Yet the terms of the exchange lay beyond their control. Exploited by Rio Abajo middlemen, who were in turn manipulated by the Chihuahua merchants, few Rio Arriba dwellers could afford the imported tools, clothing, religious icons, and furniture that more readily reached the downriver settlers. Hispano settlement and areal expansion twentieth-century observers to envision upriver settlers as a wholly separate subculture, a people whose rustic folkways had little in common with the more cosmopolitan Rio Abajo.
That perception is not baseless, but it underestimates the ties between the two regions. Along with the bonds of family and trade, settlers throughout New Mexico were united by a deep Catholic faith. It is certainly true that boundaries between Indians and Spanish-speaking settlers were sometimes porous. An illustrative case in point is an oral history of the founding of Questa, a village north of Taos. According to this account, retold in , the founders of Questa relied on Indian slaves to clear their prospective townsite of brush and timber. Then, after building a church to honor San Antonio, their patron saint, the settlers celebrated a fiesta to honor him, just as they observed other Christian feast days throughout the year.
To guard against Apache and Ute attacks, the ceremonies were always attended by armed men, and farmers never worked their fields without guns and powder at hand. That sense of mortal danger is reinforced by a second, more graphic account of life in northern New Mexico. Before she died in , Tomasita Benavides recalled the everyday confrontations in El Llano de San Juan, a settlement founded in by her ancestors.
As much as trade and intermarriage blurred lines of racial division, Catholicism reinforced the limits of the Christian community. But it always did much more than that. As a set of daily rituals, Catholicism lent rhythm to lives spent in fields and pastures. As a form of knowledge, it helped settlers to interpret the strange events and people they encountered.
And as the source of transcendental belief, it enabled them to overcome hardships and tragic losses. It did not, of course, make the settlers into saints. Provincial officials frequently condemned New Mexicans for excessive gambling, witchcraft, and lewd dances. In his report to the newly established Spanish Congress, Pedro Bautista Pino noted that no bishop had set foot in the province in over fifty years, leaving most of the faithful unconfirmed.
The scarcity of regular clergy prevented many parishioners from even hearing mass. Settlers created their own objects of worship and practiced their own rituals. An elaborate lore of hymns, verses, and allegories testified to the fragility of daily life and the strength of religious faith. Throughout the year settlers held fiestas in honor of saints, whose sculpted or painted images, known as santos, they bore in somber processions.
Disregarding the formal baroque style of the imports, the rough-hewn craft of the santero articulated a humble yet fervent devotion to God. Flourishing in the absence of the formal Church, it has persisted, in diminished form, up to the present day. It remains the most prominent expression of an enduring Hispano culture on the upper Rio Grande. Throughout the Americas the Spanish impress was mediated, filtered, and resisted in varied ways.
Seen from one angle, New Mexico appears to have preserved its Spanish characteristics to a greater extent than neighboring borderland areas. For example, while Hispanos have always paid homage to the patron saint of Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe, they reserve special sentiment for La Conquistadora. Far less peninsular or criollo than mestizo, the major part of each generation was henceforth indigenous to New Mexico.
Rather than rehearse or adjudicate it, I wish to shift attention to a related but distinct phenomenon, the revival of Spanish colonial symbolism after My purpose is to figure out why someone like Cleofas Jaramillo reflected so fondly on the imagery of colonial times and brought it into modern-day prominence. To begin to understand her and other motives, one must consider what happened to Hispano New Mexico in the nineteenth century. Hispano Ascent and Anglo Challenge Far from accidental, the privations of Spanish colonial New Mexico resulted from a policy to channel wealth to the mother country.
The Crown held a monopoly over articles of everyday use, prohibiting local production and sale of such items as salt and tobacco. It imposed heavy taxes on all merchandise imported to the province. And in funneling goods through the port of Veracruz, it enabled Mexican merchants in Chihauhau to exercise their own monopoly over trade with the northern frontier. This third restraint caused the greatest hardship. Lacking hard currency and paying exorbitant prices for the most basic merchandise, New Mexicans were forced to buy on credit at ruinous terms. In some cases they had to mortgage their export crops up to six years in advance.
In , when U. Army Lt. As a result, New Mexico was virtually devoid of such basic items as imported clothing, metal tools, and books. In the eyes of Yankee traders, it was a market ripe for the picking. Unlike Spanish authorities, the Mexican government was eager to do business with the Americans, in part because it badly needed revenue from import duties. As wagon trains rolled into Santa Fe, New Mexicans found themselves with a cornucopia of high-quality goods costing as little as one-third the Chihauhau price.
Too poor to absorb the offerings, Hispanos were literally overwhelmed. By the New Mexico market was already saturated, and the American wagon trains continued south, down the Camino Real and into the more populated silver-mining regions of central Mexico. Yet the new trading route had its beneficial effect.
New Mexicans could now receive decent returns on their own products, as well as payment in hard currency. In some cases they even purchased merchandise from American merchants in New Mexico and sold it profitably in Chihauhau and Durango. They began to realize the rewards of a growing export economy. Profits began to materialize at the end of the eighteenth century. In response to rising demand for wool and mutton in the Mexican silver mines, as well as in Durango, Guadalajara, and even Mexico City, ranchers drove thousands of animals southward each year during the last two decades of Spanish rule.
With the loosening of trade barriers in , the size of the exports grew considerably, with as many as one hundred thousand reaching Mexico in By New Mexico had the largest number of sheep in the western United States. Yet the less prominent also benefited. Men of modest means worked as packers, drovers, and freighters. Some sold hides and woolen products, and women sheared wool and made blankets for the trading caravans.
In the decade after sustained demand in central Mexico enabled almost five hundred Hispanos to ship goods south. Far from closing the gap between rich and poor, commercial developments of the Mexican period actually widened it. The majority of shipments remained quite small. Almost one quarter of all southbound traders, for example, carried less than pesos worth of goods. Meanwhile, the leading Hispano families were expanding their operations into the lucrative field of mercantile capitalism.
Now traveling east as well as south, to St. Louis, New York, and Philadelphia, Hispano merchants bought wholesale and sent their merchandise back to the Southwest. Even as new jobs opened up, wages remained low, and the typical worker on a trading caravan in the s earned only two pesos per month. The hardships prompted many small producers to assume the role of partidero, a herder who worked for a large sheep ranch.
Very much like a southern sharecropper, a partidero was loaned a flock for a fixed term. As an interest payment, he gave back 10 to 20 percent of the herd each year; the entire lot was due at the end of the contract period. He also received protection from Indian attacks and periodic loans of food and clothing. He rarely succeeded. Most partideros lost sheep to drought, animal attacks, and the return of intensive Indian raiding in the s.
By the end of the contract period, most had fallen deeply into debt. The precise form of the generic relationship varied from place to place in New Mexico, and it changed considerably over time. In later decades Spanish-speaking leaders served as patrones in mercantile capitalism, in party politics, and even, in the twentieth century, in distributing federal benefits. Under Spanish and then Mexican law, a debtor could be forced to work until his obligation was retired, and although the law barred the inheritance of debt, the sheep owner typically set his own rules.
Unable to support his family, he fled the Perea estate, only to be hunted down and hanged. His son, Mateo, was then ordered to take his place in debt bondage.
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When Mateo fell ill, his son, Juan, assumed the obligation. Young and inexperienced, Juan froze to death. Don Leandro, meanwhile, continued to prosper. Initially, Mexican liberalism took the form of a republic, one that abolished legal distinctions of race and wealth while extending citizenship even to sedentary Christianized Indians. Yet republican commitments proved fragile. In the government signified its deference to property by imposing an annual income qualification of pesos for full citizenship raised to pesos in As Franciscan missionaries and secular clergy disappeared from New Mexico, the Catholic Church lost its former influence.
Most resided on the fertile bottomlands of the Rio Abajo, although in some cases their landholdings extended into the distance on both sides of the Rio Grande. Near the town of Socorro, the Baca and Vigil families operated profitable mercantile establishments. Still farther north, just past Albuquerque, stood the famous Armijo, Yrizarri, and Perea haciendas. They filled their homes with ornaments of the Santa Fe trade and acquired articles available only in Philadelphia and New York. In place of dark adobe dwellings, they built spacious wooden houses with modern windows.
Where cushions and bedrolls once served as furniture, the gentry displayed mahogany chairs and tables, wall clocks, and pianos. Even styles of clothing changed, as drab eighteenthcentury garments were discarded in favor of the latest European fashions. Scraping a living from the soil, their lives hung in precarious balance. Particularly in the Rio Arriba, distant from the largest rico ranches, farmers and herders lived in villages of a more egalitarian character.
Survival depended on a regimen of cooperative labor. As men harvested grain and managed the flow of water through irrigation ditches, women plastered adobe walls, carded wool, and made syrup from cornstalks. The social value of such tasks was as important as their economic function. By uniting the villagers behind a common cause, they promoted cooperation generally. For example, the seemingly banal job of clearing and repairing sluice gates in the ditches each spring required a village-wide organization responsible for allocating water and adjudicating disputes.
Yet the communal nature of everyday life in the Rio Arriba should not overshadow its travails. The threat of Indian raids and the scarcity of tillable soil wore down the villagers and demanded continual movement. To survive, individual families or even their younger members were forced repeatedly to strike out on their own. They did exist, however, in a relatively unified political context. It encouraged new expressions of public action and demanded a new vocabulary for justifying them. One immediate illustration is the celebration that followed news of Mexican independence.
The appointed day of observance, January 6, , opened with the sounds of street music, ringing bells, and cannon shots. A large crowd of city officials, military officers, and ordinary citizens formed two parade lines and marched through town. The ceremonies did not end until the next morning. Nationalist language of this sort, of course, is always shaped by political necessity; it is not the most reliable indicator of personal motivation or identity. What it suggests is that for both parties in the conflict, the Mexican nation functioned as a common point of reference.
As Spain receded into the past, Mexico created an idea of nationhood by which the Hispano citizen, whether rico or paisano, could define insiders and outsiders, allies and enemies. With the arrival of the Americans, that duality took on still sharper meaning. What the newcomers shared was the simple goal of making wealth in New Mexico, a goal they pursued by displacing Hispano competitors. In the long run, they were successful.
If they did not actually overrun the territory, they gradually increased their numbers and tightened their hold over its political economy. Compared to the conquest of California, Anglos in New Mexico made only gradual progress in reducing Hispano political authority. The stand-off forced Hispanos and Anglos to recognize that struggles over politics, wealth and even culture could only be resolved through a broad accommodation of interests.
After its formal annexation in , New Mexico was designated a U. On the one hand, for much of the nineteenth century, Anglos made up only a small portion of New Mexico society. By Santa Fe, with a population of roughly 5,, remained the largest settlement, while Albuquerque, Taos and Socorro each had only a few thousand residents.
Yet the total Anglo population was smaller still. Until the roughly 2, Anglos who resided in the territory in increased their numbers by little more than migrants per year. In the Mexican lawyer Antonio Barreiro chided his countrymen for allowing the outsiders free rein.
Journal of Interdisciplinary History
If they did not always seek the same opportunities seized by the Americans, they competed assiduously for wealth. Inevitably, the contest sparked a series of conflicts within a broader pattern of negotiation. By the late s Mexican officials were eyeing with suspicion the few Americans who had settled in Santa Fe and Taos. Noting how quickly Texas had been invaded, they wisely opted not to grant large tracts of land to Americans bent on settling in New Mexico.
By limiting the outsiders to the small parcels they purchased from private citizens, Mexico aimed to profit from the Santa Fe trade while minimizing the actual American presence. To promote the interests of Hispano merchants, now traveling east to buy wholesale goods, he imposed duties on American traders. On the plains southeast of Santa Fe, the New Mexican militia intercepted a party of some three hundred Texans, the vanguard, at least in Hispano eyes, of a military invasion. Ragged and half-starved, the intruders were easily taken into custody.
Yet they set the stage for violent encounters in the years ahead, each of which raised the level of Hispano hatred for the tejanos. Long after the American takeover of , the little-known conflict with the Texans reverberated through Hispano culture. In , for example, New Mexico territorial governor Henry Connelly invoked the image of the evil tejano invader, now in Confederate uniform, to rally Hispanos to the Union flag. As Armijo himself realized, however, the security of New Mexico depended on working with the outsiders.
To insulate the territory from Indian attacks and inoculate it against invasions by Texas or the United States, Armijo granted large tracts of land to foreign-born entrepreneurs. Mindful of Anglo designs, he selected the grantees with care. Most were naturalized Mexican citizens with Mexican wives, and most had resided in the territory for over a decade. In short order Armijo gave away over 15 million acres, more than half of all the land granted under both Spanish and Mexican governments. The distribution program was not simply an act of public service.
In most cases land was awarded to men who agreed to share future revenues with the governor. Nor was Armijo above receiving a direct subsidy from sympathetic foreigners. As relative newcomers, Americans and other foreign-born men recognized the need to adapt to New Mexican life. Along with marrying Mexican women and changing their citizenship, they learned to speak Spanish and converted to Catholicism.
If they did not actually become Mexicans, the Anglo adventurers at least recognized the need to live in Mexican society. Following the Taos Revolt of , in which newly appointed governor Charles Bent was assassinated, Hispano resentment of the American intruders was balanced by recognition of the advantages they brought.
American soldiers, by turning their guns on bands of Navajos and Apaches, enabled los ricos to expand their ranching operations and los paisanos to farm more securely. Simply by paying soldiers and supporting public works, the federal government infused New Mexico with an unprecedented mix of economic opportunities. After government funds paid for roads, an Indian service, and mail routes. As Col. All classes depend upon it, from the professional man down to the beggar. As prominent Hispanos forged alliances with Anglo entrepreneurs, some traditional racial barriers fell, and the gap between ricos and paisanos widened.
The key to interracial cooperation was the relatively small Anglo presence in New Mexico. And although Hispanos had lost ultimate political say to the federal government, they still received a share of appointed offices. Most important, they dominated the bicameral legislature. Into the early s Hispano membership in the territorial house ranged from 78 to 96 percent. In the territorial council, the range was 88 to percent.
On the eve of the Civil War they were splintered into regional alliances, Democrats and Republicans, Unionists and Secessionists, and reformers and conservatives. Otero and Diego Archuleta, defenders of the secessionist South, drew the fire of Spanish-speaking Unionists. Hispano unity arose chiefly in response to Anglo reforms. In they even passed a bill vetoed by the Anglo governor that codified the practice of holding captured Indians as slaves.
The damage was subtle and not immediately apparent. Poorer villagers enjoyed military protection and continuing sales to soldiers of chile and corn. Yet as both ricos and paisanos made incremental gains, they gradually lost the wherewithal to sustain future prosperity.
Their troubles arose from a confluence of forces, all rooted in the structure of the new territorial economy. One factor was Anglo capital. In Santa Fe small numbers of military and government officials, along with Anglo traders, used their resources to take control of businesses and real estate. Equally ominous for the Hispano was a developing segmentation of labor.
While Anglos worked primarily at central business addresses, more than half of Hispanos labored in the fields.
Here competition arrived in the figures of the mercantile capitalist and the cattle rancher. Not long after New Mexico was annexed by the United States, eastern merchants, many of them German Jews, modified the Santa Fe trade by organizing diversified mercantile concerns. As early as the Spiegelberg, Seligman, and Staab families purchased raw materials and sold finished goods throughout the territory.
Although their success did not spell the immediate demise of Spanish-speaking rivals, several of whom competed successfully into the s, the base of the Hispano commercial class narrowed. Suffering from limited sources of credit and a lack of lucrative federal contracts, all but the most heavily capitalized and diversified Spanish-speaking businesses fell into sharp decline. Chisum claimed huge swaths of public grazing land. Sheep ranchers, migrating families, and the famous ciboleros, the Hispano buffalo hunters, made frequent forays into the area known as el llano.
Anglo cattle ranchers halted such excursions. Moving westward, they curtailed the hunts of the ciboleros and forced Hispano migrants into reverse. By the s the cattle frontier was inching ever closer to the Rio Grande, threatening even the private land grants of the great rico sheepmen. To a place long regarded as a primitive outpost, the railroad ushered in the trappings of eastern society. In Santa Fe gaslights appeared in , followed by a waterworks two years later and electricity by The new line also brought whole towns into existence. The Spanish-speaking communities of Albuquerque and Las Vegas, organized around churches and tree-lined plazas, were soon overshadowed by Anglo-dominated commercial strips that sprouted along the tracks.
Most important, the railroad lured unprecedented numbers of people and dollars. Fueled by the vision of unexploited resources, the newcomers invested in mines, stores, banks, land, and, most spectacularly, cattle. Whereas only 57, head of cattle grazed the New Mexico range in , more than 1. The railroad, in short, brought about nothing less than a social transformation. In the short run the railroad fostered new jobs and business opportunities. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, property belonging to Hispanos was to receive protections afforded all American citizens, and the United States was obligated to investigate and confirm valid land grants.
That did not happen. Rather, Congress left the task of patenting a grant to individual Hispanos, who were required to pay for a survey, hire a lawyer, attend hearings, and wait for Washington to render its decision. Those without money and political connections had little chance of success. Original boundaries, having been defined by features as vague as a grove of trees or a cluster of hills, were sometimes impossible to identify. Then, too, the custom of dividing a grant among family members gave rise to overlapping claims, which were only confused by incomplete and contradictory documentation.
Most confounding was the issue of common use. In theory, most parcels had been conferred as either community or private grants. On a community grant, originally awarded to a group of settlers, a family that owned an irrigated plot retained rights to unassigned common land for grazing, hunting, and wood gathering.
A private grant, although made to a single individual, was often opened to settlers who also shared use of its unallotted pastures and forests. Over time, the practical differences between private and community grants faded, and occupants of both types came to rely on large amounts of shared land. That raised a difficult legal question. Accustomed to confirming titles held by individuals and corporations, American judges and lawmakers were reluctant to patent hundreds of thousands of acres in the name of a community that, under American law, used but did not own them.
In some cases, acting within legal limits, speculators acquired interest in a grant for a nominal sum or in lieu of an attorney fee. They then moved to partition the land and purchase other shares. And very frequently, when grants were adjudicated in territorial courts, legitimate claimants neither knew about the legal proceeding nor had the resources to participate. Not all Anglo speculators, it should be said, found easy pickings.
They competed fiercely with each other, and some lost huge sums when their holdings could not be patented. He argued that as heirs of the original Spanish colonists, present-day occupants should immediately receive title to their farms and pastures. Yet it is also clear that Ross and others like him could not stop the relentless losses.
By whatever process, legal or illegal, Hispano landholdings steadily eroded. Residents of some communities blamed each other. In the settlement of Las Placitas, as one Works Progress Administration WPA field-worker discovered in the s, old-timers cursed families who traded their land with an Anglo prospector and then moved to Albuquerque. Some residents expressed contempt for ricos such as M. In the s ninetyyear-old Luis Bustos of Rociada remembered how Anglos fenced in lands once held in common. Bustos also suggested that his friends and neighbors were ill-suited to resist the Anglo onslaught.
That is what has ruined us, the power of money. Finally, in , Congress decided to meet the problem head-on. It established the Court of Private Land Claims, a body of judges responsible for rendering final rulings. Nor did it look favorably on Spanish and Mexican law. Of the more than 34 million acres submitted for adjudication, the court approved fewer than 1. Moving from Missouri in with only a wagon-load of goods, he learned Spanish, studied the law, and proceeded over the next thirty years to amass a real estate empire estimated at well over two million acres.
At one point he was the largest individual landowner in the United States. When he died in , he owned only seven tracts, all of which were heavily encumbered. Even when private holdings were confirmed, the issue of common lands remained in confusion. In the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Setting aside more than six million acres for national forests and homesteading, the ruling left many successful claimants with an agricultural plot barely large enough to grow a few bushels of corn. In fifty-two petitioners received a community grant along the Pecos River southeast of Santa Fe.
Within a decade or so, they and other settlers had mapped out agricultural plots and created the village of San Miguel del Vado. What San Miguel del Vado could not overcome was the American legal system. Under the Court of Private Land Claims, the San Miguel del Vado Grant, including private lots and common lands, was initially confirmed at some , acres.
But after the Supreme Court excluded common areas, total acreage was reduced to a mere 5, So, too, were a good number of ricos, among them Manuel B. Otero and his heirs. The Boston-based Whitney family, aiming to profit from cattle ranching and speculation, claimed partial ownership and declared Manuel Otero a squatter. When Otero and his men confronted the Whitney group in , the two sides fell into a violent shootout.
Struck by a bullet in the neck, Otero died almost immediately; James Whitney, eleven bullets in his body, survived a bit longer. In the end, neither side prevailed. The Estancia Grant, declared public domain, was quickly settled by Anglo homesteaders. Otero and San Miguel del Vado are best considered in a broader context. Indeed, the significance of Hispano misfortunes only becomes clear when one reflects on the case of California. There, within a matter of decades, a flood of Anglo migrants and investment capital overwhelmed a wealthy Spanish-speaking society. Spanish settlement of the West Coast diverged early on from the path laid out in New Mexico.
Making up for lost time, the colonizers developed the coastal region at a brisk rate. Within three decades, Spain had built a network of twenty-one missions, four military presidios, and three civilian pueblos. Land not claimed by the friars was distributed in sizable parcels to soldiers and government officials, who also relied on Indian manpower, and that of poor colonists, to build grand ranchos.
The result by was a society of only 3, Spanish settlers, an elite core of missionaries and landholders surrounded by dependent clusters of artisans and vaqueros. Most Spanish-speaking settlers, known as californios, were of mixed descent, with varying measures of Spanish, Mexican, Indian, or African ancestry. And as in New Mexico, the californios defined themselves against the image of the childlike and uncouth Indian. Yet pretensions to social status, widespread in New Mexico, were limited in California by the skewed distribution of land.
As part of the plan to secularize the missions, Mexican authorities opened mission lands to settlement. Between and roughly seven hundred recipients acquired some eight million acres, proportionately enlarging the ranks of the landed elite. Well-connected soldiers and government officials, some securing as much as , acres, transformed themselves overnight into wealthy rancheros. Yet relatively few Mexicans shared in the bounty. Most labored alongside Indians on the great estates, without hope of owning or occupying much more than a small plot.
With roughly two hundred families owning some 14 million acres by , californio society hung on the estates. For the next few decades, names such de la Guerra, del Valle and Vallejo appeared on the roster of the state assembly. In alone, eighty thousand Yankees appeared; by , when the native-born Mexican population barely topped ten thousand, domestic and foreign migrants numbered a quarter million. Needing both control over resources and the workers to exploit them, Anglos worked to acquire land and create a formal system of wage labor.
First practiced in mining, then in railroad building, and eventually in agriculture and oil production, the hierarchical regimes of production uprooted traditional Mexican communities and reestablished them in labor camps and urban barrios. Their eyes fixed on land and gold, newcomers aimed to dismantle the expansive ranchos and keep Spanish-speaking competitors out of the mines.
In the Anglo-dominated state assembly imposed a tax on foreign prospectors and succeeded in driving off Spanish-speaking miners, regardless of national origin. The next year U. By every rancho in the vicinity of San Francisco Bay was besieged by Anglo settlers, few of whom, despite yeoman pretensions, made significant agrarian improvements. While attacks certainly discouraged rich and poor Mexicans, social decline was caused more directly by a failure to amass capital.
Out and out theft of the rancho lands was relatively rare, and the vast majority of legal proceedings were decided in favor of Spanish-speaking claimants. Rancheros prevailed most notably in sixteen of eighteen cases argued before the U. Supreme Court. Yet the victories took their toll. The costs of litigation forced rancheros to part with huge chunks of their estates.
Still more disabling was the problem of fixed wealth. Anglo newcomers, by contrast, invested relentlessly in land, banking, and mercantile ventures, all of which carried a high potential for long-term growth. When prices for cattle fell after , rancheros were forced to mortgage or sell their land to finance debts. When drought and floods virtually wiped out the cattle industry in the s, the ranchero class fell into full retreat.
In , for example, Ygnacio del Valle, once owner of 48, acres, sold most of his holdings and took refuge in the famous 1,acre Rancho Camulos. In he was forced to mortgage it, too. He died without retiring his debt. In southern California, where ethnic Mexicans held a majority until the s, the wealthier families and the newcomers often achieved a commercial and political modus vivendi.
Reginaldo remained a civic leader until his death in For every emergent lawyer or politician, numerous men resigned themselves to small-scale agriculture. As ranchos broke apart in the s, artisans and vaqueros were forced into the Anglo-controlled labor markets, first digging trenches and building homes and eventually, with the emergence of heavily capitalized agribusiness, picking fruit and vegetables.
One scholar has determined that by more than three of four ethnic Mexicans in Ventura County were employed in the very bottom of the labor market. Most towns in Los Angeles County in , for example, averaged only about 25 percent Mexican. In Los Angeles itself, Spanish-speaking Californians accounted for only one-fifth of 11, residents. The Mexican character that remained was increasingly influenced by immigrants from Sonora and points south. Indeed, the inspiration of Spanish-speaking culture had long since shifted. By the turn of the century, Mexico itself was infusing the region with new traditions and folkways, few of which nourished a Spanish-speaking gentry intent on cultivating memories of the Spanish colonial era.
Compared to the inundation of California, Anglos trickled into the upper Rio Grande. With natural increases in population, continuing influence in party politics, and a century of settlement in communities far beyond the Rio Grande Valley, Hispano society at had reached its apex. Known as El Millonario, Chaves financed construction of the first railroad to the Rio Abajo and endowed a school for girls.
Nor were Luna and Chaves alone. In , drawing on Hispano votes, Spanishspeaking lawmakers held eleven of twenty-one positions in the New Mexico legislative assembly. In , three years after New Mexico earned statehood, they occupied twenty-four of forty-nine seats. Educated at St. Seeking a federal judgeship in , he was forced to plead his case to Anglo party bosses.
They named him superintendent of public instruction. Although conquered militarily and politically in , the momentum of commercial and demographic expansion continued until the turn of the century. Votes and residual Hispano wealth forced Anglos to accommodate Hispano interests well into the s. Threatened by a new Anglo order, Hispanos looked to the past for a new image of themselves, a new way to justify their place in modern New Mexico. The story of Anglo rise and Hispano descent requires one final point.
The account thus far has highlighted dimensions of material change: the rewards and losses associated with struggles over land and commerce.
To complete the story, and to begin describing the making of a modern Spanish heritage, I now turn to the problem of race. Although its belated mention may suggest otherwise, race was scarcely of secondary importance. Indeed, the perception and expression of racial difference was inextricable from the process of material gain and loss. Hispanos did not accept that division with equanimity. Thomas C. As two bands traded songs, the most agile spectators mounted rooftops to watch the unfolding events. Less fortunate onlookers, trapped at the back of the crowd, could at least take satisfaction in being present at a watershed in New Mexico history.
At the climactic moment, with two locomotives forming a backdrop, four officials stepped forward and drove home the final spike of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. It so happened that few people were better suited than Prince for the task. What came next was more surprising. Expressed as indifference, curiosity, suspicion, or open hostility, racial sentiments were ingrained in New Mexico society, and they were only becoming more pronounced as the Anglo population grew. After the Civil War, as the newcomers pressed their claims on land and markets, the accommodative practices worked out at midcentury were increasingly punctuated by cycles of racial attack and retaliation.
Racial conflict in New Mexico rarely reached the viciousness one associates with the American South or even neighboring areas of the American Southwest. Compared with the race riots and organized massacres in Texas and California, hostility in New Mexico ordinarily remained at a low boil. Moreover, both Anglo and Hispano leaders ordinarily worked to defuse tension, sometimes by denying the importance of racial hostility in the first place.
Locally, the relationship was that of an aggressive Anglo minority, which had the sympathy of judges and the territorial governor, with an Hispano majority, which ordinarily controlled town and county offices. At the territorial level, the two groups pressed and negotiated their interests in party politics. Spanishspeaking leaders, backed by paisano voters, shared power with an outnumbered yet growing English-speaking minority. Conservative Hispano politicians, guarding their fiefs, likewise benefited from keeping the issue quiet. And even Hispano critics feared that open and unprovoked discussion of long-standing prejudices could touch off a white backlash.
With racial inequities in plain sight, all New Mexicans had good reason to avoid the explosive subject. By , at least in public discourse, an abrupt change had occurred. Backed by superior numbers and considerable wealth, Hispanos had the clout to demand recognition as Hispano-Americanos. Anglo politicians and journalists took a slightly different view. More important, they believed that the label could be instrumental in holding together coalitions of Spanish-speaking voters, granting them recognition as civic partners without conceding real power.
All New Mexicans with the exception of nomadic Indians became ciudadanos, or citizens. Informally, the change was neither abrupt nor absolute. In articulating national allegiance and justifying political actions, that is, citizens of New Mexico referred, directly or indirectly, to Mexico. Reference to the nation by both parties in the rebellion illustrates the acceptance, however grudging, of the new political orientation. In an era of Mexican liberalism, Spain was a fading memory.
In private conversation and in private thoughts, most probably situated themselves in relation to the villages and subregions of the upper Rio Grande. In public speech, however, the Mexican nation remained the broadest referent of political affiliation. The American conquest sharpened the polarity of Hispanos and Anglos that had developed in the s. And along with mexicano, Spanish-language newspapers commonly referred to nuevomexicanos, neomexicanos, and nativos. Yet such references hide as much as they reveal. Owing to real and perceived differences of power, assumptions of social hierarchy were never far from the surface.
An apt illustration is a newspaper account of the visit of Gen. Ulysses S. Following the journalistic convention of the day, the Santa Fe Daily New Mexican recounted a series of toasts given in honor of the former president. Tributes were paid in a telling sequence: to assembled guests, to the U.
Since the early decades of the century, the term had acquired a rich layering of ugly meaning. As English-speaking traders, army officers, missionaries, travel writers, and tourists published accounts of their sojourns in New Mexico, they were quick to pass unfavorable judgment on the people they encountered.
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Compared to Anglo advances in agricultural and transportation, Spanish-speaking people appeared primitive and uninventive. Commentators frequently expressed bemused wonderment, for example, at the use of a forked branch for a plow. Writers expressed still stronger contempt for an apparent lack of virtue. They described Hispanos as corrupt in their governance and vice-ridden in their private lives.
As a race, they are low, filthy, and treacherous, and seem to have no wish to improve their condition. I never expected to see such a race in America; they hardly deserve the name of human. Moreover, some commentators professed genuine affection and respect for Mexicans of all classes. The rhetorical treatment of all nativos nonetheless indicates that the Hispano-Anglo relationship, although at times suggestive of ethnic difference, was in fact thoroughly racialized by the middle of the nineteenth century.
Hispanos, that is to say, were perceived by visitors and migrants as fundamentally distinct from and inferior to the Anglo, although not solely on account of genetic inheritance. In other words, Anglo observers regarded as racial traits the myriad qualities that, in the modern day, fall into separate categories of culture and phenotype. The common expectation, even as early as , of rising Anglo fortunes shaped the practical significance of every racial label.
Consider, for example, the words used to describe Anglo newcomers. Hispanos referred to them as los diablos americanos, cara de pan crudo bread dough face and bolillos white doughy rolls. Many nativos undoubtedly felt that their own culture, centered on family and church, was far superior to the apparent cupidity and atomization of Anglo society.
The answer might seem straightforward: most Anglo observers looked, dressed, and acted differently than those they wrote about. Encountered in farming villages or railroad towns, los paisanos often had relatively dark complexions and threadbare clothing. Most lived in small, sparsely furnished adobes with few tools, small plots of land, and no household conveniences. With little schooling and no investment capital, few had any hope of upward mobility. Nor did their Catholic faith endear them to the mainly Protestant observers. Yet as an explanation of racial thinking, such attributes only go so far.
Dating back to Protestant Europe, the Black Legend portrayed Spanish Catholics as cruel, lazy, fanatical, and treacherous. Sharpened by the enslavement and death of countless Indians in Spanish America, the legend was readily taken up by Anglo-Americans. Fifty years later, Lt. Twenty years later the Milwaukee Sentinel, perhaps printing a dispatch from William G. With the balance of his caste, he has less real knowledge of the country and its institutions than the negro [sic].
Whereas the latter merely drew attention to a flawed Spanish character, the former violated what to nineteenth-century Americans was the foundational ideal of Anglo-Saxon racial purity. If writers did not make sharp distinctions between culture and biology, neither did they treat all racial traits as equal. Yet even if impurity held powerful sway over the Anglo imagination, one should not forget that it was perceived in a particular social setting. However loathsome the idea of racial mixing, the newcomers had a stake in finding it in New Mexico.
In some cases their interest was material. By fostering the image of the benighted Mexican, they found it easier to dispossess Hispanos of land. As citizens caught up in the process of imperial expansion, many Americans took comfort in assumptions of Hispano inferiority. Appearing in print, sermons, or everyday conversation, the notion of the indolent and corrupt Mexican reassured the restive AngloAmerican conscience that the crusade to overspread the continent was fully justified. To a nation of devout Protestant writers and readers, schooled in the value of democratic self-determination, pangs of conscience were no small matter.
The need to justify conquest also explains why elite Hispanos and Hispanas often escaped the Mexican opprobrium. There was little need to mark them as abject Mexicans. By the mid-nineteenth century, Spanish-speaking people throughout the Southwest were under rhetorical attack. In both regions, as ethnic Mexicans adapted to changing times, a number of elite families turned back to Spanish colonial days. By writing nostalgic accounts of the colonial period and proclaiming themselves descendants of the first settlers, prominent Mexicans set themselves apart from the common laborer. A similar impulse was at work in Mexico itself.
There, too, elite Mexicans sought to distinguish themselves, racially and culturally, from the largely Indian and mestizo nation. One must be wary, however, of treating all such claims the same way. Shaped by unique demographic and social pressures, declarations of Spanish colonial ancestry meant different things in different places.
That becomes clear in a comparison of New Mexico and California. Along with an occasional tribute to good manners, writers expressed an aversion to seemingly thriftless and languid lives. Cultivated families such as the Vallejos and del Valles were not prepared to organize vaqueros, artisans, and small farmers into an effective political bloc. Not that they had much chance to begin with. The sudden Anglo onslaught of , followed by the more gradual but relentless growth of Anglo commerce, left once-prominent families without a base of power.
In spite of their episodic success at winning political office into the s, Spanish-speaking elites found themselves increasingly cut off from the grassroots of authority. The influx of Mexican immigrants into southern California late in the century only aggravated their isolation. Fearful of slipping, in Anglo eyes, into the immigrant masses, elite Mexican families wrapped themselves in the guise of a Spanish arcadia. Nostalgic Hispanos dwelled instead on the exploits of the conquistadores, the men who embodied struggle and endurance. Although the offending article is no longer available, one can reasonably assume that its author, a Presbyterian missionary named Nellie Snyder, was motivated principally by her aversion to Hispano Catholicism.
In fact, criticism had become so common that no single article was likely to arouse a mass response. But Snyder took the normal complaint a bit farther. The sense of said article is that we Spanish-Americans are a dirty, ignorant and degraded people, a mix of Indians and Spaniards. I am a Spanish-American like the rest of you who listen to me. Although his was not the most powerful Hispano family of the upper Rio Grande, it was certainly not obscure. His grandfather Albino was a judge and member of the assembly in the Mexican period. His uncle Urbano and cousin Felipe both excelled at what were then the complementary pursuits of writing, poetry, and newspaper publishing.
Eusebio himself had attended a Jesuit college and received a law degree from Notre Dame University in Spanish-speaking New Mexicans, having lost the overwhelming numerical dominance they enjoyed in , still outnumbered Anglos and foreigners by roughly two to one at Despite diminishing access to land grants, they continued to work fields and pastures, now supplementing their meager incomes by taking seasonal jobs in Colorado and Wyoming. If many struggled to earn a decent income, they still grew their crops and practiced their Catholic customs next to the graves of their ancestors.
The paisano presence had practical consequences. The villagers did not, to be sure, control New Mexico politics. Federally appointed governors and judges were almost always Anglo, as were the men at the helms of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Moreover, paisano votes often put into office conservative leaders of self-interested political machines. Men such as Francisco Hubbell of Bernalillo and Secundino Romero of Las Vegas pursued their aims while toeing the line of an agenda invariably set by railroad, cattle, sheep, and mining firms.
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Progressive reform was not in the cards. Yet the same organizations provided Hispanos with the jobs and contracts that often sustained a community. They also held back the Anglo tide. By pulling voters of many adjacent villages into a tight political orbit, they kept the newcomers from seizing political office on a scale already achieved throughout California and most of Texas. Then again, Hispanos understood that time was not on their side. With the acceleration of Anglo migration after , and especially after , the scales of power tilted more and more against Spanishspeaking interests.
Spanish-speaking vote, by county, Indeed, paisanos themselves left the upper Rio Grande on a seasonal basis to find decent wages. Often it was only in the coal mines and beet fields of Colorado that they encountered Mexican immigrants in significant numbers. His images of blood and illustrious ancestors were meant to rally the entire Spanish-speaking community of Las Vegas, not excluding mestizo farmers and sheepherders.
Rather than divide his audience, his words evoked the common struggle against Indian raiders and, in the present day, against the more formidable Anglo invaders. In spite of their mestizo heritage, they thought of themselves as a Christian, Spanish-speaking people, wholly distinct from both the Pueblos and the more nomadic Indians, just as they separated themselves from Mexican immigrants, the people they knew as suramatos workers from the South.
His speech thus enabled all listeners, even poor and dark-complexioned farmers, to claim membership in a single community, el pueblo Hispano-Americano, the SpanishAmerican people. Indeed, by the turn of the century HispanoAmericano or hispanoamericano had become a favored rhetorical weapon of nativo politicians and newspapers editors. It was, to be sure, a relatively new label. When editors of Spanishlanguage newspapers founded a regional organization in , for example, they called it La Prensa Asociada Hispano-Americana. Manuel C. While they readily denounced specific acts of slander, they did not often dwell on the general climate of racial prejudice.
Nor did editors of the Spanish-language press develop anti-Anglo positions in their newspapers. Rather, in leading the charge against racial disparagement—the junta of , after all, was organized by three newspapermen—the editors took care to distinguish slanderous acts and individuals from the larger population of Anglo New Mexico. He understood that claims of racial inequality would only strain an already tense relationship and jeopardize the authority Hispanos still held.
Having built their power on Hispano votes, party leaders were increasingly torn at the end of the century between Spanish-speaking allies and growing numbers of office-seeking Anglos. The party feared that if Hispano leaders went unrewarded, it would pay the price. Oliver ,. Patti L. Sandra LaMay. Upcoming Events. No scheduled events.
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Add an event. Quotes by Charles Montgomery. It is the stage on which we fight our battles, where we act out the drama of our own lives. It can enhance or corrode our ability to cope with everyday challenges. It can steal our autonomy or give us the freedom to thrive. It can offer a navigable environment, or it can create a series of impossible gauntlets that wear us down daily. The messages encoded in architecture and systems can foster a sense of mastery or helplessness. Topics Mentioning This Author. Welcome back. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account.
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