Tejano Heritage Committee

Committee Members

Frank Arredondo, Committee Chair
Anita Azenet
Nico Costilla
Miguel Pena
Dr. Rosina Valle

Ruben Ruiz Sr.

A native Texan, Ruben Ruiz Sr was born October 16, 1928 in Lockhart Texas and was a resident of San Marcos since 1942.

Mr. Ruiz was a successful entrepreneur who earned a well - deserved reputation as a man of honesty and integrity in his community through his varied business interests as the owner of a restaurant, loan company, nightclub, a record producer, owner of several record labels including ROSINA and Monterrey Records.  Ruiz was a long-time radio announcer for San Marcos’s local station KCNY 1450, which carried three hours of Spanish- language programming each day.  His show was very popular, and he was referred to as “El Jefe” (The Boss) by those in the community.   

A dedicated civic leader as well, Ruben demonstrated his commitment and dedication to furthering Hispanic issues and increasing Hispanic representation and involvement in public office. Ruben’s interest in the public sector dates to 1961 when he became the first Hispanic American elected to the San Marcos City Council and served as the first Hispanic Mayor Pro-Tem. Ruiz made political history again becoming the first Hispanic American elected County Commissioner for Precinct 1 in Hays County in 1972 and re-elected in 1976.

Over the course of his long and fruitful life, Mr. Ruiz also gave generously of his time and talents to benefit such worthy organizations as the American G. I Forum, San Marcos Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the San Marcos Housing Authority, and Hays/ Caldwell County Community Action, Hays County Appraisal District, City of San Marcos Utilities Commission. He served as the State Chairman of the American GI Forum.  

 He was a life-long member and supporter of St. John’s Catholic Church. Mr. Ruiz served on numerous boards and commissions in Hays County and was a recipient of several awards including the Matt Garcia Award,

Mr. Ruiz worked with the late Congressman J.J. Pickle in securing a local Social Security office in San Marcos. Ruben was also instrumental is having several needed dams built in Hays County.

In 1963 there were only 587 Hispanics registered as voters in San Marcos.  The American G. I. Forum wanted to register voters, but it had to be very careful because it was illegal to pay someone else’s poll tax.  So even if the G. I. Forum had been able to raise the funds to register voters, they would have been prohibited from doing so.  In response to the situation, the G. I. Forum came up with a creative strategy that was highly effective.  They sponsored dances at places like the Woodmen of the World Hall and The   Parque Cuauhtémoc Hall.  The dances received much publicity in the Hispanic community and were promoted by Ruiz on his radio program.   The admission charge was $1.75, which also happened to be the exact cost of the poll tax.  Once an individual produced the money to gain entry into the dance, their money was used to register them.  In this manner, the G. I. Forum succeeded in registering several hundred new voters.  

Ruben and his wife Lillie Vasquez Ruiz raised a family of seven children and instilled in their children the importance of community service and involvement at an early age. Their children continue to be engaged in community service in the various communities they currently reside in. Mr. Ruiz died in August of 1992.

By Frank Arredondo (Committee Chair)

It is a privilege to have the opportunity to help pay tribute to this great friend and mentor of mine this evening - Ofelia Trinidad Vásquez-Philo

This lovely, engaging lady was loved by many and feared by others who knew she was like a freight train that no one could stop!  Among her GI Form circles she was affectingly known as “the big O”

Wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, businesswoman, community leader, public servant & devoted Christian.

Ofelia Vasquez-Philo holds claim to all those titles, plus many more.

All her life, Ofelia Vasquez-Philo brought beauty and encouragement to her family, to the Texas Hill Country she loved so dearly, and to the community that loved her.

Paying tribute to Ofelia, we celebrate a great community leader. When we think of her place in history, we think, of the other leaders and we think of the qualities of greatness and what hers were that made her so unique among all.

She helped with many “First Accomplishments” for the Hispanic Community of this City.

She was the First Hispanic Woman Elected to the San Marcos ISD School Board.  Another first for our community – it was Ofelia who inspired the founding of Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos – a creation that many have come to respect for the services & programs it offers the community today.  Important services that not only benefit the future of our youth but as important, Centro provides resources and referrals for guidance to people with critical issues or urgent family situations. 

Early in life, Ofelia juggled extraordinarily demanding schedules while tending to her family composed of her late husband, Jose Vasquez and their 7 children. Even with her job requirements, Ofelia still managed to get an education – obtaining a GED and then a BA Degree from Antioch University.

She began working Part-time at the Community Action Agency Inc, for Hays, Caldwell & Blanco counties and eventually became Executive Director until she retired in 1993. 


I became her successor at Community Action, an honor for me and gratitude to guide a formidable organization she helped mold into a respected institution in the Community Action world. As I moved around in the Community Action circles at state, regional and national groups and other social service groups I found out she was well known and admired.

As much as she was admired by staff and colleagues, they respected her and never wanted to fail in whatever project they were tasked. I, myself remember reading of her public ascendency in local groups; her work on the school board; the leadership in various church and civic groups such as the GI FORUM Women, the Historical Society, Hays Co. Cemetery Commission and the League of Women Voters.  Ofelia was a force to be reckoned with.  She was charming, affable and a taskmaster.  Her public persona allowed her to move in many different circles of influence and admiration.  She used her smile and cheery voice to make people feel good. She was a legend in her own time and for all time!

Before joining the Community Action Agency, Ofelia was involved in civic activities for the promotion of equal participation in the school system and local government as I mentioned earlier.  She enjoyed a long list of memberships to distinguished boards and commissions; numerous accomplishments and honors –such as “Primo Letras de Aztlán Award – National Association of Chicana & Chicano Studies (Awarded for contribution to the betterment of the Mexican American Community in Texas) and The Trailblazer Award – A Salute to Women Entrepreneurs in San Marcos – 2006, the lists too lengthy to mention all this evening. 

She is a published co-author of “Sueños y Recuerdos del Pasado” – Dreams and Memories of the Past – “A Community History of Mexican Americans in San Marcos, Texas.”

But even after all these long lists of accomplishments, Ofelia never forgot her “long-time dream- “El Sueño”.  As a child in a family of 9 children, she longed to take piano lessons; however, the family was unable to afford the cost.  “Her dream was for someday for there to be a place to display Hispanic art & culture – to include live activities like dance, music, story-telling and art. And of course, for piano, accordion & guitar lessons to be offered for the children; Also, for the young people to understand and learn about their past and to have role models.

That dream came true in the Spring of 2009 when Mrs. Philo and 4 other co-founders signed a one-year lease for $ 500.00 with the SMCISD! CENTRO was born, so to speak.

Today, Mrs. Philo’s legacy lives through Centro’s programs and services that are provided to the community. That childhood dream today is composed of the following:

25-year lease with SMCISD signed on February 2017.

The Ofelia T. Vasquez Mexican American Culture Museum – which features interchanging exhibits & artifacts of San Marcos’s history & families & Mexican American heritage

The Marcos & Fidela Garza Library – that honors the founders of the first Mexican American “barrio” in San Marcos. It contains books that richly depict the Mexican American culture & traditions.

The Art Gallery – where we host new art exhibits every 4 months of local & regional Latino artists

Centro’s Community Involvement offering its facilities to other community organizations: Civic Groups hold meetings at Centro and individuals are also welcomed as well:  Organizations like LULAC, Girl Scouts Troops, Volunteer Legal Aid Services of Central Texas, Central TX Medical Center hold annual Health Checks; Memorial Presbyterian Church hold their weekly church services, Community Action Agency hold meetings & training sessions, to name a few.

Special Events held at Centro: Poetry & Book Readings, Día de los Muertos, Posadas, etc.

Educational Sessions hosted at Centro:

  • Summer Camps –
    • NASA/FAMA Children’s Little Engineers Camp-a Partnership with Texas State University a very popular camp with the children
    • Camp Olé
    • ArtSpace funded by City of SM Arts Commission
    • Makerspace Camp – Partnership with TX State – Exploration in robotics & animation designs using computer designs digital equipment & online equipment
  • Cultural Art Classes –
    • Art
    • Music classes for Piano/Sax/Accordion
    • Mariachi Infantil
    • Ballet Folklorico Dance
  • Tutoring – After-School Classes – partnership with SMCISD!  Very popular with the parents and students!

And of course – our Noche de Gala!  This was Ofelia’s wish; to have a Gala to celebrate Centro’s accomplishments.  We so wanted her to be at our last year’s Gala -- it being our First one and a very successful one - due to the support of many of you here tonight!   But she fell ill and was unable to attend.  However, the event was taped, so she did get to see the event.

We know that tonight she is looking down and saying that something could have been done a little better if she had been here. Ha! Ha! Certainly, she would have raised more funds!

She was a strong individual who stayed active well into her eighties sometimes even vacuuming floors at Centro.  She was always motiving us to do more for the community - A quote from her niece and our Centro President – Dr. Rosina Ruiz Valle says it best --

"Whenever my Aunt asked us to volunteer or do something she needed for others, she would say - “but they need someone like you with such a passionate voice” – that we could never say no to her."

You know, she is probably doing the same up in heaven – “mandando los Angeles” – ordering the angels around!

Ofelia, in tribute to your history of contributions to the community, a Memorial Garden is being created by an Eagle Scout candidate at the Centro grounds.

With the support of friends here tonight, the Ofelia Vásquez Legacy & the Centro Vision will continue for many years to come

Rest in peace dear friend for you taught us well and you set a fine example for us to follow. Be assured that your name will live on in the hearts of many of your Centro Friends and yes, we will take care of Centro for many years to come!

We love you Ofelia!

Thank you and have a nice evening.