UT Austin professor recognized by USA Today for her work documenting anti-Mexican violence in Texas

The USA Today Women of the Year is a showcase of those who have made an impact locally and nationally. Supreme Court Justices, astronauts, former first ladies, and UT professor Monica Munoz Martinez.

"I think it's important for lifting the work that women do and contribute, but also helping younger generations learn about all the things that they can do if they aspire to. And I'm proud that as a historian that there are some girls out there, hopefully, and kids that that think about being historians and the important work of learning from the past to inform a better future. So I'm proud, and I'm honored, and I'm committed to doing more good work," said Professor Munoz Martinez.

She is among 64 honorees for 2023.

"It's a tremendous honor is a tremendous honor. I am blown away and just truly humbled to be in the company of the other women that are being acknowledged," said Munoz Martinez.

Munoz Martinez is recognized for her work documenting anti-Mexican violence in Texas with a focus on the early years of the 20th century.

"And so it was a moment where they were trying to reconstruct, to introduce laws to segregate communities. And so it really was a moment of transformation that brought these kinds of tensions," said Munoz Martinez.

Her work is not about attacking Texas myths and legends. Munoz Martinez said it’s about providing an honest account of past injustice. As a native of Uvalde, which is recovering from a mass shooting and is in the middle of a modern day border battle, she believes mistakes from the past can provide lessons for today.

"On the one hand, we're still having some of the same conversations about what society should look like on international borders and what humane immigration policies look like," said Munoz Martinez.

The UT tower is usually illuminated with burnt orange lights for sport victories, big awards, and special events, but not for Professor Munoz Martinez. Officials at UT said they did send out several PR Releases and posts on social media about her honor.

Students who spoke to FOX 7 were impressed with this new national honor.

"Yeah, that's really cool, actually. Yeah. Yeah, I love and stuff when, you know, our school is recognized on a national level like this," said Orion Median.

It especially hits home for UT student Marley Gomez-Olivas who is from Laredo.

"And to see a professor furthering that kind of study and getting recognized for it just gives me hope that I'll see more of like people that look like me and think like me in the future in the media and everything," said Gomez-Olivas.

Munoz Martinez is currently working on a project to map areas where past racial attacks have occurred. She is also cataloging race laws enacted across the southwest. Some of her work is with an organization called Refusing to Forget.

The information she hopes will help future generations.

"We have to learn from our past and that there's an opportunity to learn about people who we've never heard of. So we've, this building has the names of some of the founders of Texas, but there are so many people whose contributions haven't been acknowledged. And for, we think about the makeup of society today, there's room for everybody to be inspired from our past," said Munoz Martinez.