Jacob de Cordova coloring book

Roy de Romero looks on as J.H. Hines Elementary School preschoolers Zariya Smith (left) and Christian Dias color pages of the Jacob de Cordova coloring book that de Romero and his granddaughter, Jasmin Romero, created.

More than 8,000 Waco Independent School District elementary students will bring home a Waco history lesson this week, and they are encouraged to fill in the blanks — with color.

“Jacob de Cordova and the story of Waco,” an eight-page coloring book created by Waco artist Roy de Romero and his 15-year-old granddaughter Jasmin Romero, will go home with Waco students as a way of connecting them with their city’s early history.

The idea for the project shares roots with a Hispanic Heritage exhibit last September at the Art Forum of Waco. That show, organized by Texas Fine Artists executive director Monica Shannon, came about when she saw de Romero’s contemporary portrait of Waco founder Jacob de Cordova in a Waco Winery showing and did not recognize who it was.

When de Romero told her, she realized others also would not recognize de Cordova and resolved to change that. The Jamaican-born de Cordova, a land agent during the years of the Texas Republic, sold the land that became Waco and with surveyor George Erath laid out the city’s streets in 1848 and 1849. De Cordova later served in the Texas Legislature and promoted settlement in Waco and Central Texas.

His great-great-grandson David Vann deCordova Jr., a Beaumont attorney, came to Waco at the opening of the “Hispanic Heritage” art show to talk to a packed house about his ancestor and his legacy.

That exhibit also showed a strong response to a coloring book on de Cordova that de Romero and his granddaughter had put together for the event: All 10 or so copies were gone by the reception’s end, de Romero said.

“That reinforced it a little bit,” he said.

Team effort

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes one to print and distribute thousands of coloring books. Creative Waco’s Arts Match Program, the Texas Commission on the Arts, the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Waco Educators Alliance pooled resources, planning and communication, and the result will go home with Waco schoolchildren at school’s end.

The five flags of Spain, Jamaica, Great Britain, Texas and the United States, and a Star of David flanking de Romero’s painting on the cover of the coloring book signal a multicultural appeal behind de Cordova’s story.

“Part of that story resonates with everybody in Waco,” Creative Waco director Fiona Bond said during a formal release of the book this week at J.H. Hines Elementary School.

Jasmin Romero drew most of the book’s line drawings. Its text, pitched at about a second- or third-grade reading level, takes some 20 sentences to summarize his work in buying land, planning the town and predicting a bright future for Waco.

De Cordova’s quote, “She (Waco) will be my daughter and a beautiful daughter she will be,” inspired de Romero to write a song that is printed on the book’s inside cover, “Where my Heart Wants To Be.” Temple musician Samuel “G” Garcia arranged the melody de Romero had in mind, and Steve Sauerwein transcribed its score.

Interim Waco ISD Superintendent Hazel Rowe said she appreciates the work that went into creating and distributing the coloring book.

“It’s important to know where we came from so we have a better idea where we’re going,” Rowe said.

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