The Significance of our Campus Name
'School of Snakes' blends art of ancient Indians
Valley Morning Star Harlingen, Texas
Sunday, November 24, 1991
By Gary Ware Star News Staff
La Escuela de las Vibros - The School of the Snakes - is the nickname of Bowie Elementary.
The name comes from the Aztec-styled serpents that adorn the school located at 309 W. Lincoln.
School officials and many local residents have forgotten the artisan who designed the school's façade.
The sculptor, Luis Lopez-Sanchez, is remembered only by a few, including his immediate family and a former next door neighbor.
Sanchez was born in 1895 and migrated to the United States in 1910 from Monterrey.
"My father learned to work with marble and clay when he was just a child in Monterrey," said his daughter Anita Sanchez." At the age of 13 he went to work for the Decannie family in Monterrey when his father died." The Decannie family was well-known for their ornate work on buildings throughout Mexico, she said.
In 1928, a $400,000 bond issue for the construction, maintenance and site acquisition for all Harlingen schools was passed.
Page Brothers Architects from Austin was hired to draft the construction plans and the Meriwether & Sauers Co. won the construction contract with a low bid of $93,258 for both the North and South Ward schools. The schools are now known as the Austin and Bowie elementary schools, respectively.
The Acme Brick Co. sold 90,000 white and 90,000 buff colored bricks to the school board in January and in June the W.T. Liston Co. was awarded an $11,342 contract for some unspecified concrete work.
According to former neighbor Rosaura Gutierrez and daughter Anita, Sanchez was under contract with W.T. Liston Co. to make the molds and mix the paint pigments for the ornate concrete castings that adorn Bowie.
"My father was well-versed in the Indian motifs of Mexico but I don't remember him translating any of the hieroglyphics," she said.
The design on the school appear to be a blend of several Mexican cultural highlights. The feathered headdress recalls works of the Toltecs, the artisans and craftsmen of ancient Mexico. Part of the frieze resembles the Mayan works at the ruins of Chichen-Itza located on the Yucatan Peninsula. The Aztecs are represented with the hieroglyphics visages. The most intriguing are the snakes that seem to writhe all over the front of the school. Native American cultures associated serpents with knowledge and wisdom.
According to legend the arrival of Quetzacoatl, a feathered serpent, coincided with the birth of reading, writing and mathematics in Mexico.
Who persuaded the school board to adopt the ancient Indian design concept is unknown.
Given Sanchez's background, one is compelled to believe he in fact designed the school's face. Any child who passed through the doors of the school would read, write and learn mathematics in order to grow in both wisdom and knowledge.
Sanchez died in 1958 and with him went the true story of the creation of La Escuela de Las Viboras.
James "Jim" Bowie c. 1796 – March 6,1836) was a nineteenth-century American pioneer,soldier, smuggler, slave trader, and land speculator,who played a prominent role in the Texas Revolution, culminating in his death at the Battle of the Alamo. Stories of him as a fighter and frontiersman,both real and fictitious, have made him a legendary figure in Texas history and a folk hero of American culture.
Born in Kentucky, Bowie spent most of his life in Louisiana, where he was raised and where he later worked as a land speculator. His rise to fame began in 1827 on reports of the Sandbar Fight.What began as a duel between two other men deteriorated into a melée in which Bowie, having been shot and stabbed, killed the sheriff of Rapides Parish with a large knife. This, and other stories of Bowie's prowess with a knife, led to the widespread popularity of the Bowie knife (though he may not have been using a knife of the style nowadays named after him).
Bowie's reputation was cemented by his role in the Texas Revolution. After moving to Texas in1830, Bowie became a Mexican citizen and married Ursula Veramendi, the daughter of the Mexican vice governor of the province. His fame in Texas grew following his failed expedition to find the lost San Saba mine, during which his small party repelled an attack by a large Indian raiding party. At the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, Bowie joined the Texas militia, leading forces at the Battle of Concepción and the Grass Fight. In January 1836, he arrived at the Alamo, where he commanded the volunteer forces until an illness left him bedridden. Bowie died with the other Alamo defenders on March 6. Despite conflicting accounts of the manner of his death, the "most popular, and probably the most accurate" accounts maintain that he died in his bed after emptying his pistols into several Mexican soldiers.