El Norte (Carrie Gibson)

A breezy, engagingly written history of Spanish settlement in what is now the United States.

The traditional narrative of the growth of the United States relies heavily on the myth of freedom-loving settlers from the British Isles establishing a new country and then expanding it by “taming” the frontier.  We hear a lot less about how territorial expansion of the US was often the result of purchase, conquest or, in the case of Texas, outright theft, of land already settled by other Euopeans, particularly the Spanish, who in many cases were here decades before the Anglo ones.

The author is strongest in detailing how the Spanish speaking citizens of the American Southwest, from Texas to California, became strangers in their own land after the Mexican-American war.  Although the treaty ending the war claimed to protect pre-existing land titles, in practice the cost of defending those titles from opportunistic Anglo squatters was often prohibitive for all but the wealthiest landowners.  New Mexico had trouble getting admitted as a state because of the perception that there were too many foreigners living there — a deal was reached in which Arizona, which had more Anglos, was admitted at the same time.  In California, children with Mexican surnames were often forced to go to school with other “non-white” children (Asians and Native Americans) – a history of de facto segregation I’m sure the present day liberal California would like to forget.

If you’ve ever wondered how Florida, first settled by the Spanish of the 16th C, became part of the US in the 19th C, this is the book for you.  (Hint – Andrew Jackson).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s