Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hispanics: Remapping The Territory

Tracing the "Hispanic" history of the United States is even more complicated than Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, author of Our America, may realize.   One of the most significant soldier-administrators for northern Mexico was in fact Irish.  Hugo Oconor (Hugh O'Conor), "The Red Captain", stabilized the northern territory of Mexico by among other measures establishing garrisons near Tucson and San Antonio to defend against raids by Native American tribes, e.g., the Apache.  In other words, Tucson was established to keep the Apaches and other Native-Americans out of Mexico.  While the Spanish are often simplistically viewed as conquerors, they viewed themselves as coming to America not only for fortune, but also to save souls and protect native peoples from famine and predation by other tribes, the Apache and Aztecs being the most fierce predators.

The real heroes of the Mexican-American war (the American War to establish slavery in Texas) were the Irish-Catholic soldiers who deserted the U.S. Army to fight for Mexico as the San Patricio Brigade.  Fifty of the Irish soldiers were hanged after the American victory, one of the darkest moments in American history.

In a better moment, Grant sent Phil Sheridan, his fierce little Irish general who had stormed Missionary Ridge, and thousands of African-American soldiers of the XXV Corps, which closed the trap on Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, to the Rio Grande to help Benito Juarez drive the French out of Mexico.  Sheridan left guns and ammunition on the Rio Grande for Juarez, and then allowed his soldiers to "resign" and "volunteer" to serve with the Mexicans fighting the French. The US army volunteers were "designated the American Legion of Honor."   As many as 3,000 American war veterans fought for the Mexican Republic and possibly 2,000 Confederate veterans sided with the Mexican forces aligned with the French.

The North's greatest Hispanic general,  of course, was George Gordon Meade, who defeated Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg.


Only Carlos Fuentes and Cervantes have explored the ancient roots of the Hispanics, Numantia, and the stormy marriage, some might call it rape, of Celtic Spain with Rome.

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San Xavier del Bac.
August 20, 1775
"I, Hugo Oconor, knight of the order of Calatrava, colonel of infantry in His Majesty's armies and commandant inspector of the frontier posts of New Spain
Certify that having conducted the exploration prescribed in Article three of the New Royal Regulation of Presidios issued by His Majesty on the tenth of September 1772 for the moving of the company of San Ignacio de Tubac in the Province of Sonora, I selected and marked out in the presence of Father Francisco Garces and Lieutenant Juan de Carmona a place known as San Agustin del Tucson as the new site of the Presidio. It is situated at a distance of eighteen leagues from Tubac, fulfills the requirements of water, pasture, and wood and effectively closes the Apache frontier. The designation of the New Presidio becomes official with the signatures of myself, Father Francisco Garces, and Lieutenant Juan de Carmona, at this mission of San Xavier del Bac, on this twentieth day of August of the year 1775."
Hugo Oconor
Fray Francisco Garces
Juan Fernandez Carmona