Coahuiltecan group asks Hays County to build an Indigenous cultures center
The idea to build an Indigenous cultures center in San Marcos first came to Emily Aguilar in a dream.
"In the dream, I was walking into a space that was filled with light," Aguilar said. "When I walked outside, the entire building was covered in paintings that were made by our Indigenous youth."
Aguilar is Coahuiltecan, a collective of people who descend from what is currently Texas and Northern Mexico. She's also a member of the Indigenous Cultures Institute, an organization in San Marcos that preserves and shares Coahuiltecan culture. She reached out to some of the institute's founding members and realized she wasn't the only one who wanted to make that dream a reality.
Now, the organization is asking the county for $10 million from a $75-million parks and open space bond that voters overwhelmingly approved last year. With that money, the group hopes to build a 10-acre Indigenous cultures center in San Marcos.
"It would protect 10 acres of land from development," said Aguilar, the project coordinator for the center. "Development is overtaking so much land in Texas and so many of our sacred sites are at risk."
The institute wants to use the center as a multi-faceted community space, with a public facility for Indigenous arts and language revitalization classes and an outdoor area for an amphitheater and a community garden where people can learn about native plants and herbal medicines. The space would also educate people on the history of Indigenous culture in the area, Aguilar said.
While the organization is waiting for a green light from the county, Aguilar said it's focusing on gathering community support.
"The reason that we're asking for community support is because this is supposed to be a community-based center," Aguilar said. "This will be something that benefits not only the local Indigenous communities but also non-Native people, too. This can be a place for people to learn about us, and with us, and alongside us."
Mario Garza, the institute’s board of elders chair, said in a press release that it's essential for the institute to engage with the community — hearing from stakeholders or people who might be impacted by development.
“It’s our way that the people speak first, and then the elders take action,” he said.
Aguilar said building an Indigenous cultures center with support from Hays County and the City of San Marcos could be a tremendous opportunity for healing and giving land back to the Indigenous people of this area.
"We can't undo history. But we can shape a different future together, and this is one of the ways we can do that," Aguilar said.
Members of the organization and supporters of the Indigenous Cultures Center are gathering at the Hays County Courthouse on Monday at 6 p.m. for a prayer and press conference.