Orlando Sanchez was one of the leaders behind Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature declaring April 6 ‘Tejano Day’ in 2021.
The Tejano Day celebration recognizes the Hispanic culture in Texas. Tejanos are defined as residents of south Texas of Mexican descent.
Now Sanchez, who is of Cuban descent, is using Tejano Day and the expanding presence of Hispanic conservatives in Texas to promote another event he started four years ago.
The former Harris County treasurer, Houston city council member, and mayoral candidate founded the Texas Latino Conservatives organization in 2019.
The statewide nonprofit group will host its fourth annual Tough Tejano Awards luncheon on Wednesday, April 5, at Gilley’s Dallas, 1135 Botham Jean Boulevard. Tickets are available at www.toughtejano.com.
Two of the three previous luncheons were in Houston. Abbott spoke at the third last year in San Antonio.
“This annual celebration of the achievements of Tejanos,” said Sanchez, 65. “It is a celebration of the state recognizing Tejano Day, and it’s a celebration of Hispanic conservatives.”
This year’s event honors former Texas Supreme Court justice Eva Guzman as the “Tough Tejana.” Two other conservatives will be presented with trailblazer awards.
Alfredo Ortiz, president and CEO of the Job Creators Network, will be the keynote speaker.
“We are trying to build interest in the Hispanic community,” Sanchez said. “We want them to get involved in local and state politics.”
Sanchez, born in Havana, said he decided to come to Dallas this year because the group wants to grow in the region.
“We want more of a footprint in Dallas,” Sanchez explained. “We’re looking for conservative Hispanics wherever there are large populations, and we’re looking to honor conservative Hispanics anywhere in the state.
“We just want to highlight the Hispanic community, culture, and the conservative nature of the Tejanos in Texas.”
Texans of Tejano descent have been essential parts of Texas state history for three centuries, Sanchez noted. They helped settle some of Texas’ largest cities, including San Antonio and El Paso.
On April 6, 1813, Tejanos were the first residents to declare for an independent Texas. They even fought a battle with a Spanish army in pursuit of independence.
Several fought at the Alamo and were part of Texas’ battle for independence from Mexico, which ended on April 21, 1836, with the Battle of San Jacinto.
Texas was admitted as the 28th state in the United States on December 29, 1845.
“The culture of the Lone Star State is inextricably linked with the contributions of Tejanos,” read the 2021 resolution declaring Tejano Day. “They were the first to introduce rodeos, expert horsemanship, and the raising of longhorn cattle, which became central to the state’s western identity.
“In regard to food, Tejanos combined the flavors and ingredients of Mexico and the United States to create Tex-Mex, the state’s most iconic cuisine. Texas music is unimaginable without the contributions of such great Tejano artists.”
The resolution said Tejano men and women were champions of social and political causes.
“Deeply devoted to Texas, they have overcome injustice and discrimination to play an instrumental role in the epic saga of the Lone Star State, and it is indeed fitting that their contributions be officially honored,” it added.
Sanchez said those qualities were essential in making Hispanics tough and open to conservative principles.
“[At the luncheon], we’re not advocating for any single candidate,” Sanchez said. “It’s more of an educational celebration of Tejanos in Texas.”
Texas Latino Conservatives helped elect and re-elect state Rep. John Lujan (R-San Antonio) to the legislature in 2016 and 2021.
“He is a conservative Republican who was elected in a Democratic district [District 118],” Sanchez noted.
Lujan told The Dallas Express he was impressed with Sanchez’s commitment.
“Orlando’s dedication and passion to serve the Latino community is unparalleled,” Lujan said. “He remains laser-focused and committed to sharing the conservative message and values with Latinos across the state of Texas.
Dallas County Republican Party Chairman Jennifer Stoddard Hajdu said she’s planning to attend the “Tough Tejano” awards presentation and is encouraging her friends to go.
“Orlando is doing a fantastic job,” Hajdu said. “He’s focusing a lot of his efforts on electing candidates in Houston, but we applaud his efforts to get more Latinos involved in Dallas.”
“The ‘Tough Tejano’ award signifies hard work, dedication, and resiliency.
Sanchez was the first Hispanic naturalized citizen to win citywide office in Houston and countywide in Harris County. He was an at-large city council member for six years, 1995-2001, and was Harris County treasurer for 12 years until December 2018. He narrowly lost in a race for mayor in 2020 against two-time incumbent Lee P. Brown.
“I enjoyed years in elected office very much and felt I made a difference in Houston,” Sanchez said. “Hispanic and conservative voices were finally being heard.”
Just before leaving office as treasurer, Sanchez held a press conference in the parking lot across from the Houston Independent School District. He called for the Texas Education Agency to take control of HISD. One protester even splashed him with water.
“I was assaulted by one of the union members,” Sanchez said. “I called for the governor [Abbott], once and for all, to take over the school district.”
The state Supreme Court later cleared the way for the takeover.
Earlier this month, the state announced TEA would take charge of HISD because of its failing record.
“Yes, I feel vindicated,” Sanchez said. “More importantly, this is a chance for urban kids to receive a quality education. But it’s not about me. It’s about every child in Texas having a chance to get a knowledge-based education.”
The more we celebrate and separate each other into groups, it does not matter if it’s pride month or Tejano day, the more separate and in conflict we are. It used to be we celebrated being an American. All governments should not be allowed to show any significance to any group no matter what nationality, or background or sex or color.
This guy looks and sounds like Rudolf Hess.