Carlos E. Castañeda
November 11, 1896– April 3, 1958
Historian Carlos Castañeda changed how we think of the Southwest. Through exhaustive research, he told the story of the Texas-Mexico borderlands as one of shared culture and heritage, rather than conflict and division.
Raised in Brownsville, Castañeda earned his doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin in 1932. He served there as professor and librarian for the rest of his life.
In his 1928 book The Mexican Side of the Texas Revolution, Castañeda cast new light on the events of the 1830s. He rejected the idea that the revolt simply pitted Anglo-Americans against Mexicans. Rather, he presented the revolution as a struggle in which a diverse group of rebels, Mexican and Anglo, fought against dictatorship.
Castañeda’s masterpiece was the seven-volume Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, written under the auspices of the Texas Knights of Columbus, which documented the Hispanic history of Texas at a time when many marginalized the state’s Mexican American population.
Castañeda did not just write about the past. He oversaw the university’s extensive Latin American archives and spearheaded efforts to collect and preserve documents pertaining to early Texas history.
Castañeda’s quest for cross-cultural understanding made him an activist. He worked for reforms in South Texas schools, and FDR named him the Southwest Chair of the Fair Employment Practices Commission during World War Two.
Castañeda died in 1958 after an illustrious career. Fittingly, the University of Texas’s main library now carries his name.
For More About Carlos E. Castañeda
The main library at The University of Texas at Austin stands as a monument to the learned careers of the two men after whom it is named. Carlos Castañeda shares the honor with Ervin Perry, the first African American to hold the rank of full professor at the university. With over 2.5 million volumes, the library is amongst the largest in all of North America.
The archival collections overseen by Castañeda in the 1920s and 1930s have evolved into the internationally-renowned Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection on the University of Texas campus. A leading repository of primary historical sources from all across Latin America, the collection aids researchers in continuing to write the chapters of the Spanish imprint on the Americas that Castañeda engaged throughout his life. The Benson Collection holds Castañeda’s papers, which document the broad scope of his work as a scholar, professor, librarian, and administrator.
Almaráz, Jr., Félix. Knight without Armor: Carlos Eduardo Castañeda, 1896–1958. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999.
Bacarisse, Charles. “A Dedication to the Memory of Carlos Eduardo Castañeda, 1896-1958.” Arizona and the West 3:1 (1961): 1–5.
García, Mario. Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930–1960. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991.
Wunder, John, ed. Historians of the American Frontier: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.
Douglass, Neal. Mr. Castaneda, Photograph, February 23, 1949; digital image, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth34105/ : accessed October 19, 2012), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas.
This story originally aired October 19, 2012.