The Pan American Round Table is a nonprofit women’s organization with member Tables at the local, state, and international levels.The very first table was established in 1916 in San Antonio, Texas, by bold women who felt moved to address the negative effects suffered especially by women and children during the Mexican Civil War and border confrontations between Mexico and the United States at that time. They founded the Pan American Round Table based on a mission and vision of building bridges between the United States and Latin America at this critical time of historical transition and state formation throughout the hemisphere. This mission of mutual understanding, knowledge, and friendship among the peoples of the Western Hemisphere continues to define the aim of our organization today.
PART of Austin was founded in 1922.
On January 30, 1922, twenty-two women met at the historic Driskill Hotel to form the 4th oldest table in the still fledgling Pan American Round Tables.
In the summer before, they had met with the fabled Clara Driscoll Sevier at her estate alongside the Colorado River – Laguna Gloria – to set in motion the plans which resulted in the founding meeting the following winter.
At the first regular meeting Mrs. Sevier was appropriately chosen as the Director General. At the formative meeting, the constitution and by-laws of the San Antonio Round Table were adopted. Each of the twenty-two charter members drew lots for a specific country, and was thereafter responsible for representing that nation at the table.
The first luncheon, held a month later at the Driskill, was no ordinary affair. The president of the University of Texas, R. E. Vinson, made an opening address, followed by Governor Neff himself, who reminded the women how much, in his words, “one is privileged to be at the beginning of things worthwhile.” San Antonio saluted its new sisters by sending over a quartet of its Pan American Round Table leaders. Other distinguished guests included the governor’s wife, the wife of the former United States Ambassador to Colombia (Mrs. Thad Thomson), and a small host of state judges, heads of commissions, and other state brass.
To emphasize the round table idea, the luminaries were seated about a round table in the center of the room, with the other members and guests grouped around smaller tables. As would become traditional, the festive flags of the Pan American nations provided the centerpiece.
At the second monthly luncheon Mrs. Terry Griswold attended from San Antonio to talk about needs and aims. Five delegates came up from Laredo. Other speakers included Dr. Charles W. Hackett, the University’s foremost Latin Americanist, and the Honorable Hal Sevier, who told of his representation of the United States in Argentina during World War I.
At the conclusion of the second luncheon, the delegates promptly reassembled for a “State Convention” to form and clarify state regulations. Of the first five honorary members, four were men, distinguished in some phase of Latin American endeavor. Also impressive is the large number of musical and dance programs, invariably staged in native costume and with elaborate matching table decorations. Since each woman was assigned to represent and study a specific country, the competitive urge meant that each also gained knowledge in depth of her particular area. The table became such an important part of the Driskill Hotel’s life that it designated one of its meeting rooms as the Pan American Room.
Through the efforts of the women of the Pan American Round Table and in honor of Mrs. Sevier and Dr. Charles W. Hackett, the first twelve scholarships to Latin American students were established in 1940 to assist with the beginning efforts of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas. The Charles Wilson Hackett Memorial Award and a matching Jeannie Hunter Hackett Memorial Award were established and are presented annually on Pan American Day. In 1946 the Table instituted a short term revolving loan fund of $1,000 for Latin American students in financial distress. The fund is administered by the University of Texas.
After a period of “temporary inactivity” from May 1928 until November 1929, the table came back strong.
Excerpts of history written by Helen Frantz
(Helen Frantz passed away October 21, 2012.)
Since its founding in 1922, the Pan American Round Table of Austin has grown in numbers and has established many traditions that have become honored events of the Table’s activities.
Scholarships: In 1940, the first twelve scholarships were awarded to students of the Institute of Latin American studies at the University of Texas. These scholarships to students at the university continue. In addition, a scholarship has been added to be awarded to an economically disadvantaged Hispanic woman for the purpose of completing her educational goals.
Special Projects and Outreach Committee: The Table members raise monies to award grants to worthy community projects assisting Latin American people in the areas of health, education, parenting, human development, art, and science. An important part of the Outreach Committee is the support given to the students and faculty of Rodriguez Elementary School. This project is made all the more special because the school is named for Hermelinda Rodriguez, the first Mexican American woman principal in the Austin Independent School District, who until her death was a member of the Pan American Round Table of Austin.
April Program: Pan American Day is celebrated at the April meeting. A special menu is served along with sangria, and festive decorations adorn all the tables. The members dress in the regional dresses of Latin American countries and live music is provided for the members to form a line and dance around the tables and through the room, showing off the beautiful outfits.
December Program: The December meeting always features a special holiday menu and entertainment. Musical entertainment has varied from the Austin Classical Guitar Society, to Mariachi, to tenor Geraldo Ramos.
Spanish Coffee: On the third Monday of October through April (except for December), a morning coffee is held at the home of one of the members who serves as the hostess. The hostess and three co-hostesses provide drinks and refreshments, many featuring favorite recipes homemade by the host members. The name Spanish Coffee comes from the tradition of encouraging all who attend to communicate in Spanish. Each month an interesting program is presented at the Coffee and the presenter, also makes her/his presentation in Spanish. The Spanish Coffee committee recruits host members and program presenters.
Hundred Dollar Club: The Hundred Dollar Club is comprised of members who annually contribute a hundred dollars each to supplement the funds used for Special Projects.
PART News: The Communication Committee sends e-mail communications to the membership announcing events relevant to our members. Whenever a member is sick, has had a happy or sad event in her family, or has passed away, we share the news with the membership. PART News also includes information about non-PART community events to members that opt to be included in this e-mail list. Members send the news to be shared to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Communication Committee then forwards the e-mail to the membership.
Hour of Memory: At the last meeting of the year, we have a memorial for all the members that passed away during the year. The director appoints the person that will plan and perform the memorial service.
Director’s Pin: In 2013, the Executive Committee voted to add to the table traditions the purchase of a director’s pin to present to the Director of the Pan American Round Table of Austin at the time of the Installation Ceremony.
BookSpring: Historically, the PART of Austin Partners in Education Program awarded $250 annually to Reading is Fundamental, a federal reading program started in Austin through the work of Pat Noe, a longtime member of PART who passed away several years ago. The award was allocated annually from the general fund of our budget. We continued our support to Reading is Fundamental’s successor organization BookSpring.
Pan American Round Table of Austin Archives are located at the Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Pan American Round Tables of Texas Archives are located at the John Peace Library, The University of Texas at San Antonio.
Alliance of Pan American Round Tables Archives are located at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at The University of Texas at Austin.