Happy April 6, Texas Independence Day, Rio Grande Guardian readers!
Yes, on April 6, 1813, Revilla/Zapata native Lt. Colonel José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara Uribe first achieved Texas independence and became the first president of Texas. In truth, Texas celebrates four independence days (September 16, April 6, March 2, and July 4.
Sadly, in writing (teaching) Texas history with a pronounced Anglo-focused post-1836 viewpoint, mainstream historians and the Texas State Board of Education deprive Texans of learning our state’s true founding story. For a sampling of details that they discard, the following is provided:
As generations of elementary school students in U.S. classrooms have been taught, Jamestown, Virginia represents the first English settlement in America. In applying that basis through state-mandated curriculum, Texas schoolteachers consistently imply that Jamestown marks the beginning of the wholesale English colonization west to the Pacific Ocean.
While that exclusively Anglicized mindset is most prevalent here in Texas, our Spanish Mexican-descent brethren in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California can justly make the same declaration.
Truly, the Anglo Saxon-controlled recording of Texas history is the main reason that conventional society persistently views Mexico and Mexican-descent Texans in a negative way. How? It continues to ignore the Spanish Mexican footprints firmly embedded in Texas and the Southwest — land that the U.S. now claims as its own.
Most Anglo and Northern European-descent Texans have no idea that while their ancestors were still in Europe, our Spanish-speaking ancestors were already living “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and the Southwest.
First, let’s be clear — Anglo immigrants didn’t come to Texas seeking independence. Second, most U.S. residents who came here were landless, needy, and hungry in the U.S. Distraughtly, they accepted Mexico’s generous offer of free land and new lives as Mexican citizens.
Sadly, most of what is taught regarding the reasons Anglos immigrated to Texas is based on misinformation accepted as fact. For example:
• Mainstream society has been led to believe that Mission San Antonio de Valero is the Álamo, when in reality it is the nickname of Presidio San Antonio; long ago destroyed by city officials to commercially develop the site where the 1836 battle took place.
• It is that strong dose of blissful ignorance that distorts the mainstream Texas history version they’ve been conditioned to accept without question.
Interestingly, pre-1836 Texas history lessons are not that difficult for Anglo-Saxon/Northern European-descent people to learn. If only they took the time, they would know why it is that Southwest states and cities have Spanish names (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and California). Equally, they would understand why everything historically old in Texas is in Spanish. For further discussion, see below.
San Antonio. Author and historian Don Chipman writes that the newly appointed first governor of Texas in 1691, Domingo Terán de los Rios became the first to record a visit to the location that would later become San Antonio. The site was later visited by Spanish officials who also noted the San Antonio River’s potential for settlement as a way station between Presidio San Juan Bautista and East Texas missions.
Indeed, less than thirty years later in 1718, Texas Governor Martín de Alarcón and Father Antonio Olivares established San Antonio. Then, in 1731, Bexareños were augmented with 51 Canary Islanders (Isleños). The town grew gradually and became the second Texas capital in 1772.
It was here that in 1836, a group of Anglo immigrants disobeyed Sam Houston and made a foolhardy stand at the Álamo Presidio. They were defeated by Mexican troops who had every right to defend their country from armed U.S. intruders.
Los Adaes/Nacogdoches. Los Adaes was established in 1722 to deter French intrusion into Texas. For 50 years, it served as the first capital of Texas. When the French encroachment was no longer a threat, the viceroy decided to move Los Adaes settlers to San Antonio.
Shortly after arriving in San Antonio, Captain Gil Ybarbo assumed the leadership position of the Adaeseños and requested permission from Mexico City to return to their homes. The viceroy concurred and in 1779 allowed Captain Ybarbo to lead his colonists back to East Texas, essentially establishing Nacogdoches. In its beginning, Nacogdoches served as an oasis and shelter for Anglos wanting to move to Mexico.
Because of its strategic location, Nacogdoches witnessed the resultant tsunami of mostly unfriendly U.S. immigrants. Soon, they overwhelmed Mexican border patrol/customs officials at the U.S. Mexico border (Rio de Sabinas (Sabine River)) and continued their intrusion into Texas.
La Bahia/Goliad. First established in Matagorda Bay by Marquis de Aguayo in 1722. Structures quickly rising at the site included Mission Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga to serve local native populations of Cocos, Karankawas, and Cujanes. Also, Presidio La Bahia was constructed with a garrison of 90 military personnel (Chipman). In 1749, Colonel José de Escandón moved the settlement to its present San Antonio River location.
Of note is a little-known fact. Presidio La Bahia was the site of the 1812 Battle of Goliad. The rivals were Lt. Colonel José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara and his Army of the North (First Texas Army) against Spanish Royalist forces. After a long standoff in freezing rain and bitter cold weather conditions, the Tejano Army prevailed.
This make-or-break victory allowed the Tejanos to proceed to the Texas regional capital of San Antonio and achieve the first Texas Independence in 1813. Thereby, José Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara became the first President of Independent Texas.
In 1829, Alcalde Rafael Manchola and his cabildo (town council) changed La Bahia’s name to Goliad, an anagram of the letters in Hidalgo without the H, honoring national hero Father Miguel Hidalgo. Goliad continued to be a key stop on the Camino Real between San Antonio and East Texas. Sadly, Goliad is the site of one of the worst Cart Wars (carretas) crimes targeting Mexicano/Tejano freighters.
(Note: The Cart Wars is the name given to the series of violent incidents committed by resentful Anglos who envied Tejano adeptness in the interstate freight business. The Cart Wars signaled the end of Tejanos’ control of the freight industry in Texas.)
Las Villas del Norte. In 1746. Viceroy Revilla Gigedo approved a plan submitted by Colonel José de Escandón to establish a series of settlements in Nuevo Santander, Costa del Seno Mexicano stretching from Matagorda Bay in the north to San Antonio to the South (Chipman).
Beginning in 1749 and continuing until 1755, over twenty villas were established. Of those located on the lower Rio Grande, only Laredo and Dolores were built on the east side of the river. Many of them, including Laredo and sister villas in Tamaulipas (Nuevo Santander) are still vibrant towns today.
In summary, today’s Anglo and Northern European-descent Texans would be surprised to learn that if Stephen F. Austin was alive today, he would remember San Antonio, Nacogdoches, Goliad, and Las Villas del Norte communities as the ones who offered asylum and free land to him and the Old 300 Anglo families from the U.S.
Also, he would have clearly understood land relationships. That is, Texas was an internal province of Mexico, along with sister states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, Nuevo México, Chihuahua, Sonora, and California.
Lastly, there’s no doubt that in Mr. Austin’s mind, there was no doubt as to who had welcomed him and his fellow U.S. refugees seeking sanctuary in Mexico. As such, he wouldn’t have supported the way mainstream Texas historians have purposely uprooted our state’s Spanish Mexican foundation.
As such, it’s appropriate to close this article with words that Stephen F. Austin prudently penned expressing his gratitude and true feelings: “Mexico is the most munificent country in the world toward immigrants”.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by author and Tejano historian José Antonio López. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. López can be reached by email via: [email protected].
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows a San Antonio statue Father Antonio Olivares. (Photo courtesy of KSAT-12).
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