Vaquero: Genesis of the Texas Cowboy

Open for viewing April 12 – May 25, 2024

Tuesdays through Saturdays – 10am-4pm

In the early 1970s, noted Texas historian Joe Frantz offered Bill Wittliff a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity—to visit a ranch in northern Mexico where the vaqueros still worked cattle in traditional ways. Wittliff photographed the vaqueros as they went about daily chores that had changed little since the first Mexican cowherders learned to work cattle from a horse’s back. In so doing, he captured the vanishing vaquero tradition forever in nearly 5,000 photographs taken over a period of three years.

The exhibit reception will be held at 6 p.m. April 29, 2024 coinciding with the Salado Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering May 3-5, 2024. The Gathering celebrates the history and culture of Texas and several concerts will be held here at the museum that weekend. Tickets for the main concert on Saturday, May 4th can be found here.

The Vaquero exhibit includes 62 digital carbon-ink prints from that collection with bilingual narrative text that reveal the muscle, sweat and drama that went into roping a calf in thick brush or breaking a wild horse in the saddle. It provides a unique opportunity to view a way of life that now exists only in memory and in the images captured decades ago by Bill Wittliff.

This exhibit of historic photographs was created by the Wittliff Collections at the Alkek Library, Texas State University, San Marcos.

This exhibit is presented in partnership with Humanities Texas, the state affiliate for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The exhibit is made possible in part by a We the People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Humanities Texas develops and supports diverse programs across the state, including lectures, oral history projects, teacher institutes, traveling exhibitions and documentary films.

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