University of Texas San Antonio

A Guide to the Rosita Fernandez Papers, 1925-2000

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Fernandez, Rosita
Title: Rosita Fernandez Papers
Dates: 1925-2000
Creator Abstract: Rosita Fernandez, a long time San Antonian and pioneer of Tejano music, gained international fame as a recording artist and movie star.
Content Abstract: The collection consists of scrapbooks, photographs, audiovisual material, and honors and awards, the bulk of which are in the form of plaques.The papers trace her career from the early days in radio, to her work in television and movie productions, through to her retirement in 1982 and subsequent activities.
Identification: MS 18
Quantity: 12.1 linear feet (approximately 9,075 items).
Language: Most materials are in English; some materials are in Spanish.
Repository: University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections

Biographical Note

Rosita Fernandez, a long time San Antonian and pioneer of Tejano music, gained international fame as a recording artist and movie star. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, in 1919, Rosita was one of sixteen children and daughter of a military officer. She was educated in Laredo, Texas, and moved to San Antonio with her family when she was nine. Rosita married Raul Almaguer of San Antonio in 1938, and with him raised son Raul Javier Almaguer and daughter Diana Rosa Orellana. Devoted to her family, Rosita chose to remain in San Antonio despite her blossoming career in movies. As Rosita Fernandez's popularity grew, she became known by fans simply as "Rosita."

In over sixty years of entertaining, Rosita performed Mexican ballads for foreign and U.S. dignitaries including Pope John Paul II, Prince Charles, and five U.S. presidents. Rosita performed at President Carter's inauguration, and often sang for guests of President and Lady Bird Johnson. It was Lady Bird Johnson who bestowed upon Rosita the title "San Antonio's First Lady of Song" in 1968 at a special performance for 40 ambassadors at the Arneson River Theatre. It was also in 1968 that Rosita was named an international ambassador for HemisFair, the world's fair held in San Antonio that year. She recorded the song "San Antonio: Ciudad de Encantos" for the event.

Rosita's career began in the 1920s when she started singing with her uncles in the Trio San Miguel. After moving to San Antonio as a young girl, Rosita continued to tour with her uncles in tent shows across south Texas. With the increased popularity of radio, Rosita auditioned and became the lead in a 1932 W.O.A.I. radio show. By the following year, Rosita was the voice in several radio commercial jingles. As a recording artist, Rosita made hundreds of recordings and was on the RCA, Decca, and Brunswick labels, among others. Rosita was also a pioneer in television, appearing in San Antonio's first television broadcast on W.O.A.I.-TV, and performing on a weekly basis in several subsequent television programs. Among the notable stars Rosita worked with are Xavier Cugat, Garry Moore, Dean Martin, Joan Crawford, and Ed Sullivan. Expanding into movie roles, Rosita's largest part was as the leading lady in Disney's 1963 Sancho, the Homing Steer, based on J. Frank Dobie's true story. Rosita also appeared in the 1960 John Wayne film, The Alamo, and had parts in Three Hundred Miles for Stephanie, and Seguin.

Locally, Rosita was best known and loved for her performances at the summer-long Fiesta Noche del Rio at Arneson River Theatre in San Antonio. She began at the theatre in the late 1950s, dressed in elaborate and colorful costumes, many of which she made herself. She also was a main attraction at A Night in Old San Antonio, another popular Fiesta event during April each year. Rosita officially retired in 1982 after entertaining for over sixty years. In retirement, she traveled abroad with her husband and continued to sing for charity benefits several times a year. Rosita and her husband also became spokespersons for Secure Horizons, a senior insurance health plan.

As a humanist interested in advancing art and culture, Rosita championed the cause for education. She also promoted and supported charitable causes by performing at fundraisers for the March of Dimes, Brooke Army Medical Center's Burn Unit, and local Catholic, Jewish and Protestant churches, schools, and organizations.

Rosita received numerous awards in appreciation of her dedication, talent, and loyalty to San Antonio. Among the most visible is the "Rosita Bridge" named in her honor, which spans the San Antonio River at the Arneson River Theatre. The bridge was dedicated to Rosita by city officials in 1982 and filmed by a Japanese television company for a special on the world's bridges. Rosita was inducted into San Antonio's Musicians Hall of Fame in 1979, was proclaimed Woman of the Year by Mayor Henry Cisneros in 1983 and was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame in 1984. Rosita passed away in 2006.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains honors and awards, photographs and photo albums, scrapbooks, publicity materials, correspondence, ephemera, and audiovisual materials. The records document her over sixty-year musical career, and performances on film, television, radio, and stage. The bulk of the collection consists of Rosita's honors and awards in the form of plaques, but also award ceremony programs, certificates, proclamations, and trophies. The papers trace Rosita's career from the early days in radio to her work in television and movie productions, through to her retirement in 1982 and subsequent activities. Rosita's papers are divided into seven series: Honors and Awards, Photographs and Photo Albums, Scrapbook, Publicity, Correspondence, Ephemera, and Audiovisual material.


Access Restrictions

Original audiovisual materials are closed to patron use.

This collection is housed at UTSA's Main Campus and must be accessed via the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room. To request access, please use the Collections Request Form.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish from the collection must be obtained from University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Index Terms

Fernandez, Rosita.
Almaguer, Raul.
WOAI (Radio station : San Antonio, Tex.)
Trio San Miguel (Musical group).
Rosita's Bridge (San Antonio, Tex.)
Fiesta Noche del Rio (San Antonio, Tex.)
Popular Music--Texas.
Tejano Music.
Mexican Americans--Texas--Music.
Mexican American women singers--Texas--San Antonio.
Mexican Americans--Texas--San Antonio.
Women--Texas--San Antonio.
Women in the performing arts.
Arneson River Theater (San Antonio, Tex.)
Plaques (flat objects).
Sound recordings.
Local Subjects
Mexican Americans

Separated Material

Four books were removed from the collection and transferred to University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections for possible inclusion in the general library collection or rare books:

  • Celebrate San Antonio Cookbook. San Antonio: San Antonio Junior Forum Publications, 1986.
  • Food For Us All, the Yearbook of Agriculture, 1969. Washington, D.C.: United States GPO, 1969.
  • Salazar, Veronica. Dedication Rewarded, Prominent Mexican Americans. San Antonio: Express-News, undated.
  • Smothers Bruni, Mary Ann. Rosita's Christmas Wish. San Antonio: TexArt Services, 1985.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Rosita Fernandez Papers, MS 18, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Acquisition Information

Received as a gift from Rosita Fernandez in 1996 and 2001 (Acc. 1996-008, 2001-003).

Processing Information

Processed by Toni Jeske, Processing Archivist, February 1999, and Tatina Wulzer, Collections Assistant, May 2008.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Honors and Awards, 1960-2000 and undated

Honors and awards show the extent of enduring appreciation and respect Rosita received throughout her career from organizations and leaders in San Antonio, as well as from the state of Texas and internationally. More details about the presentation of the awards may be found in Correspondence, as well as in some newspaper clippings within Publicity.
Arranged alphabetically.
Box Folder
1 1 Award ceremony programs, 1984-1985 and 1995
Box Folder
10 1 Award ceremony programs, 1986-2000 and undated
Box Folder
1 2 Certificates, 1965-1996
Box Folder
OM1 Plaques
1 KCOR Radio, 1967
Box Folder
2 1970s
1 St. John's Hands, 1972
2 International Black and White Ball, 1975
3 Battle of Flowers Parade-Grand Marshall, 1977
Box Folder
OM2 1 Inauguration of Jimmy Carter, 1977
Box Folder
2 4 Fiesta Noche del Rio Benefit, 1978
Box Folder
OM2 2 Budweiser- Meritorious service, 1979
3 Musician Society of San Antonio, Local 23 -Hall of Fame, 1979
Box Folder
OM1 1980s
2 Counsel General de Mexico-Raul Gonzalez Galarza, 1980
Box Folder
2 5 Ladies of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 282, -in recognition of 50 Years of outstanding performance, November 30, 1980
Box Folder
3 1 KWEX-TV Channel 41, 1980
Box Folder
4 1 Norteno International Records, 1980
2 Mexican American Business and Professional Women's Club of San Antonio, Inc., Dec. 19, 1982
3 Page Middle School, 1982
4 San Antonio Mexican Chamber of Commerce, 1982
5 Nemo Herrera Scholarship Fund, Inc.-Woman of the Year, 1983
Box Folder
5 1 San Antonio AABE-in recognition of outstanding Service to the Community, April 8, 1983
Box Folder
OM1 3 Telethon Navideno-con amor y carino, 1983
Box Folder
OM3 1 Kelly Air Force Base-Entertainment Role Model Award, 1984
Box Folder
5 2 Market Square Association, November, 1984
Box Folder
OM4 1 San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame Honoree, 1984
Box Folder
5 3 Region VI Head Start Association, 1985
Box Folder
OM2 4 Helping Hands Lifeline Foundation, 1986
Box Folder
5 4 Miss Maintenance Contest Judge, 1987
5 San Antonio Jaycees-Fiesta Flambeau Night Parade, Grand Marshall, April 25, 1987
6 San Antonio Living Senior Agency-Humanitarian Award, 1987
Box Folder
6 1 San Antonio Parks Foundation and Department of Parks and Recreation-60 years of entertaining and contributions to Arneson River Theatre Restoration Project, [1987]
2 Texas Talent Musicians Association-official induction into Tejano Music Hall of Fame, 1987
3 Hispanic Scholarship Pageant, 1988
4 Farmer's Market, 1989
OM1 1990s
4 Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, 1992
Box Folder
6 5 June 5, 1994
6 Galeria Sol y Luna, July 20, 1996
7 Undated Materials
1 League of United Latin American Citizens- in appreciation of 56 years of service to community, undated
2 Musician Society of San Antonio's Local 23 American Federation of Musicians, undated
Box Folder
OM1 5 Proclamations, 1980-1994
OM7 Trophies
Fiesta Noche del Rio, 1974
Centro Cultural Aztlan- special 5th anniversary tribute to Chicano women in the arts, 1984
Box Folder
OM4 2 Texas Numismatic Association-Rosita's Bridge, 1987
3 Pura Vida Award-Pura Vida Paseo de las Estrellas, 1996

Photographs and Photo Albums, 1930-1996

Photographs and Photo Albums span Rosita's career from the 1930s through her retirement years in the 1990s, and highlight her experiences in radio, television, film, and in giving live musical performances. Both the photographs and photo albums visually offer information about costumes, costars, sets, and places of performance throughout the years. Photographs of memorable performances for foreign and American dignitaries, as well as Rosita's Arneson River Theatre performances for "Fiesta Noche del Rio" are found both in albums and in individual photographs. Among events particularly well documented in photo albums are the shooting of Disney film Sancho, the Homing Steer, the dedication ceremony for Rosita's Bridge, and festivities for Rosita's 50th and 60th anniversaries in the entertainment profession. Individual photographs of travels abroad and ceremonies in Rosita's honor are included in photographs from the 1980s and 1990s. Also included are slides from one of Rosita's movies and her in performance costumes.
Arranged into two subseries: Photographs and Photo Albums, and chronologically thereafter.
1 Photographs, 1930s-1990s and undated
3 Childhood family photograph, undated
Box Folder
OM5 2 1940s
4 1960s
5 1970s
P1 Photographs, slides, and negatives,1972-1973 and undated
Box Folder
OM5 7 1990s
8 Rosita wooden block photograph, undated
9 Rosita in costume at the Riverwalk, undated
10 Rosita, 1981 and 1985
Box Folder
OM7 Block photo stand, undated
OM8 "To Rosita from the cast of Fiesta Noche del Rio" photo album,1973
1 Photos, undated
Box Folder
8 Photo Albums
1 1930-1939
2 1940-1944
3 1944-1953
4 1954-1963
5 1963-1965
6 1965-1981
7 1982-1989
Box Folder
9 1 1990-1996
2 Undated photographs
4 Duplicate photographs

Scrapbook, 1942-1997 and undated

The large-size scrapbook dates back to 1930, and primarily contains newspaper clippings compiled chronologically through Rosita's career. This series offers the most comprehensive source of information on Rosita's career, providing details about Rosita's performances and appearances over the years. The articles convey the warmth and affection that the public, particularly San Antonians, held for their First Lady of Song. The scrapbook also contains a few programs, fliers, and certificates. A second, smaller scrapbook from 1997 honors Rosita Fernandez and was given to her by The San Antonio Women's History Coalition and is filled with autographs and notes to Rosita.
OM6 Scrapbook, 1942-1997
1 Loose scrapbook items corresponding to page numbers, 1930-1997
4 Page 1
5 Page 2
6 Page 3
7 Page 4
8 Page 5
9 Page 7
10 Page 8
11 Page 9
12 Page 10
13 Page 11
14 Page 20
15 Page 22
16 Last page, 1947-1995
Box Folder
10 2 The San Antonio Women's History Coalition honors Rosita Fernandez, March 1, 1997
Box Folder
9 3 Scrapbook materials, 1977-1982 and undated

Publicity, 1936-2000 and undated

Publicity is incomplete in its coverage, but does offer an idea of the type of publicity Rosita attracted and participated in. Included are a few of Rosita's advertising endorsements, magazines, and newsletters containing articles on Rosita.
Arranged alphabetically.
OM1 Advertising endorsements,
Box Folder
OM5 11 Bread and tortillas, 1950, 1975, and 1978
Box Folder
OM1 6 Beer, 1982
Box Folder
10 3 Advertising endorsements,1960-1965, 1996, and undated
4 Clippings,1982-1998 and undated
Box Folder
OM8 2 Clippings and magazines,1982-1998 and undated
1 Magazines
17 1938, 1963, and 1997
Box Folder
OM5 12 Life,1968
Box Folder
10 5 Magazines,1953-1983
6 Magazines,1990-1999
7 Magazines,1999-2000 and undated
Box Folder
1 18 Newsletters, 1966-1995
Box Folder
11 1 Newsletters,May 1, 1978
Box Folder
1 19 Newspaper clippings, 1936-1989 and undated
Box Folder
11 2 News publications,1959, 1978, 1990-1992 and undated
3 Performance programs,1939 and 1954-1974
4 Performance programs,1975-1986
5 Performance programs,1987-1994
Box Folder
1 20 Performance programs, 1952-1995
Box Folder
11 6 Performance programs, undated
Box Folder
12 1 Performance programs, undated

Correspondence, 1953-1996 and undated

Arranged chronologically.
Box Folder
1 21 Correspondence, 1951-1996
Box Folder
12 2 1953, 1967, and undated

Ephemera, 1944-2000 and undated

Arranged alphabetically.
Box Folder
12 3 Biographies, undated
4 Brochures, undated
5 Cinco de Mayo and Festivadades Mexicanas Commemorative Stamps, 1998 and undated
Box Folder
OM8 4 Cinco de Mayo Commemorative Stamp poster,1998
Cinco de Mayo and Festivadades Mexicanas Commemorative Stamps framed wall-hanging,1998
5 Clippings,1968 and 2000
Box Folder
12 6 The Dust of Mexico,1974
Box Folder
OM5 13 D├ęcor plan for Mercado Auditorium, May 30, 1980
Box Folder
1 25 Miscellaneous ephemera, 1953-1987
22 Poems to Rosita, 1944 and undated
Box Folder
OM5 14 Rosita's Bridge drawing, undated
Box Folder
12 7 Rosita's Bridge,1982-1986 and undated
Box Folder
1 23 Record album postcards, 1967
24 Sound recording of "San Antonio: ciudad de encantos," undated
Box Folder
12 8 "San Antonio" sheet music and author, Walter Jurmann, undated
9 San Antonio, The Silver Pages phonebooks,1986-1989
10 San Antonio tourist guides,1973-1974 and undated
Box Folder
13 1 Sancho, The Homing Steer manuscript,1959-1960
2 Seguin manuscript and cast list,1980
3 Texas travel guides, undated
4 Unsorted material, undated

Audiovisual Materials,1988-1992 and undated

Includes one CD, "Rosita Fernandez, La Legendaria, San Antonio's First Lady of Song," and VHS videocassettes documenting Rosita's career. The tapes are of local performances, TV appearances, and her movies, Seguin and Sancho, the Homing Steer.
RESTRICTED: Original audiovisual materials are closed to patron use.
14 La Legendaria: San Antonio's First Lady of Song CD,1999
Use Copy Available
14-16 RESTRICTED: Videocassettes, 1988-1999 and undated