Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Truth of History: A Voyage Long and Strange

What is considered the truth of history truly depends on those telling the story. I'm listening to an audio book on the history of the discovery of the new world and establishment of colonials called "A Voyage Long and Strange" by Tony Horwitz which addresses the truth of the history of the United States.

He states that when studying U.S. history, children are told about Plymouth Rock and the first Thanksgiving, but not much about the true place of those events in the discovery of the New World by Europeans. He sets out on his own voyage of discovery to find the true history of European discovery and exploration in the United States and it takes him beyond our borders to Canada, the Caribbean, and Central America.

It wasn't until the 20th century that confirmation of the Viking settlement in Newfoundland was discovered and now people might know who Leif Ericson was. But in spite of the fact that the Spanish settled the Southwest about the same time as the landing of the Mayflower, you don't hear about it in the class room. Even the Spanish foray into, and naming of Florida is mired in fable.

Living in Colorado, it's hard not to be aware of the Spanish colonial influence. It's everywhere in names, language, and the landscape. The main street of Colorado Springs is Tejon (pronounced Tay-hone), one of the high schools is called Coronado, and the state name means "reddish" in Spanish. But the best place to find the history of Spanish colonials is New Mexico.

Unfortunately, much of that history seems (to me) to be tainted by European American obsession with illegal immigrants crossing our southern border. I'm NOT going to address that other than to point out that many people lumped together with illegal immigrants have been living on lands now part of the United States since the late 1500s and early 1600s. As long as (sometimes longer) than those who came on the Mayflower.

But if you'd like to know more about the part of the United States named the Nuevo Mundo (New World) by the Spanish I strongly recommend a visit to New Mexico, some internet surfing for Spanish Colonial history in the Southwest, or reading/listening to Mr. Horwitz's book.

Here's some dates:
• Arizona and New Mexico were explored by Coronado in 1540.
• Oñate returned in force in 1598 to claim the area called New Spain. They established the city of Santa Fe in 1608 and made it the capital of the province in 1610. That makes it the oldest, continuously occupied capital city in the United States and it celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2010.
• In 1821 Mexico declared independence and all New Spain territories became part of the new empire of Mexico. This included Las Californias, Nuevo México, and Texas.
• The annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845 resulted in the Mexican-American War The U.S. won that war and so Las Californias and Nuevo México became territories of the United States about 1848. Statehood turned them into California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado.

The Spanish were brutal (what colonials weren't) but they introduced tools, plants, horses and sheep still found in the Southwest today.

New Mexico is still a very Spanish and Native American place and people descended from Spaniards still live there. They are as proud of their heritage as any descendant of those who arrived on the Mayflower. But Puebloans will be happy to tell you the horrors they suffered at the hands of the Conquistador.

What I have here is overly simplified, but it is a history of the beginnings of the United States that you can discover in person by visiting the people and places of the Southwest. Places such as Santa Fe, Taos, Acoma, Zuni, El Morro National Monument, and Canyon de Chelly where the image of Spanish Conquistadors was drawn on the canyon wall by Navajo ancestors.

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