South Texas Historiography and Literature

Posted: July 7, 2011 in Literature, South Texas History
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My primary reading experience has been within Christian origins, New Test. literature and so-called 2nd Temple Judaism.  Obviously, the literature surrounding this subject has had a long history and is quite vast.  So currently there is a lot of situation work being done; that is, trying to situate what we’ve learned in the last fifty years within the overall history of the field (i.e. relationship between newly translated texts like the Dead Sea scrolls or those found at Nag Hammadi and Christian origins, etc).  It seems to me that kind of epistemology, as it were, is difficult to set aside. So as I turn to look at South Texas history, I can only conclude that my views are colored by this experience.

Theme I

Tejano historiography has had a generative period.  Although it is but a slice of overall Chicano history, it has proved as formidable as any.  Writers like Carlos E. Castaneda, Jovita Gonzalez, Felix D. Almaraz, Jr.,  Andres Tijerina, David Montejano and Jesus F. de la Teja (to name but a few) have set the foundation for all future work.  They answered the call to establish the story of the Mexicans of Texas. Naturally, they set about articulating the roots from which the Tejanos grew.  We can thank Drs. Castaneda and Tijerina (among others) for establishing clearly the Mexican aspect of Texas, that aspect of “change” that “the Anlgo-American underwent by the nineteenth century” for which “neither the plains nor the frontier could fully account.”  (Tijerina, 1994)

Chronicling, as it were, the Tejano emergence necessarily led to a focus on “the Tejano experience.”  This led to a full accounting of “Anglo attitudes toward Mexicans” in any given era of Texas history.  Works by D. Montejano (Anglos & Mexicans in the Making of Texas) and A. De Leon (They Called Them Greasers) focused on shedding light on the issues.  Additionally, providing a nuanced look into Tejano culture was a common concern.  It seems to me that this remains the current situation: Seeking to solidify Tejano history and identity and desiring to bring the national civil rights movement to bare on the experiences of Mexicans in Texas with writings focused on racial and gender issues, particularly, but also with wider civil rights movements in mind.

So what’s next? How does establishing our legitimate roots in Texas, chronicling racism and sexism, economic discrimination, political oppression and responses to that (LULAC, LA RAZA et al) inform our progression into the future? What does it mean to have successfully deconstructed a myth (Anglo superiority) and thereby construct a plausible future? Quite rightly, some have sought to transform the political process; by integrating what we know with what we do.  As Montejano argues, racism becomes Racism when it is enacted by public policy. And so perhaps there is where we should focus our energies, as many have, on repairing, as it were, policy in education, health care, etc.  This has been a long process, with failures, but many many successes as well.

Theme II

From the beginning I wanted to focus on Kingsville history because, although there are works available, most of it is wholly centered on the KR and its families and legacy. There is something inherently right and useful about this, after all, works on the Kings and Klebergs are essential to our history. But I would like to emphasize that although Kingsville began with the KR it does not end with it. Rarely do the structures look like the foundations on which they are built. It is with that understanding in mind that I wish to contribute my writings.

So for example, literature on Kingsville has still do deal with what Montejano calls the “geography of race,” that spacial demarcation that separated Anglo, Mexican and African Americans. Railroads may have been the hallmark of progress for many but for many more still it was an iron sign of the times. And although there has been a good measure of intergration among the Anglo/Hispanic community, it is clear the legacy haunts us still.  There is also the broad ethnic mix unique to a South Texas town because of TAMUK: among others, from China, India and Pakistan.  Do they live in a vacuum? Surely not! One need only look at the business sector to see their impact. How do they impact the social complexion of this city?  I’m not absolutely sure but it seems a rather unique situation for a small Texas town; one that has an immense potential to explore.

As you can tell this is situation type work on a personal level!  I look forward to exploring these issues in the context of my rubric “existentialism, modernity and the sweep of history.”  It seems to me that these three experiences are at the very core of humanity.  So as we thrust forth into a new millenium where does Kingsville or Texas and the literature that surrounds them fit into the globalism of our time?  Do we simply fall into the general pattern taken by all borderland civilizations that live next to a marketable river; that is to say a pattern of conquest and accomodation (Egypt and the Nile, Rome and the Tiber, England and the Thames so, therefore, Texas and the Rio Grande?) or are we a unique set of traditions from a very specific historical and cultural lineage that must deal with rapidly changing times in a search for self-determination?  It’s a little of both; something every one of our ancestors lived through and endured.

One who just sighed,

EAIII

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