CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The “Las Botas de Mercedes” collection in downtown Mercedes, Texas, received an Islander infusion with the addition of a boot bearing the logo of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. The statue, measuring more than five-feet tall, was unveiled in a formal ceremony on Oct. 21.
The statue is located in front of the Hector P. Garcia Memorial Library at 434 S. Ohio Ave in Mercedes. Mercedes is located about 150 miles south of Corpus Christi, in the Rio Grande Valley. The Island University’s boot is the 31st sculpture bearing the likeness to a college or university to grace the streets of Mercedes.
“It feels great to leave a mark on Mercedes,” said Katarina Chapa, a junior Biomedical Science major at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who led the charge for raising the funds to have the boot made. “I’m incredibly happy that A&M-Corpus Christi is finally represented and I hope the boot will get more people in the valley interested in the Island University.”
The boots are part of a public art project and an initiative to promote higher education, as they are all decorated with school colors and logos. Each boot, manufactured by ACSC Signs in Weslaco, Texas, costs $2,400 to be designed, created and installed. Texas A&M University, University of Texas, Notre Dame and other prominent universities are part of the collection.
“Of all the boots, this is the most inspiring to me and the city of Mercedes because of Katarina’s passion and initiative to have her university represented among the collection of boots we have displayed here in Mercedes,” Hernan Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Development Corporation of Mercedes.
Chapa, who grew up in the city of Weslaco, but went to high school in Mercedes, came to A&M-Corpus Christi after touring many colleges.
“None of the other universities had the same feeling as TAMU-CC,” said Chapa. “They were all either too big or too small. The Island University had everything I wanted. Everyone here was so kind and welcoming and soon as I got here, I knew it was the college for me.”
There’s a tradition in Mercedes that high school graduates take a photo standing near the boot that represents their future college.
“This represents and honors our boot making heritage and inspires students to further their education,” said Richard Garcia, Mercedes City Manager.
In order to raise the necessary funds, Chapa worked with A&M-Corpus Christi officials and set up a GoFundMe account that received $950 in donations. Dr. Trent Hill, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at TAMU-CC, matched the donated money, and together with $500 in donations from Mercedes officials, the $2,400 needed for the boot was raised.Chapa says she chose the location for the boot because of her admiration for Dr. Hector P. Garcia. The Latino rights activist and medical doctor lived in Mercedes before moving to Corpus Christi. His legacy is honored at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi with a statue, plaza and special year-round exhibition in the University’s Mary and Jeff Bell Library.