The city of La Grange in Texas, historically a major site of Czech settlement, remains to this day a hub of Czech culture. Those who want to stay in touch with the local Czech community or would like to trace their roots can visit the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center located in city. Besides offering research facilities, the center also organizes various events – most recently a gala where old Czech bands were honored earlier this month or an exhibition of nativity art which has just opened.
Retta Slavik Chandler is the President of the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. Herself of Czech Moravian ancestry, she comes to the Czech Republic on a regular basis. During her last visit she talked to Radio Prague about the center.
“We have built a center that has a genealogical library and a museum and also a hall which we rent out so people can have weddings there and parties. We have restored some of the early Texas homes that are typical of what it was like when they moved from here. They came between the years of 1860 or 1870 through 1900. Many of them moved from many parts of Moravia, some are from Čechy (Bohemia) but mostly from Moravia. Their life was not easy when they came. Some of them lived in very small houses and had large families. But they were very glad to get there because they could own land, that was very important. The land and freedom were very important to them. Many stayed, some came back. My family decided to stay but I always wanted to come back to see what it was like.”
“We have one that is called ‘Slavnost’. We have that in May and we honor people that came, we select certain time periods, like those who came between 1890 and 1895 and we invite those to come. We give certificates and they tell us where their ancestors came from, what village, what town. We have a record of all of those and we keep that. Every year we do five more years and five more.”
Are Czech Texans proud of their heritage?
“Oh, very proud. Very, very proud. Of course, we still sing the old songs. We were kind of in a little bubble there, we didn’t move with the time. ‘Starodávné písničky ještě zpíváme’ (we still sing the old songs). We have quite a few Czech bands and we have some new young people that have started bands and they’re continuing with that Czech music.
“It is very important to me as President of the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center that we preserve our Czech heritage. That our descendants, my daughter and my grandchildren know what Czech is all about.”
More information at: www.czechtexas.org