Progress being made on Houston Hispanic History Research Center

The archive will live in a newly purchased building on Navigation Boulevard.

HOUSTON — Houston is now digitizing much of its Latino History Archive after a push to fund and create a Hispanic History Research Center.

Many of those documents and images sat in boxes untouched for years due to lack of funding. it’s a big update on a story we first shared in February.

The archive will live in a newly purchased building on Navigation Boulevard. The city is now looking for your input on what else you’d like to see at the center, in addition to that incredible archive.

Below is the our original reporting from February

Frustration had been growing among some community members after they said the city wasn’t prioritizing the Hispanic History Research Center that was approved by voters back in 2017. After voicing their concerns, they finally feel like steps are being taken in the right direction.

Many said they felt like the Latino community wasn’t being taken seriously. They said they felt like an afterthought. It wasn’t until three Latinos joined City Council that they finally saw some movement on the project.

Once completed, it will offer a glimpse into Houston’s past in a city with so much history, particularly for Latinos.

“Houston was considered the epicenter for the Civil Rights movement,” LULAC National Historian David Contreras said.

A lot of the history is sitting in the Houston Public Library archives at the Julia Ideson Building downtown.

In 2017, voters approved a bond for a special library to archive Hispanic history in Houston similar to the African American History Research Center. The only problem, according to Contreras, was that nothing was being done to make it happen.

“We went to City Council, filed complaints on the lack of progress,” Contreras said.

But it wasn’t just that, many families who donated photos and archives to the library were frustrated because those things have been sitting in boxes for decades and haven’t been digitized for the public.

One of those donors is Rep. Christina Morales, whose family started the first Spanish-speaking radio station in Houston.

“Grandmother took the time to save all our family records … they haven’t been handled properly. They haven’t been shared with everyone else,” Morales said.

At the end of Sylvester Turner’s reign as mayor, the City of Houston allocated $19.5 million to move the project forward. They purchased an old warehouse on Navigation Boulevard that the Buffalo Bayou Partnership owned.

“I personally felt the same way — we will throw you a bone at the end of the year,” Houston City Council for District 1 Joaquin Martinez said.

Martinez said prior councilmembers unsuccessfully tried getting information from the library and the City. Now, he said he’s collaborating with two other council members and the mayor’s office and things are finally moving.

“We have seen more happen in the last month than we have in the last five years,” Martinez said.

KHOU 11 reached out to the library but no one was available for an interview. They did say the project has been in the works for the last seven years and typically the administration decides what projects are funded each year.

The library received the funding last year and projects like this take time but they hope to have the archival library open in the fall of 2026. Despite the setbacks, local activists are happy their library is finally moving.

“Hopes we can continue to make progress and showcase we have a critical collection,” Contreras said.

Library officials also mentioned the overall plan was delayed due to hurricanes and the pandemic.

Another East End council member plans to have a town hall with the library soon to inform the community and get input on the project.

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