La Carpa Garcia, 1914-1947
Honored at the Hertzberg Circus Museum, 1998-2002 & the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, Summer 2004; Look for La Carpa Garcia featured on Wikipedia and the news re: the special exhibit at the Bullock Museum in 2006
During March 2011, La Carpa Garcia art and photos are being displayed at the Memorial Branch Library in San Antonio, Texas (3222 Culebra Road) thanks to the San Antonio Public Library system, the Witte Museum, Ms. Sandra Griffin, Memorial Branch Librarian, and artist, Adrianna Garcia, who is also a descendent of La Carpa.
Welcome to the site of La Carpa Garcia, former Mexican tent/circus show that enjoyed success during the 1920's through the 1940's. La Carpa consisted of several families: Manuel V. and Teresa Garcia, Manolo and Florinda Garcia, Raymond and Virginia Garcia, Rodolfo, Consuelo and Pilar Garcia, and Esther Garcia Robinson to name a few. Bringing their talent and circus acts to the people of the communities, La Carpa entertained for more than 30 years. During this period, they traveled and performed in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Aztlan.
While there were other Mexican carpas, La Carpa Garcia is historically hailed as one of the more popular and long-standing Mexican tent shows from this era. It is recorded in several publications including the Hispanic Almanac by Nicolas Kanellos, and also had a prominent place in the Hertzberg's Circus Museum in San Antonio, TX in the late 1990s.
The original touring company, led by Manuel V. Garcia and family, began operations in San Antonio, Texas, 1914. Pilar Garcia also came to the United States in 1914 and toured with another famous tent show, the Carpa Cubana, before joining La Carpa Garcia. Other La Carpa members originally started with Carpa Cubana such as Virginia Garcia, who was married to Raymond Garcia.
Pilar perfected and performed a very dangerous high wire act that made him well known in the circus community. (Pilar is pictured above.) His wife, Consuelo, also performed as a singer, dancer and acrobat. Children also performed in La Carpa. Teresa Garcia's daughter, Gilberta, is pictured on the left in one of her costumes.
The tent shows always incorporated a variety of entertainment including Mexican dances, flashy costumes and traditional songs. The carpas were also venues for social commentary in the form of comedic sketches. In recent years, at least one scholar, Dr. Peter Haney, has researched the songs, folklore, and stories of the carpas. His dissertation is entitled, "Carpa y teatro, sol y sombra: Show business and public culture in San Antonio's Mexican colony, 1900--1940," and can be found at the University of Texas at Austin library. He has also written several articles and papers on the topic.
At the end of the vaudeville traveling show era, the carpa members eventually settled in San Antonio, Texas. In 1947, family members retired from show business or went on to perform in the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus or other forms of entertainment such as performing in nightclub acts and big bands in the city. Others chose to go into education and law enforcement. A wing of the Hertzberg's Circus Museum in San Antonio was dedicated to the Mexican carpas and unveiled in May of 1998. For a few years, it was a wonderful attraction for historians, the general public, and local school children. Several Garcia and Gonzalez family members contributed to the museum efforts at the Hertzberg providing wonderful stories, artifacts, costumes, images, and clippings for the collection. Former members of La Carpa Garcia proudly participated in the museum's educational activities as well.
La Carpa Garcia was also showcased at the Witte Museum in San Antonio during the summer of 2004 and will be shown at the Bullock Museum in Austin, Texas, in 2006. Most of the artifacts and photos that will not be on display at the Bullock are currently in storage in the hopes funding can be secured to provide a permanent home for the exhibit.
The images on this site are from the collection at the Hertzberg Circus Museum of San Antonio, Texas, and from the collections of Garcia and Gonzalez family members. You are welcomed to use them-- just give proper credit to the Garcia and Gonzalez families. Click each image on the photo page for a larger view. In some instances, these are photos of photos, so they are not perfect. If you are a member of the Garcia or Gonzalez family and have photos you wish to contribute, please contact Monica Brooks.
For more information, please contact Dr. Monica Garcia Brooks, proud granddaughter of Manolo and Florinda Garcia: firstname.lastname@example.org