Today we’d like to introduce you to Nancy De La Zerda.
Hi Nancy, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m a native of San Antonio and proud graduate of Our Lady of the Lake undergraduate, English/Spanish B.A. and University of Texas at Austin graduate program (M A., Ph.D.) in Communication. After I retired as an educator, I thought I’d have time to finish and publish a novel and some stories I’d been working on. I’ve loved writing since I was a child and first visited the library. Books changed my life.
I was fully enjoying writing and crafting when I learned of an abandoned Texas State Historical cemetery on De La Zerda ancestral property in Floresville, Texas, where my dad’s family were early settlers in the 1800s. What followed has been nothing less than pursuing a calling to help preserve and maintain the historic De La Zerda Cemetery. The journey has been magical.
I’ve not only been able to channel my writing and education skills toward the mission but have discovered the importance of early Floresville in Texas and how Floresville promises to play a huge role in South Texas’ future because of Mission Rancho Las Cabras being designated a World Heritage Landmark as part of the San Antonio Mission Trail extension.
The very best gift I’ve gotten in return for my efforts is discovering distant family members and making many “friends in Texas history” that lend support and add great doses of love to my life. I proudly head up the Friends of the De La Zerda Historical Cemetery @FB group.
It’s fun, educational, and inspiring work. And I am a published author of several fundraising ghost story books, as well as non-fiction. I ran down a lifelong dream by taking up a calling!
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been bumps and curves. Early resistance by some people I worked with, however, gave way to strong support for the most part. There were financial matters that needed tending. Those challenges continue when fundraising is necessary.
My learning curve has stuttered and started, but we have managed to keep the Cemetery ready for visitors thanks to the Floresville Economic Development Corporation, the City of Floresville, the Wilson County Historical Society, the Wilson County News organization, and many others, in addition to great support from friends and family.
I have been blessed to have right-hand “boots on the ground help” from a local groundskeeper who lives in Floresville. I reside in San Antonio, but, thanks to Richard Kalak, I know when anything needs attention.
My storybooks have a relevant history in the prefaces, so there’s always a bit of learning attached to a comic ghostly tale. A cousin from California whom I’ve never met, Imelda De La Zerda Hinojosa, a professional graphic artist, has graciously provided illustrations for our fundraising books.
Before that, my little book illustrations looked like chicken scratches. All this has taken time to evolve. All in good timing.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’m most proud to be an author. I’ve had several stories published in national e-zines and self-published a novel, “The ‘It’ Girls of La Sembradora” in 2014.
Since 2018, I’ve written and self-published several ghost story books, a war story book, and a brief history of “Travel, Trade, and Tall Tales of the Tejas Trails,” to help raise awareness and funding for historical preservation efforts.
I also continue to make and sell handcrafted floral “Frida coronas” and wreaths. I promote and sell my books at the craft shows, spreading the word about local area history to my customers.
When possible, I do reading presentations before groups, so that my love for education, writing, and public speaking all come together to aid in my work to preserve the little Cemetery located along the El Camino Real de Los Tejas Trail in Floresville.
Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
As many of us learn, what seems like bad luck can be God’s way to guide us to move on to better things. If one door closes, move on.
In sales, we learn, “I’m just looking for the yesses.” I’ve learned to not worry too much about what goes wrong. This journey I’ve had regarding feeling compelled to help an overgrown abandoned Cemetery has proven that case in point. I did not want to “take up that Cross” at first. I wrestled with “Why me?!”
I felt a bit haunted by the knowledge that if I didn’t do something, nothing would get better. I took on the challenge and it’s now a frequent stop by hikers and visitors along El Camino de Los Tejas in Floresville, the city with the longest publicly accessible stretch of the Trail, which is owned by the National Parks Association.
In 2020, I contracted cement artist Carlos Cortes of San Antonio to reinforce a broken monument. I had no idea that Carlos was not only trained by famed Dionisio Rodriguez but that he is internationally known for his fabulous faux bois style himself.
Mr. Cortes took on the project and made a breathtaking reinforcement framework around the entire headstone of Mr. Benito Lopez, who opened the first school in Floresville in the 1880s. Mr. Cortes did not sign his work out of respect to the departed, but we are very grateful for his work.
I believe that it is God who guides me, even when I hesitate to follow my heart. Where He leads, I hope to always follow.
- Most items I sell for fundraising are under $20.
- Facebook: @NancyDeLaZerdadesigns