About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Spanish Colonial East Texas Borderland

The pineywoods. ArkLaTex. Behind the piney curtain. If anybody ever thinks of East Texas, SE Arkansas, and NE Louisiana (which most people don't) they tend to think of the isolation of the area, the poverty, the violence, and the racial division. And certainly not more than a hand full of people ever think of the history of the area, let alone the colonial history.

For those interested in borderlands history - the study of those liminal areas where the power of empires and the cultural impositions of the core begin to give way to the realities of geography, climate, indigenous culture, and the human condition - the ArkLaTex is a perfect place. Thousands of archival records reside at Mission Dolores in San Augustine, TX, Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX, and with the Los Adaes and Mission Tejas state parks. Nevertheless, students of colonial New Spain choose to wing off to Seville (but honestly, who wouldn't?) instead of investigating what is in their back yard. Conversely, many out of the "big" schools in Texas focus exclusively on the San Antonio / Rio Grande area rather than make what is seen as an oppressive drive into the piney woods.

For those interested in the area, take a look at the scholarship of Francis Galan at Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio or George Avery at Stephen F. Austin. Take moment to visit the missions and mounds of the area and get a feel for how this strange and rootless part of the world started to take shape. Pay attention to the new scholarship in Native American history from Pekka Hamalainen, Juliana Barr, or David Lavere. Texas historians can certainly move past "Daniel Boone slept here" and scholars of New Spain can certainly move farther north and east of Saltillo and San Antonio.

And one finally note ... for those that can read in French AND Spanish, a real winner of a book is there for the taking.

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