My father loved history, especially anything to do with our Spanish ancestors. Along with bedtime cuentos, I grew up listening to stories about our antepasados who came over in the mid 1700’s.
The harsh, lawless terrain of southwestern Texas proved too much for these court-bred Spaniards, so they retreated to the civilized comfort of Mexico City until the crown warned them and their leader, the Visrey de Escandón, that they had to settle and populate their claim or lose their land grant. Besides England and France, there were other Spaniards waiting to grab a share of the new world.
There is no record, oral or written, of our antepasados before they came to America, so our history starts suddenly in 1747. It sprung up in the desert like the mesquite and the nopales. They founded what are now the towns of Zapata, San Ignacio, and Ramireño, Texas.
That area was so forbidding and undesirable that the rest of the world ignored that no-man’s land. Only marauding Comanches and murderous thieves passed through my grandparents’ land, but they were all met with the same “abrazo” – the bullet end of a gun or a rifle. In self defense, even the women had to shoot, use a knife, and ride a horse as well or better than the men.
I loved listening to this oral history and never questioned my citizenry. My ancestors claimed their place in America as far back as two hundred and sixty years and my Native American ancestry goes back even further.
While researching for my next book, a generational story written as historical fiction, I learned that I am a third generation United States citizen. Really? My grandfather was “naturalized” in the early 1940’s, in time for his American-born sons to enlist in military service for World War II. Really?
We were American before there was an America.