In 1519, Hernán Cortés and his soldiers, after having first arrived at the Port of Veracruz, traveled into mainland México and immediately heard of the vast richness of the Aztecs.
Along the way, the Spaniards had made friends with an Indian tribe who were enemies of the Aztecs, and Cortés had befriended an Indian Princess named Doña Malinche. These events plus the belief among the Aztecs that eventually a White God would someday arrive to conquer them, made it easy for Cortés and his men to conquer a nation that had thousands of soldiers.
However, it was not until the year 1521 when the entire Aztec nation was finally subdued and México became a possession and colony of Spain.
Having just finished a battle against the Arabs, and defeating them at Granada in 1492, Spain was now unified in religion, race, and monarchy. Queen Isabela and King Fernando now ruled a huge empire, and the Spanish Empire looked for new ventures to conquer, thus the New World opened up to them, thrusting Spain into the mainstream of its destiny and commencing so huge an adventure unequal in world history.
After almost 800 hundred years of fighting the Moslems, Spain had developed a unique military mindset, and its soldiers needed an adventure equal to none and Cortés was able to open the New World for its Conquest and Colonization that lasted until the year 1821, when México gained its Independence from Spain.
The Mexican Empire of that time covered hundreds of miles of what is now the United States of America, extending its borders way into what is now the state of Kansas and perhaps beyond. The entire border area covering what is now Texas was then called “El Seno Mexicano,” or the Mexican Heartland, an immense area where Indians roamed and where pilgrimages from the interior of México were common as a way of bathing in nature and receiving a sort of cosmic awakening.
In 1528, the first Spaniards traveled into what is now Texas – Cabeza de Vaca and his Spanish soldiers. Cabeza de Vaca became the first European to write the first narrative “Los Naufragios,” the first account of the flora and fauna of this land. In addition, he identified all the tribes of Indians living in Texas. We know that Captain Alonzo de Pineda drew the first map of Texas and sailed around the coast of Texas in 1519, however he never landed. These were the first excursions of Europeans Hispanics into what is now Texas, providing the Spanish authorities with information needed for further colonization. As the state became better known to the authorities in Spain plans went into execution to colonize what is now Texas by the Spanish government. Thus began the systematic colonization of the Southwest, including what is now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and California.
Colonel José de Escandón y Helguera, the colonizer of South Texas, brought Spanish/Mexican families from Queretaro, Saltillo, and Monterrey in 1749 into South Texas and Northern México to develop its land, raise cattle, build the ranching industry, starting the first cattle drives, and to construct communities in the name of the King of Spain.
The year of 1749 is still approximately 61 years before the start of the separation from Spain which occurred in a little village of Dolores Hidalgo in Mexico on September 16, 1810. Ideas from French philosophers such as Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Montesquieu that sparked the French Revolution of 1789 made their way to “La Nueva España” and infused the thinking of individuals like Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla who initiated the struggle for independence under his command and that of his colleague José María Morelos.
Their efforts were defeated by the Spanish Royalists, and it was not until the year 1821 that México finally won its freedom from Spain, liberating not only what is now México, but the entire Southwest of the United States, including Texas. We know that the “El Grito” of September 16, 1810 resonated throughout Texas and that two skirmishes in support of Padre Hidalgo occurred on Texas soil after 1810: the de las Casas Revolt in 1811 and the Battle of Medina in 1813, where close to 1,000 Tejanos perished in support of freedom from oppression. In addition the then-municipality of San Antonio de Béjar, consisting of Tejano councilmen, voted to support Padre Miguel Hidalgo’s efforts.
We must keep in mind that after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, the original settlers of Texas, the TEJANOS, now became Mexican-Americans and citizens of the United States, after having resided in Texas well over 300 years, and making vast contributions to the culture we all now enjoy, the most prominent were the ranching, the cattle industry and all of its related culture that makes Texas so unique from the rest of the nation. In other words the Tejanos did not cross the Río Grande River, the river crossed them.
Thus, the “El Grito of 1810” also liberated the Tejanos as well. We must also remember that at various times before 1845 a total of 32 Spanish governors ruled what is now Texas, setting the stage for the many institutions present day Texans enjoy and take for granted. Institutions such as the first concept of public education established in 1690 at first a component of the Missions, and then in 1748 for the children of San Fernando de Béjar that set the stage for the public system of education, establishing tuition free and compulsory attendance for the students of those early days in what is now Texas.
Also established by Tejanos were the code of laws that the Spanish authorities brought, such as water laws, family laws, and land laws still in place in this state, laws that were a replica of the “Las Siete Partidas,”a jurisprudence codes of conduct first introduced in Spain by Alfonso X. El Sabio during the 13th Century; also the first hospitals, the ranching industry, cattle drives, the first municipal government, the first system of farming, the naming of rivers, the first “Compañía de Caballería o de Volantes,” patterned after the “La Santa Hermandad” of Medieval Spain, formed to protect its citizens, and brought over to New Spain, and that later on evolved into the Texas Rangers, the Christianization of the Indian population, banking, trade, religion townships, and other institutions that now comprise modern Texas.
All of the above were brought to Texas by these enterprising Spanish/Mexican individuals, and these institutions are what make Texas different from other states. Practically everything Texas brags about is TEJANO – the longhorns, mustangs (mesteños), rodeos, the chile, the Tejano vaquero transferred its culture to the modern cowboy, and with it the use of the boots, spurs, chaps (chaparreras), ten gallon hat (sombrero de diez galones) as the northern individual coming in to Texas after 1821, at the invitation of Tejano/Mexican government, shed their moccasins , their coon hat, their clothing, their habits and adopted the Tejano style; also the patio, rancho, barbacoa (desde la barba hasta la cola), carne seca (jerky meat), flour tortillas, huevos rancheros, tacos, enchiladas, carne guisada, all of these were unknown to the newly arrived immigrants from the north who were given land grants by the Mexican government who ruled Texas at that time, and who also became Mexican citizens, as well as adopted the Catholic religion, and were asked to form schools in their colonies by the Mexican government, their host at that time.
There were some vivid concerns among the Tejano community that many of the northerners were coming into Texas after 1821 without proper documentation as required by México. The “Empresario” Esteban F. Austin – that is how he signed his name in his perfect Spanish in corresponding with the Mexican authorities in the interior of México – and his 30 colonies came into Texas in 1821, via land grants offered by the Mexican authorities 293 years AFTER the first Hispanics landed on Texas soil in 1528.
If these early Spanish/Mexican pioneers, who tracked this land we call Texas centuries ago, had not brought these institutions, Texas would now look like Ohio or Illinois. The Tejano community deserves much credit, for “How the West was won” and for having prepared the land for the later on westward movement depicted in regular history books.
Having said that, let’s now connect the historical dates:
a.) The American Revolution of 1776 sparked in France a desire for freedom. These ideas of liberty impacted the French Revolution of 1789, whose ideas of freedom from tyranny were imported to “La Nueva España.” Padre Hidalgo and a few of his close associates read the ideas of freedom imparted by the French philosophers Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu.
b.) On September 10, 1810, “El Grito” was proclaimed by Padre Hidalgo in support of freedom from Spain. “El Grito” then resonated throughout all of Texas, liberating Tejanos, and infusing them with the sentiment of freedom also.
c.) Two skirmishes were fought on Texas soil: 1.) the de las Casas Revolt of 1811), and 2.) the Battle of Medina of 1813, where close to 1,000 Tejanos perished in their pursue of freedom); and all of these events happening on Texas soil before the arrival of: a.) Esteban F. Austin with his colonies in 1821 at the invitation of the then-Mexican authorities who bestowed on them huge land grants as an incentive; and b.), David Crockett, William Travis and others prominently mentioned in Texas history books.
These sentiments, the framework and the desire for freedom within the Tejano community were formulated by Tejanos between 1810 and 1836. Thus, all of the above events culminated in the Battle of the Alamo of 1836. Since the northerners did not arrive in Texas until 1821 it is, then, inconceivable that within 15 years after arriving on Texas soil, the northerners would have had time to prepare for the Battle of the Alamo of 1836, and so they merely joined the Tejanos in their common struggle and their work in progress; thus it was the Tejanos and their thirst for liberty from Spain that ignited all future events. Tejanos were the first ones to set the framework, and the sentiment for freedom, the first ones to perish in support of liberty, and unfortunately the first ones to be forgotten in the pages of Texas History. No longer!
Thus, all Texans, should be proud that the “El Grito of 1810” belongs to them also. That is why residents of this state celebrate the “16 de Septiembre” in what is now modern Texas. It is their common heritage, and a pre-1836 seamless part of Texas history that we cannot longer ignore. Furthermore “El Grito” or Cry for Freedom belongs to all humans, and transcends geopolitical boundaries.