UTSA to acquire papers of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has been selected to house the papers of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), the William C. Velásquez Institute (WCVI) and its founder, voting rights activist William C. Velásquez.

Ricardo Romo and Antonio González, president of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and William C. Velásquez Institute (formerly Southwest Voter Research Institute), signed a formal agreement on Friday, May 8 allowing both organizations' documents to be archived at UTSA's John Peace Library (JPL).

"We are pleased to partner with The University of Texas at San Antonio in archiving the works of our founder, Willie Velásquez," González said. "The documents will provide a peek into the foresight of Willie as he planned and strategized on a future ripe with possibilities for Latinos."

Rogelio Saenz, dean of UTSA's College of Public Policy, said the collection will be invaluable to scholars studying an important era of Latino political activism and its legacy.

"Willie Velásquez dedicated his life to ensuring that Latinos had a voice in the political process through their vote," Saenz said. "His life's work, contained in this archive, will undoubtedly shed light on the political challenges that Latinos continue to face today. This is an exceptionally valuable acquisition for UTSA especially given our commitment to diversity and community engagement and our status as a major Hispanic Serving Institution."

Velásquez founded the SVREP and WCVI with little more than a desk, a folding chair and a borrowed telephone, envisioning a time when Latinos would play a greater role in the political process.

With the aid of community organizers, SVREP launched hundreds of voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaigns throughout the southwest, cultivated community leaders and successfully litigated 85 voting rights lawsuits.

In 1995, President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded Velásquez The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor any civilian can receive. Velásquez, died in 1988 of complications from kidney cancer. In 2013, the Texas Legislature designed May 9 as Willie Velásquez Day.

The SVREP collection – covering the organization's first 20 years, from 1974-1994 – includes redistricting maps, voter exit surveys, GOTV campaign planning materials, pre-election surveys, office files, research files, research publications, newsletters and audiovisual materials.

Once the collection has been cataloged, it will become part of the UTSA Libraries Special Collections and available to researchers via the Special Collections Reading Room on the 4th floor of the JPL.

Sharon Navarro, UTSA associate professor of political science and co-editor of Latino Americans and Political Participation, said having the archive is a wonderful opportunity for UTSA.

"This collection will make UTSA the envy of all universities," Navarro said. "Social scientists and legal scholars will come from every region of the country to conduct research here. This unique collection designates UTSA as the premier institution for the collection of Latino civil rights, political empowerment, voting rights and redistricting. This collection serves as a historical foundation for the community to share with future generations."

The UTSA Libraries Special Collections holds distinctive research materials documenting the diverse histories and development of San Antonio and South Texas.

"Mexican-American activism is one of our signature collecting areas," said Amy Rushing, head of UTSA Libraries' Special Collections. "The SVREP/WCVI collection will really enrich our offerings on this topic. I'm delighted UTSA can play a role in preserving these important materials for researchers to use for generations to come."

See coverage in the San Antonio Express-News and the San Antonio Current >>