The more I travel and learn the more I realize people of every nation do not know their own history. It is not necessarily their own fault but that of the elementary and secondary schools which teach a ‘happy’ and patriotic version while diminishing or completely ignoring anything which could paint the country in a negative light. In my travels and studies overseas I could see this firsthand.
For example, Japanese know about WWII but not necessarily how badly their military acted. Koreans know very well how bad the Japanese acted and will want to talk about it. Germans seem to know the most and if I really wanted to understand WWII I think I would first ask a German. The Spanish gloss over/ignore what they did to Central and South America during the times of empire. I could go on and on but what really surprised me is how much I didn’t know about my own country!
It wasn’t until I spent time overseas that I first learned the USA has not always been the shining example of justice that I was taught in history class. Even more shocking when I mentioned these things back home it seemed everyone tried to justify it with a reason or excuse. This shock has amplified in recent times due to Trump: bring up any negative aspect of American history to a Trump supporter and see what they say. They will say “you hate America,” they will tell you to go live in another country. The Trump supporter is caught in the net of Fox News propaganda and in the idolization of a well known con man.
Hey, you know that property developer who stiffed his contractors, went bankrupt a bunch of times and married a gold digger whose naked photos you can find on the internet? Well, half of America loves him….. and Jesus.
So what are these negative events that our history books do not mention? Well, here are a few off the top of my head before we get to the main part of this post:
- Thanksgiving – This is when the white settlers and Indians all got together and shared a nice meal then lived happily ever after. Little children dress up as Pilgrims and Indians in their schools, put on little plays and nobody even gets killed. Isn’t that nice. The Truth about Thanksgiving
- Native Americans – After Thanksgiving when else do we celebrate the “original Americans,” I’m having a hard time finding one. After our historical fiction called Thanksgiving the Natives died from European diseases and the survivors were sent to concentration camps… er, I mean “Reservations.” Sometimes it is hard to find that perfect word choice.
- Concentration camps for Japanese – There we go with word choice again. The Japanese were “evacuated” (interchangeable with “forceably detained or arrested”) from their homes and sent to “Internment camps.” Wait, wouldn’t that be “evacuation camps?” Either way camps sound like such fun don’t they: fires, fishing, boating nature walks, camp is great!
- The Gulf of Tonkin – A lie from the USA to start war with the country of Vietnam. “In August 1964, the United States entered the Vietnam War after reports of an unprovoked attack in the Gulf of Tonkin. But the reports were false — and the president knew it”
- Iraq WMD – Did the USA find the weapons of mass destruction yet? No???!!!! Wasn’t that the reason for the entire war? Nevermind, there is another Netflix drama I want to watch.
These are just a few examples I learned and I will be forever disappointed that I wasn’t taught these things in high school. It isn’t until you get to college where, in the USA at least, start to get to the truth. The truth isn’t fit for elementary or grade school and if Republicans had their way the truth wouldn’t be fit for university either.
It is this search for the truth a Trumper would say that I hate America. No, I do not hate America, America is a beautiful country which in historical comparison with other countries has shown the world a very good example of how to behave. But like other countries, it too prefers to ignore its faults. So no, I do not hate America. I do hate Trumpers however and their co-opting in blind, nationalistic idiocy of the flag and what they believe it means to be patriotic. A Trumpers idea of patriotism is covering any and all wounds historical or current with makeup shouting that their is no wound instead of recognizing it and trying to heal it with medicine and a bandage.
For me, I want to know the truth good or bad. Reading that sentence doesn’t it sound like a silly thing to say? Wouldn’t everyone want to know the truth? Sadly in these times the answer is a resounding no. People want justification and reinforcement for what they already believe.
The book The Spanish West is a part of American history that is not taught in the history books. I spent 18 years in American education and I can tell you American history is something where 90% of it took place between the Atlantic ocean and Ohio. I don’t recall learning anything about Spanish influence. American history in a few sentences were Columbus discovered it, the Pilgrims landed and then the white people settled the land from sea to sea because God wanted them to. And oh yea, there were black slaves in the South but then the Union Army sorted out the Confederates, the slaves were freed and everyone lived happily ever after.
Most people wouldn’t be interested in Spanish history since it is not their heritage and would interfere with their idea of America coming from our friends in England. Yes there was a war of independence which we celebrate with pyrotechnics and beer but it was more of a family skirmish as we all still want to know what the Royal family is up to these days. Hell, Harry and Megan just moved here after a spat of their own with that same royal family!
For me however, ever since my college studies in Toledo, Spain and I have been absolutely enthralled with Spain and its history. This fascination led me to study in Mexico and leads me today to stop by those dusty old missions every elementary school kid must learn about here in the Golden State. Those that care about the missions are relatively few. For me, I spent time in the source (Spain), I studied in Mexico and stood where the conquistadors did. And now I live in that far flung outpost on the edge of the world now known as California.
I’m one of the few who understand California comes from Calafía which in turn was chosen because it sounds like Caliphate, the mortal enemy of Christian Spaniards over centuries. I’ve been in Spain and Africa in the mosques, in the churches, in the churches turned mosques and mosques turned into churches. I’ve read Las sergas de Esplandián, Amadís de Gaula and Don Quixote. I studied in Texcoco, whose inhabitants helped Cortés, I’ve seen the silver in Taxco and upon the pyramids in Teotihuacán. And I have been to almost all of the old missions here in California.
Yes, I’ve been fascinated with Spain since 1997 and so reading this book was an absolute pleasure. Before I get to my favorite quotes here is a post I wrote about what I had learned thanks to my experiences above.
Reading that title I remember Rush Limbaugh and the Right hate machine was stirring up hatred for Muslims. That is why I wanted to show a little bit of interconnectedness with my post. Now 10 years later Republicans hate not only Muslims but the half of America that does not agree with them as well! It is good that Rush is dead and it would be nice if some of the others of his kind would die as well.
Let’s get to the quotes:
“We Americans have yet to really appreciate our antecedents,” he began. “Thus far, impress’d by New England writers and schoolmasters, we tacitly abandon ourselves to the notion that our United States have been fashion’d from the British Isles only, and essentially form a second England only – which is a very great mistake.” – Walt Whitman
Walt wrote this in 1883. I find it to be incredible that this remains the case today, if not even more so.
These legends spoke of seven dazzling cities of gold, all of them grander and richer than any metropolis in Europe. The events in the tales allegedly took place sometime between the Eight and 12th centuries when Spain and Portugal were occupied by the Moors. They involved seven Christian bishops who fled from Portugal to escape persecution by the infidels. The bishops, along with a handful of followers, sailed across the Sea of Darkness until they came to the Blessed Isles. Landon on an island they named Antilia, the refugees found streams that flowed over golden sand, and here they built seven gold cities, one for each bishop.
A great part of history (and religion) is based on superstition and myth. In our great institutions of learning we now consider these historical fantasies the realm of more primitive people who did not have the knowledge we do today (we still cling to the religion). Please tell me the story of Thanksgiving again.
Though not a scintilla of evidence supported the tales, explorers and geographers persisted in naming a string of Caribbean islands the Antilles after the mythical Antilia.
“From twelve pueblos came chieftains and people in good order,” wrote Alvarado. “They marched around our tent, playing flutes, and with an old man for a spokesman. In this manner they came inside the tent and presented me with food, cotton cloth, and skins which they had.”
In return, Alvarado went from pueblo to pueblo distributing trinkets; the soldiers also erected large crosses and, reported Alvarado, “taught the natives to worship them.”
So the Native Americans gave them food and useful items. The Spaniards returned the favor with junk and a medieval torture device. Mental note: Never do business with Spaniards
Soon afterward, the struggling frontiersmen in East Texas were overwhelmed by international events. On January 9, 1719, France declared war on Spain. Five months later, when the news washed up in the New World, the French force at Natchitoches sallied forth to carry the King’s war to the enemy – in this case, the little settlement at nearby San Miguel. The invaders consisted of seven armed men, but it massively outnumbered the complement at the isolated Spanish outpost: one lay brother and one soldier. The latter, at the instant war struck, was not only unarmed but unclad.
The French seized the vessels and ornaments from the church and attempted to capture a flock of chickens. However, the indignant chickens made so much noise that the French commander’s horse bucked in alarm and threw its rider to the ground.
I find this hilarious. The more I learn the more I realize all of humanity is still a very primitive species especially with its constant warmongering. Grown men go to make war on a little shanty where the greatest spoils are chickens. And the chickens win.
Reports of a French invasion turned out to have been greatly exaggerated. Aguayo caught not a glimpse of a Frenchman as he probed north and east. Only when he reached the Neches River was he met by French captain St. Denis, founder of Natchitoches. St. Denis told him that France and Spain were, for the time being, at peace, and that he was willing to observe the truce if Aguayo was. Moreover, he would return the church vessels taken at San Miguel. Aguayo agreed, but stipulated that the French withdraw to Natchitoches and thus vacate all land to which Spain had laid claim. It was easy for St. Denis to accept: he was the French in Texas. Seldom has international diplomacy produced such swift and satisfying results.
“He was the French in Texas.” But were any chickens returned?
Not many of the Spaniards who came to America in the 16th Centry knew how to read. But many of them had heard a chivalric romance called The Exploits of Esplandian. The story dealt with an attack by pagan forces on the medieval Christians holding Constantinople. At a crucial point the pagans were aided by a warrior queen, Calafía, who came from a place “at the right hand of the Indies, an island named California, very close to that part of the Terrestrial Paradise, which is inhabited by black women, without a single man among them, and they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body, with strong and passionate hearts and great virtues. Their weapons were all made of gold. The island everywhere abounds with gold and precious stones, and upon it no other metal was found.” Furthermore, on this island, “there are many griffins. In no other part of the world can they be found.”
When Hernán Cortés was pushing his conquest to the west coast of Mexico, he heard from the natives of a land across the water. Cortés suspected that it might be where the Amazons and the gold could be found.
My understanding of this began with one of my favorite novels, Don Quixote. It is these romances such as The Exploits of Esplandian which he read too much and “melted his brain.” Don Quixote wants to be like Esplandian, or any of the other chilvaric knights and thus goes on absurd “quests.” The author Miguel Cervantes is making fun of these novels. Well, in a real life twist the real life Conquistadors drew the same inspiration as Don Quixote from these books. The only difference is they had previously unknown civilizations with a lot of gold to attack whereas Don Quixote had to make due with windmills. It is amazing that Hernán Cortés actually thought he had found the country of Califía! This is a very forceful example of how a lot of history and all religion is based on myth and fantasy.
Gálves named Gaspar de Portolá, the newly appointed governor of Baja California, to command land operations and coordinate the expedition. Fray Junípero Serra, father-president of the Franciscan friars who had recently taken over the work of the Jesuits in Baja California, was to serve as spiritual leader.
Junípero Serra is in the spotlight currently. There are statues and streets named after him But, as with Columbus and many other men the country has historically celebrated the fact they were not very nice is coming to light.
But for all practical purposes the overland route to California so heroically pioneered by Anza and Garcés was lost. Still obsessed with economy, the authorities declined to restore the ruined settlements among the Yumas. Of what use where they? If it were absolutely necessary to get to California overland, they argued, 30 soldiers could always be dispatched to force a passage through the hostile tribe and cross the Colorado.
No such aggressive reopening of the overland route ever occurred. California was thenceforth virtually isolated from both Mexico and Spain, her colonists dependent on themselves. Superficially, the colony seemed well able to survive on its own terms. Protected on the east by its Sierra barrier, blessed with a mild climate, rich soil and Indians to do the hard work, California in the coming decades indeed developed a seductively charming pastoral existence. But the long term consequences of isolation were disastrous, first for Spain and later for the Republic of Mexico. Without a constant infusion of new colonists from Mexico, California could not people its huge area adequately. And without sources of supply, it lacked manufactured goods. Into these twin vacuums of population and commerce, foreign traders and foreign emigrants – especially the Americans – would eventually rush in overwhelming numbers. New Mexico seemed a far more urgent concern than California in the late 18th Century: the Spanish saw that province as an essential buffer protecting the rich Mexican heartland from the marauding tribes of the American plains.
Texas immediately became the American’s next target, and it seemed to lure the dregs of their society: deserters from the U.S. Army, runaway slaves, debtors with fugitive warrants out for their arrest back home.
Texas is to America what Australia is to England!
All the New Mexican missions – numbering 37 at the peak in the mid-1700s – were Franciscan, and the Franciscans never learned to treat the Indians as anything more than serfs and servants. The choicest sections of mission lands were set aside for the subsistence of the friars, yet the friars did not till their own fields. Instead they required the vassal converts to do the work. Also, in some missions, the priests charged so exorbitantly in cash or kind for marriage, baptism or burial that the faithful – Indian converts and settlers alike – had to choose between the sacraments and perpetual bankruptcy. After a father had paid for his baby’s baptism he often did not have enough left to cloth him.
Religious men being corrupt and not following their own teachings? I won’t hear of it! *Turns on whatever megachurch happens to be on the tele.* Just like Trumpers and their hate of any criticism of America, the same is often true for the religious. You have molestation scandals in the news everyday but when pointed out many religious people won’t believe it. Show them facts and they call you a liar. Maybe this is why Christianity goes hand in hand with Trumpism? Establish fervent believe in whatever you identify with and ignore any truth which is negative to that identity.
He could, of course, turn the boy over to the Franciscans for instruction, but the Franciscans were often lightly endowed with knowledge: A New Mexico friar once asked an outsider in all seriousness whether George Washington and Napoleon were not one and the same person.
“Lightly endowed with knowledge.” yet they are absolutely sure in regards to the greatest mystery of the universe. The shoe still fits today.
In this Rezanov was highly susceptible, and he was particularly taken with the post commander’s 16-year-old daughter, Concepción Argüello, acknowledge by all to be the prettiest young woman in California. Rezanov courted the girl assiduously, charming her with tales of court life in Saint Petersburg. Concepción – nicknamed Concha – was overcome and accepted Rezanov’s proposal of marriage.
Rezanov planned to deliver the supplies to Sitka and return to Russia, then travel on to Spain, to Mexico, and finally to California, where the wedding would take place. But he never completed his journey. During the long trek across Siberia, he became ill with fever and exhaustion, suffered a fall from his horse and died. Concepción heard nothing from or about her fiancé. She ignored her many suitors and finally became a sister of the Dominican order, devoting her life to charity and teaching. She died in a convent in 1857 at the age of 66.
The Rezanov – Argüello affair was to become one of the most famous in the romantic annals of California. Apparently, Concepción did not learn what had happened to her lover until 1842, when Sir George Simpson of the Hudson’s Bay Company visited Monterey.
But Sutter, at least, was a legal immigrant who had taken out Mexican citizenship. Genuinely alarming was the influx of parties of illegal immigrants that began in November 1841, when the first overland wagon train crossed the Sierra Nevada.
Juan Bautista Alvarado was to comment later: “Would that the foreigners that came to settle in Alta California after 1841 had been of the same quality as those who preceded them!”
“Illegal immigrants” are back in the news in current times. I’m all for mandatory tracing of every Americans genealogy so we can be sure their ancestors entered the country “legally.” The truth can be so inconvenient can’t it? The fiction is all white, European immigrants entered legally and have all been upstanding citizens who “pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.” For those who would like to continue believing this fantasy I would not recommend this book: White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America.
Frémont’s men seized the village of Sonoma and San Francisco in early July – and promptly proved themselves to be bloodthirsty and utterly ruthless. A group of Frémont’s men stopped an elderly Californio and his two young nephews on the road outside of Sonoma and demanded to know their business. Before the Californios had time to reply, the Americans shot and mortally wounded the two nephews. The old man cried out, “Is it possible that you kill these young men for no reason at all? It is better that you kill me who am old.” The Americans obligingly shot the old man, and their leader later explained that they had “no room for prisoners.” This leader was a frontiersman named Kit Carson.
Another example of how white settlers moved in and everyone lived happily after.
Thereafter, the Californios submitted quietly to American rule, yet their epoch did not really end until 1849. Then, a meter 5,000 people, they were inundated by some 70,000 Americans in the first year of a great gold rush, which quickly converted their lost province into one of the United States.
The bitter resentments of many Californios and New Mexicans toward the Americans were eloquently summed up at the time of the treaty by the Mexican diplomat Manuel Crescencio Rejón who declared, “Our race, our unfortunate people, will have to wander in search of hospitality in a strange land, only to be ejected later. Descendants of the Indians that we are, the North Americans hate us, their spokesmen depreciate us, and they consider us unworthy to form with them one nation and one society.”
I’m just glad we don’t have these racial problems today! Those people in the past were so primitive! Good thing we just had a President who preached love, tolerance and unity! Oh wait…….
Well, I’ve written much and the laptop battery is about to die. In closing I would say that the USA has much to come to terms with. The wounds have never healed but times are changing. As for me, I will never shy from the truth; it is the desire to express this truth especially in our current environment of lies, falsehoods and spin that motivate me to write these posts.
El que lee much y anda mucho, amigo Sancho, ve mucho y sabe mucho.– Miguel de Cervantes
Necesito compartir lo que he aprendido porque es la verdad.