SAN ANTONIO — Ramón Hernández, 81, says it was surreal when he stood in front of a room full of journalists, politicians and musicians. That’s mostly because they were there to listen to his acceptance speech at the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists’ (SAAHJ) annual gala.

“I don’t have a master’s degree, but receiving this award is like receiving a doctorate,” Hernández said.

Hernández received the SAAHJ Henry Guerra Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as a journalist and historian. Henry Guerra was a Hernández hero. He actually knew him.

“So now to receive the Henry Guerra award, someone I can relate to, someone I met, someone I shook hands with, it’s quite an honor – the greatest honour,” Hernández said.

Hernández’s story was adventurous and began on the West Side of San Antonio. He met many artists since then, Spectrum News 1 has spoken to legendary musicians like Sunny Ozuna to explain Hernández’s impact.

“A lot of these things we have already forgotten. I can call Ramón and he’ll say, ‘Oh, in 1959 you were doing that, 1960 you did that’, because he kept pace,” Ozuna says.

Hernández’ musical journey began while he was in the US Navy, where he was a disc jockey and music connoisseur. However, he always noticed something when he returned to San Antonio on leave.

“I watch the Express-News, I watch the San Antonio Light, I watch all the tabloids in San Antonio and I read all the columns and there’s not a word about a Tejano artist. There’s not word about a Chicano artist,” Hernández said.

He approached the San Antonio Express-News with the idea that he would cover Chicano and Tejano artists.

“And the first thing they said to me was, ‘Mexican Americans don’t read. Chicanos don’t read. I disagree,” Hernández said.

So the first person Hernández wrote about was legendary country artist Freddy Fender. Hernández also spotlighted Chicano pioneers like Little Joe Hernández.

“He interviewed so many people and followed their stories. It’s contemporary because history unfolds, it documents it,” Little Joe Hernández said.

Hernández saw the value in all his raza. The person didn’t have to be an established star like Little Joe or Ozuna. It could have been a 14-year-old girl named Selena (Quintanilla) performing on the West Side of San Antonio in Rosedale Park.

Ramón Hernández and Selena Quintanilla pose for a photo in 1987. (Ramón Hernández)

“I took her first publicity photo and did Selena’s first interview,” Hernández said.

He saw that many Tejano artists had no professional portraits or biographies, so in typical Hernández fashion, he filled that void as well.

“From there, I started doing biographies of all the bands. I started doing headshots. I started doing publicity photos, I started doing album covers, covers of tapes,” Hernández said.

Hernández also received costumes, memorabilia, and original sheet music, which resides in the Ramón Hernández Tejano Music Collection at Texas State University. He continues to collect artifacts to this day. He says this story belongs to his raza and it is for them.

Even though he received this prestigious award from SAAHJ, he says he never wanted recognition. All he ever wanted was that warm embrace from his people.

“It’s like everyone becomes, or I become, part of the family, and I become an orphan. Family is very important to me,” Hernández said as he choked up.