendship - Austin / Saltillo Sister Cities

The aftermath of the Texas Revolution and the Mexican-American War brought much hardship to Mexican Americans in Texas. Discrimination and racism against Mexican Americans and other Latinos persists today. It has taken decades of sacrifice and much litigation to improve acceptance and understanding between the Anglos and Mexican-American communities.

One of the programs developed to foster cultural exchange, friendship, and people-to-people diplomacy between countries and their cities is the Sister Cities Program, introduced by President DwightD. Eisenhower in 1955. Given their shared history, their status as Capital cities, mutual interests, and growing economic opportunities, Austin, Texas and Saltillo, Coahuila officially became Sister Cities in 1968. The city councils of both cities approved resolutions stating, "Officials of both cities shall actively engage in work toward the establishment of friendship and respect between all segments of their constituencies, which will extend beyond their own terms." Austin Mayor Harry Akin, Saltillo Mayor Jesus Gonzalez Santos, and delegations conducted official visits to each other's cities. The following photograph is from the reception held at Austin City Hall following the adoption of the Sister Cities resolution on November 7, 1968. Governor John Connally was among the guests at the reception.

The friendship and exchange between the two cities continued and in 1971, Mayor Roy Butler welcomed Saltillo Mayor Arturo Berrueto his delegation to Austin. By all accounts, Mayor Butler was an excellent host. He took the group on a boat ride, they met with Texas Governor Preston Smith, and toured Austin parks and facilities.

Special Surprise

Mayor Butler also invited his guests from Saltillo to visit the new Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. According to Mayor Berrueto, 93, who still lives in Saltillo, They toured the library exhibits and were invited to the area exhibiting the replica of the Presidential Oval Office. Berrueto remembers that when the delegation walked in, they saw a man sitting at the desk. Suddenly, the man stood up and said, "Welcome to Texas." The man was the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson. Mayor Berrueto said Mayor Butler was all smiles. “Fue una sorpresa y un honor conocer un gran hombre como el Presidente Johnson.” Translated, Mayor Berrueto noted, “We were amazed and honored to meet with a great man like President Johnson.” As the picture demonstrates, President Johnson signed autographs and spent quality time with the Saltillo Sister City Delegation. That Mayor Butler -what a character!

Throughout the 55 years of the Austin Saltillo Sister Program, many Austin mayors have traveled with citizen delegations to Saltillo, and many dignitaries from Saltillo have visited Austin. The cultural exchange, public safety training, and economic development have mutually beneficial to both cities. The visits have also proven to be excellent learning experiences and lots of fun. The following is a pictorial record of some visits.

Trevino Embodied Sister Cities Spirit

Former Austin Mayor Pro-Tem, Council Member, and President Emeritus of the Austin Saltillo Sister Cities Association, Johnny Trevino, loved Saltillo and the citizens of Saltillo loved him. He often traveled to Saltillo with the Sister Cities delegation and on his own. He viewed the Sister Cities program as an opportunity to share his proud Mexican heritage. During his time as a member of the Capital Metro Board of Directors, Johnny continued to work with both cities and was instrumental in purchasing vans to provide transportation for Saltillo's disabled children. Many of those vans are still in use today. The following photographs of our beloved friend span 33 years of his visits to Saltillo. The 1983 photo shows Johnny acting as a Matador, a bullfighter extraordinaire. The other picture is from his last trip to Saltillo in 2016, enjoying a beer with his good friend and President of the Saltillo Sister Cities Association, Ing. Juan Cornejo. John Trevino, Jr. dedicated 60 of his 78 years to public service. He died on April 4, 2017. He is highly esteemed and remembered with great affection in the City of Austin and Saltillo.

History has always been a fascinating subject for me. Mexican-American history was not taught in South Texas public schools in the 1950s or 60s when I attended. It was only through the lessons of my Mexican father that I learned Texas was once a part of Mexico. During my years in college, I studied and learned more about the history of the Southwest and Texas. I also spent a summer in Spain studying the "Golden Age." The knowledge of history allowed me to understand and accept Latinos of all races and nationalities as my extended family. History opened my eyes to the richness and impact of my Mexican heritage.

During National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15, I encourage you to explore Austin and notice how the city reflects its Hispanic heritage. The street names Guadalupe, Lavaca, Brazos, San Jacinto, and Nueces are Spanish and are indicative of Austin's past. Visit the Tejano Monument on the Capitol grounds and look for the East Austin murals depicting El Movimiento Chicano. Partake in the richness and diversity of our great city. Enjoy some of the best food in the world, traditional Tex-Mex, and when you take a bite, remember Coahuila y Tejas because that is precisely where Tex-Mex originated and has been around since at least 1824. Now that's history!

The Austin-Saltillo Sister Cities Association celebrates its 55th anniversary in 2023. To learn more about the Association, visit

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