Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?
The terms “Smashing success” “Beyond our wildest dreams” “Better than we could have hoped for” are just a few of the heady feelings the Granaderos y Damas de Gálvez of Houston are experiencing this morning.
The Rice Symposium went off – we can now definitely say – without a hitch. I wish I had taken time to take pictures, but I know others were using their cell phones to capture this never-to-be-forgotten moment. I hope everyone will post their pictures on our new website which will be up and running soon. Also Like us at “#LosGranaderosYDamasdeGalvezHouston ” on Facebook.
You, too, will be able to vicariously enjoy the fantastic crowd in attendance, the beautiful setting, the successful program and the delicious food and wine afterward. (Okay, I’m really sorry if you missed out on the great paella, tasty aperitifs and the white and red Spanish wines offered by the exquisite and hard-working Olga Cavia and her team from the Casa de España and the volunteer students. You’ll just have to imagine it.)
The success of the symposium is due to the tremendous teamwork of the planning committee led by John Espinosa, Mary Anthony Startz, and the team of Viqui Arbitzu and Luis Alfonso “El Macho” DuLuc. Each of the rest of the team (also listed in the program under Acknowledgements) played their parts to perfection. More about them below.
As General Eisenhower said, “Going into battle, plans are worthless, but planning is essential.” And, boy, oh, boy, was there planning. And each of the team members did their part – J. Leney hauled the Camino Real backdrops to the site, worked to set up the Hall and provided maps and gifts for speakers. Beth Leney and Emily Norton organized, arranged and kept everything in order and the rest of us from losing our minds.
The venue was the magnificent Duncan Hall at Rice University. Entering through massive Egyptian style columns with brightly colored tile designs, the Hall is a masterpiece of modern and ancient architecture. Ornate designs on the tile floors are mirrored by amazing frescoes overhead. A graceful curving staircase leads to the second floor.
The landing provided a perfect spot for the talented quartet of Rice students to perform chamber music for the reception. Thanks to Jesus Chico, the music was appropriate to the time period of Bernardo de Gálvez. The music was like manna from heaven, drifting down over the crowd.
In the entry lobby, our beautiful Damas de Gálvez, each attired in their elegant beige and red capes, graciously welcomed over 200 arriving guests. At two tables on either side of the entry, they handed out the magnificent programs and a lovely bonus—a bright enameled lapel pin of crossed US and Spanish flags.
The gorgeous 24-page programs are keepers! I have never, at any venue, seen more elegant and tasteful programs. And John even got his title page included (he had to fight for it)—and it looks great! Designed by David Benitez with the help of John, Anthony and Luis Alfonso, they not only provide the program, but also bios and tasteful, brightly colored ads.
Included in the program is a convenient outline of Bernardo’s life, the Resolution from the US Congress granting Bernardo de Gálvez Honorary Citizenship status. Acknowledgements and ads listed all of the volunteers who made it possible. I’m sure they will be available for purchase on our new website.
Inside the entrance, our lovely Damas sold goods for the benefit of the Houston chapter of the Granaderos y Damas de Gálvez. Poster-sized portraits of Don Bernardo, perfect for hanging on your wall, sold for only $10 each. Also available for sale, we have packages of elegant note cards, and T-shirts. All of these, plus left-over programs, will be available on-line through our Web page, soon, right John?
In the main lobby Luis Alfonso “El Macho”, Viqui and their team of assistants created a wonderland of red and white starched tablecloths on dozens of tables. The magnificent Gálvez flyers (of which we still have a number left) served as centerpieces to add bright color. The high tables were packed with guests during the Reception to enjoy all the aforementioned food and wine.
There were also tables for the Hispanic Genealogical Society, the SAR Galveston Statue Project manned by Bill Adriance, and the Gálvez Opera written by Marec Bela Steffans as well as books for sale by the River Oaks Bookstore, with tables for authors to personalize the purchases. Student volunteers were organized and outfitted in “Yo Solo” T-shirt by the beautiful Ana Egea. She also doubled as Marie Felicite in the Opera (see below).
A Green Room, ably manned and organized by Dama Dorothy Caram and Beth Leney, offered a delicious buffet. Platters of sandwiches, drinks, snacks and chocolates appeared for the speakers and volunteers prior to the beginning of the program. Buffets have a tendency to look like a herd of elephants have stampeded through them, but not this one! Dorothy and Beth kept it neat and tasty-looking throughout the day. All of the ravenous workers and volunteers would not have survived without the food.
The program began (almost) promptly at one o’clock. After the entrance of the flags by six Damas and Eric Kaposta, dressed as a Granadero, our own John Espinosa read a heartfelt invocation. Eric Kaposta sang the Star Spangled Banner, beautifully done!
Our dedicated supporters who had only come to provide a welcome, stuck it out through the entire LOOOONG day. The Spanish Consul General Enric Panés and his wife Bice welcomed the guests as did David Medina, the representative for Rice University, and a great representative from the funding organization, the Spanish Bank BBBVA Compass, Jeff Dudderar.
Each of the five speakers offered a different view of Bernardo. They kept the pace active and the audience interested. The Honorable Ambassador Miguel Angel Mazarambroz provided an excellent overview of the world situation with maps that helped everyone realize that the American Revolution was actually a world war. Crimm talked about Bernardo as a “macho” leader who learned numerous lessons from his early victories and defeats. Moramay Lopez-Alonso focused on the economy and gave a fascinating insight into the reasons that the Mexican elite hated the Bernardo, his father Matías, and his uncle, José.
After a short break, Dr. Gonzalo Quintero gave an excellent presentation on the war in the Gulf of Mexico and the importance of Pensacola to the British. The redoubtable Dr. Tom Chavez finished up the program talking about his fascinating findings on Benjamin Franklin.
Bill Adriance explained the Statue of Gálvez that will be placed in Menard Park right across from the Pleasure Pier, and Marec Béla Steffens introduced the idea of the opera and explained the steps to put it on. He delighted the audience by having members of the Granaderos read parts of the Libretto. Luis Alfonso DuLuc read the part of Bernardo in his sick bed, while the gorgeous Ana Egea ably portrayed Marie Felilcite, insisting on opening Bernardo’s uniform “button, by button, by button.” Ron Marta played the priest who performs the marriage rites for the dying Bernardo who is wonderfully restored to health by the marriage. Our own Mary Anthony Startz played Maria Rosa, the first female playwright, and J.Lenney portrayed British General Peter Chester. Everyone is looking forward to the completion of the opera and its first performance. It will be wonderful!
Jesus Chico, from the Spanish Embassy, concluded the symposium by awarding prizes to six elementary and middle school students. They were the winners in the Gálvez Essay competition which included entries from dozens of schools around Houston. Spanish Consul Enric Panés handed out certificates to the victors, just as Bernardo de Gálvez used to do in Mexico City during 1785 and 1786. The students also received a monetary prize donated by our very own Granaderos, Richard Espinoza and his wife, Dama Merrilee Espinoza.
With the conclusion of the program, all 200+ guests moved out into the lobby. There the Casa de España, and Rioja Restaurant provided the aforementioned food and wine, and everyone enjoyed the music of the Rice Student Quartet. Thanks to all the participants for an amazing entertaining, educational, and inspirational symposium.
I would mention a 2nd Annual . . . but I think John and Anthony would both jump out the window!