Trinity University Press

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San Antonio’s Outrageous Fiesta Tradition

Amy L. Stone (author)

Half a century of one of Texas’s most iconic celebrations

Fiesta San Antonio began in 1891 with a parade, Battle of the Flowers, in honor of the memory of the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto. Similar in many ways to Mardi Gras, the parade has evolved into a ten-day, annual festival in April with more than 100 colorful and cultural events raising money for nonprofit organizations in San Antonio.

Cornyation has played an important role in the transformation of Fiesta. When Fiesta began, many of the events were exclusive and run by San Antonio social elites. One of the most prominent events was the Coronation of the Queen of the Order of the Alamo, a lavish debutante pageant that crowned a queen of the festival. Cornyation was created by members of the San Antonio Little Theater as a satire of the Coronation of the Queen, mocking the elite by creating their own duchesses, empresses, and queens in the show, accompanied by men in drag and local political figures in outrageous costume.

In the 1950s the Cornyation culture helped shift Fiesta into a more inclusive citywide event. While this was not the intention of the show, Cornyation allowed women and men from across the city to participate in Fiesta and created a space for satirical humor directed at a more mainstream audience.

Cornyation traces how the event has changed over time, transforming from an insider event to one of Texas’s iconic and longest-running LGBT events, and one of the first large-scale fundraisers for HIV-AIDS research in the Southwest. Through vintage and contemporary photography and oral histories and stories, the book documents the changes and continuity in the show, highlighting a few important themes in the event's history, including the fact that it has always been a “party with a purpose” that attracts a broad audience, satirizes elites and politics, and creates a place for the public display of campy gay humor.


“Five years in the making, Stone’s hotly anticipated Trinity University Press book Cornyation: San Antonio’s Outrageous Fiesta Tradition presents her many findings in a format that’s part scrapbook, part crash course. Brought to life through 40-plus interviews, excerpts from scripts and more than 100 photos that date as far back as the 1950s, the book offers a fascinating look at Fiesta’s development into a more inclusive “party with a purpose” and Cornyation’s transformation from a “Fiesta for the little people” to a major fundraiser that’s donated more than $2 million to local HIV/AIDS charities.”

San Antonio Current

“Though Fiesta is famed throughout Texas (and perhaps beyond) for its parades, concerts, and block parties, one of its most lively events is known to few outside the city limits: Cornyation, a satire of the festival’s Coronation of the Queen of the Order of the Alamo. Begun in 1951, Cornyation lampooned the local social elites who ran Fiesta and cast itself as an event for the city’s “little people.” In the years that followed, this modest, grassroots affair evolved into a three-day spectacle featuring such characters as the Pointless Sisters, the Vice-Empress of Garlic (who wore “an odiferous necklace of garlic weighing five pounds”), and the Duchess of Herman’s Happiness. After going into hibernation in the mid-sixties, Cornyation reemerged in the eighties as the AIDS crisis made its message of acceptance more urgent than ever.”

Texas Monthly

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Cornyation cover
  • Price: $24.95 buy »
  • Pages: 192
  • Size: 6.5 x 9
  • Published: Apr 2017
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595348005
  • Price: $24.95
  • Published: Apr 2017
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595348012


History, Texas, Regional