El Paso born Luis Jimenez studied art and architecture at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1960’s. Drawing influence from Latin-American, Southwestern, and popular culture, his 1980 sculpture Vaquero was originally met with resistance by some community members, who perceived it as playing up many negative stereotypes of Latin-Americans.
Jimenez conceived of Vaquero as both a parody of traditional equestrian statues and a commentary on the discounted influence of Mexican cowboys in the American West. “It wasn’t John Wayne who was the original cowboy,” Jimenez once stated. “That’s the myth. This contribution that the Mexican community made to Texas and the image of the United States has been totally overlooked.”
In 1990, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC purchased an artist’s proof of Vaquero which is now on display at the entrance to the museum, and is now an emblem of the collection.
Vaquero is now firmly woven into the fabric of the Houston neighborhood of Moody Park and is widely considered Luis Jimenez’s most iconic work. The statue stands in the 3700 block of Fulton, just east of Highway 45 and north of Quitman Street.
This Hispanic Heritage Month profile was written, edited and produced by Mario Parks, a senior at Texas Southern University.