History and Myth

History and Myth

Because I’m an astrologer, part of my job is to write horoscopes. (That’s how I backed into this as a day job.) Standing on a corner in downtown San Antonio, I pulled out the earbuds and looked at the guy standing next to me. We were waiting on the light to change, “Walk.”

Warm spring day, me slovenly clad in shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt, Piper Sandals that are a decade old if not older… and the young man next to me? Tailored, light twill suit, dark blue color, white shirt, power tie, about the same height as me, maybe a few (a lot of) pounds and many years less than me, and he appeared taller. I looked down. Boots. Not abnormal. I smiled, more inwardly than anything, but I like living in place where cowboy boots are normal, not strange.

My cowboy boots, which I have no intention of wearing between now and sometime late next fall, are in good repair, costly, and at least one pair, I’ve spent more on repairs than the original cost of the footwear. I’ve got three pair of Lucchese “hand-made” boots. Feel like slippers when I wear them. Can walk for miles and the only problem is a tight calf from the heels.

For me, cowboy boots are normal. No Big Deal.

I started reading a piece about Borderland History, and how the original 13 colonies, how that “history” more accurately should be referred to as “white myth” as the history, extended westward from the 13 colonies, it largely ignores the Spanish/Mexican topology.

Early on, I was fascinated with the image of the “Gonzales Flag,” and more recently, I’ve noticed variations on a theme, still utilizing the likeness of the cannon barrel, the motto “Come and Take It” and then a ball team, or a horse racing enterprise, or any number of business ventures. One of my early forays into internet research, when this medium was more useful for such, I found a list of the original families, by last name, in the fateful “Come and Take It” battle. (Gonzales, TX — Oct., 1835.)

Incidentally, the start of the Texas Revolution wasn’t about “white guys stealing land,” but about Spanish/Mexican and European settlers getting some government assistance for taxes paid. It was insurrection with the colonists at the edges of the empire.

That list of settlers? Gonzales, Texas? Mostly “Latin” (Mexican in the vernacular) in name. I’m sure it’s still available someplace, but I couldn’t be bothered to look for it as I have, at one time, linked to it.

The premise is that the history of the Borderlands is different from what is conventionally taught in American History. The Spanish/Mexican influence is stronger, often maligned or ignored. I can’t put my hands on it a the moment, but A Line in the Sand (I’m thinking) was the book that started to change my thinking. That text stripped away part of the Alamo Myth.

Standing there, that afternoon, looking down at some guy’s boots, manly footwear, thinking, it’s been a while since I’ve written that out, “I like living in place where cowboy boots are normal,” so I set a mental note in motion. This carries further, though, as cowboy boots are derived from the Spanish/Mexican horse culture.

Artifacts with clear antecedents. History and myth.

History is accepted as “true” while myth, allegedly, is just a story.

Know how I wound up with a book from the UNM (University of New Mexico) Press? Sort of small press kind of publication, academic and eccentric? Stopped in a bookstore in Mesilla Valley (old town Las Cruces), and the village square had two or three bookstore-like businesses. Never can tell what browsing a bookshelf can yield. Travel educates — with an exploring mind.

Omnia Explorate, Meliore Retinete

Much earlier, in a Texas historical tome, previously noted elsewhere, the premise included Anglo-American “Westward expansion” was fueled by arable land, especially cotton land in the southern states, where the land was farmed until the soil gave out, and then it was, “Move west, new land….” That westward expansion ran out in West Texas, the northern extreme of the Chihuahua Desert. Couldn’t farm cotton, and oil wasn’t discovered yet.

The Spanish colonial processes were different in that the effort was to inculcate, indoctrinate, and include the indigenous natives, who had better defined social structures e.g., the Pueblos. Then, too, the Spanish lands were less hospitable, compared to the forests and plains of what is now New England and the Midwest.

In 1821, Mexico shook loose from Spain and European overlords. While having title to territory that stretched as far north as the 42nd parallel (current CA-OR border) and included east as far parts of OK, practically, the land was occupied by native tribes.(1)

The California coast, the Rio Grande Valley up through New Mexico, San Antonio, and La Bahia at Goliad were the extent of the Mexican Empire’s hold on the territories. East Texas was abandoned in favor of the closer San Antonio de Bexar. That tale is wrapped up in local histories, told elsewhere.

Question begging aside, the way the histories, the myths are carried forth?

There’s another, persistent Central America myth that is coming to fruition, in Honduras. Unfolding in the jungle, the mythic city-center has been potentially identified. The story I gathered was the myth of the White City, long buried in the jungle, has persisted for over 500 years. While it’s still more myth than fact, the tale of the White City is proving true.

What is myth, what is history, and is American History told from an invalid point of view for the American Southwest?

The “Western Frontier,” the purported “Western United States,” that was, for so many years, the northern edge of the Spanish then Mexican Empire, not savage lands inhabited by savage natives, but some highly articulate societies with religion, government, and established cultures.

So where is the history of the Spanish/Mexican frontera?

The Mexican-American War, it has other names, the one I always liked? “The War of Northern Aggression,” alternately, the Invasion from the North.

“More ink than blood has been spilled over the Alamo….”

    (1) The Spanish introduced the horse in the 16th century, prior to that, the natives were less migratory. The “Indian” on a horse is recent; although, at one point, the Comanche were the largest cavalry ever.

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  • Sarah Smith May 30, 2013 @ 9:37

    I was thinking about your comments on your “slovenly” aloha shirt, shorts, sandals and the man next to you in suit and “manly” boots. It’s always interesting to me how different I feel about other people according to how they’re dressed. I mean the people I know.

    A professional next door goes to work dressed to the nines about the time I start walking; in the afternoon I see him in a ratty tee shirt, flip flops and cut off jeans working in his front yard flower garden. One mode of dress seems so much more “real” than the other, probably signaled by how stiff and formal he is versus how relaxed he becomes.

    I know that the minute I put the Piper sandals on my feet, they were just right. They were part of who I am. Part of corporate, societal control of us is done by forcing us into a dress code.

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