In summary, this has nothing to do about rewriting history. It has a lot to do about filling in the missing pieces. No other U.S. Hispanic group has been more misunderstood and unfairly criticized than Spanish Mexican citizens in the Southwest. The problem lies in the generations of misinformation that label Spanish-speaking people as recent foreigners and unwilling to give up their heritage. Likewise, the answer lies in proving the opposite.
Texas, as an official entity, goes back to 1691 when Domingo Teran de los Rios was appointed as the first governor of the “Province of Texas”. In a very real sense, that event serves as Texas’ birth certificate. Thirty-two men will serve in the position through 1821. For that reason, It has always been disappointing to Spanish Mexican citizens in Texas that only English-named governors are recognized as Texas heads of state and only Anglo Saxon history since 1836 seems to matter to some historians. If the thirty-two Spanish-surnamed officials were added to the forty-seven Anglos, it means that Texas has had seventy-nine governors in its seamless history from 1691. That is an enviable record that all other states can never equal. All Texans should be proud of the trailblazing Spanish Mexican ancestry of Texas.
For too long, the Anglo American settlement of Texas has been presented as the Texas version of the English landing at Plymouth Rock and their free hand in reshaping the pristine wilderness of the East Coast. Not so! Texas had been home to generations of European Spanish and Mexican (Native) Americans. It was our ancestors who were the trailblazers in what is the U.S. Southwest today. They are the ones who welcomed the Anglo Americans to Texas. It is that key detail that disproves the current erroneous assumption that Texas history began at the 1836 Battle of the Alamo. In other words, our Spanish Mexican ancestors welcomed the Anglo U.S. citizens to Mexican Texas with the words, “Bienvenidos a Tejas; mi casa es su casa” (Welcome to Texas; my house is your house). (The problem is that our ancestors never thought that their Anglo guests and new friends would take their offer so seriously.)
As we try to show in this web page, people need to learn about early (pre-1836) Texas history in order to get the total picture. Equally important is the need to re-learn about the value of Spanish Mexicans in U.S. history that goes back to the very beginning of our union. The same applies here in Texas where most modern-day Texans are unaware of the Spanish Mexican foundation of early Texas history. Thankfully, that is beginning to change.
The construction of The Tejano Monument in Austin will bring about an event that has been in the making since 1836. In its most basic form, the monument is finally paying tribute where tribute is due. There is much to be done, which brings us to one last word to the younger generation of Tejano and Mejicano descendants in Texas. The monument is for everybody to enjoy. However, it was built not only to honor our ancestors, but to remind our children, their children, and their children’s children not to forget the past. Hopefully, that will increase their self-esteem. A higher self-esteem should lead to increased motivation to stay in school and excel to become productive members of society.
Not by their own choosing, Spanish Mexican pioneers in Texas are missing in the telling of mainstream U.S. and Texas history. It is time to change that attitude, but it won’t be easy. It has taken 150 years to tell our story. At the same time, others have tried for 150 years to keep it from the record of U.S. history. It’s as if the centuries-old communities in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California, are somehow not logical parts of U.S. history. To put it bluntly, the writing of Southwest history has long been tipped toward only the Anglo Saxon side. That may be true in New England, but once the Anglo American settlers crossed the Mississippi River in their move west, they entered New Spain. The territory of New Spain in the U.S. is more than twice the size of New England. Hard to believe, but it’s true.
In reality, the Spanish had already tamed and “won” the west long before the Anglo surge after the 1840s. It was Spanish maps and trails that the Anglo Americans used to travel west. In that sense, taming of the west involved more than rounding up all the Native Americans that got in their way and shipping them as cattle to U.S. Reservations. It was to Spanish Mexican settlements offering food and shelter that the Anglos set their sights on as they moved west.
By leaving out key Spanish Mexican events, U.S. history is therefore taught “exclusively”, rather than “inclusively”. That is the problem. In Texas, Tejanos looked like the enemy, spoke Spanish like the enemy, and worshipped as Roman Catholics like the enemy. Thus, they have been treated like the enemy. Texas history has been written (and taught) as if our ancestors never existed. As a reminder, most people in the U.S. are under the impression that the 1836 Battle of the Alamo and subsequent conquest of Texas is part of the American Revolution. That is the predominant mind-set in the U.S. that we need to change.
The thought of Texas independence did not begin with the arrival of Anglo U.S. immigrants. Rather, the seeds of independence had already been planted by our Spanish Mexican ancestors, such as Don Jose Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara whose defense of liberty was just as strong as that of Anglo heroes in U.S. history.
In sum, this is only about fairness in history reporting; nothing more and nothing less. There is ample evidence proving Spain’s influence in early Anglo American history. By the same token, New Spain’s role and the role of early Tejanos in helping their fellow Americans rid themselves of English colonial tyranny were vital to their development as a free and independent country. Spanish Mexican pioneers settled an area that is larger than many countries of the world. They struggled, sacrificed, and strived to establish thriving communities in Texas and the Southwest for 300 years before 1836. Yet, their existence has been virtually erased from history books. Our job is to make our ancestors’ contributions integral parts of mainstream U.S. history. Paraphrasing Mr. Thonhoff, all of us must continue to scratch the surface and dig deeper into the hidden vein of this important aspect of U.S. history. The sharing of this “new” knowledge will unquestionably enrich us all. We have a great story to tell. Those of us who share the passion must continue to spread the word. We have a great story to tell. We owe it to the memory of our intrepid pioneer ancestors. If we don't do it ourselves, no one else is going to do it for us.