Friday, July 1, 2011

On the 4th of July being a Hispanic holiday. . .

Sometimes Mexicanos, Tejanos, Hispanos feel a little out of sorts when the 4th of July, our nation's independence day, approaches.

Of course, we feel American and the vast majority of us are citizens or legal residents of this great country, but others make us feel as if we don't belong. So, when it comes to celebrating this great nation's independence, some of us may be reluctant to partake of the revelry.

To begin with, we have always been made to feel as strangers in our land. It was the Spanish and the indigenous who were here in the American southwest and the Gulf of Mexico states before white America took control. So, this land is our land, too. Start with that premise and then take a look, a good look at the history of our United States.

We must first remember that as Spain colonized the American southwest, there were people here in Texas and other parts of what is now the United States. San Antonio, for example, was settled in the early 18th century, well before the American revolution of 1770s.

Now, let's think of what the Tejanos in the San Antonio area were doing around the time of the American Revolution. They were ranchers, the first cattle barons of the United States were right here in South Texas. They had, literally, thousands of heads of cattle. When the American Revolution broke out, Gen. George Washington's Continental Army needed help to stave off the British. At that time, what is now Texas and Louisiana were Spanish colonies, or territories. South Texas was Nuevo Santander and the area in San Antonio was Coahuilla y Tejas and there was, of course, Spanish Louisiana.

In 1779 Gen. George Washington sent a courier with a letter to the then Governor of Spanish Louisiana, Bernardo de Gálvez requesting aid and assistance in fighting the British. A voluntary contribution was collected from the Tejano citizens of Texas that totalled 10,000 pesos to help finance the American Revolution. Gálvez also ordered that cattle be rounded up and driven north to feed the armies of George Washington. Gálvez, of course, had his own Army and headed for battle. The Tejanos brought the cattle, their weapons and their character and will to survive and win.

Many of these vaqueros were to remain and fight against the British in the army of Don Bernardo de Gálvez. Gálvez was successful in defeating the British in key battles including the Battle of New Orleans, Pensacola and Mobile Alabama. Galvez and his army were successful in preventing access to the Mississippi River thus preventing the British the use of the river to supply their troops. In the meantime, Texas cattle fed both Gálvez's and Washington's armmies.

Today, Galveston Bay, Galveston, Texas, Galvez, Louisiana, and St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana are among cities and areas named after him. The Louisiana parishes of East Feliciana and West Feliciana were named after his wife Marie Felice de Saint-Maxent Estrehan. In adition, in recognition for his valor and help to the American cause, George Washington took him to his right in the first July 4 parade and the American Congress cited Gálvez for his aid during the Revolution. During America's bicentennial celebratioin in 1776, Spain donated a statue of Galvez which now stands in New Orleans.

There were other battles in other parts of the new world where Hispanics contributed to the cause of the upstart American colonists that eventually led to the formation of our country, but Gálvez's contributions were the most resounding. And, Tejanos were there at every step of the way to assist Gálvez, and George Washington for that matter, in the fight to defeat the British.

So, this 4th of July, sit back and enjoy the revelry and celebration. Take out a small American flag and wave it to and fro. Pop a fire cracker or two, if legal, and wave some sparklers in the air. We Hispanics deserve to celebrate the 4th of July as much as anyone, and perhaps more, in this country.

No matter what anyone says, if you are of Tejano and Hispano or have indigenous roots from the American Southwest or Louisiana, chances are you had someone in your family was involved in the American Revolution.

Fact is, we Tejanos, Hispanos contributed to the independence of the United States of American.

Today, as more and more Latino immigrants settle in to enjoy the freedoms this great nation has to offer, it should be remembered that people with the last name of Flores, Sanchez, Garza, Garcia, Salinas, etc., etc. helped forge the victory of Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army and that Gen. Bernardo de Gálvez was a true American hero when he led an army composed of Tejanos and native Louisianans to battle in the American Revolution.

Feliz cuatro de julio - Tejano style. ¡Ahua!

(P.S. - Thanks to my friend, Tejano historian Dan Arrellano for contributing to the information for this blog. Also, photos on this post include the face of the Tejano cattleman from the Tejano monument that will be on display outside the Texas capitol building in Austin and the statue of Galvez in New Orleans).

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