Mexican Reconquista

There is an interesting Wikipedia article about Reconquista, what Professor Charles Truxillo refers to as Republica del Norte. I was reading about this in American Nations by Colin Woodard (where he labels it El Norte). I highly recommend the book, by the way.

Here is the map that goes along with that article:

File:Hispanic population in the United States and the former Mexican-American border.png

The Hispanic and Latino American population in the United States in 2010 and the Mexican-American border of 1836 in red.

And here is the map of New Spain, specifically the North American territory of the Spanish Empire:

File:Viceroyalty of New Spain 1800 (without Philippines).png

New Spain 1800 (not including the island territories of the Pacific Ocean).

If that doesn’t convince one of the persistence of culture, I don’t know what will. Mexicans aren’t invading America. Americans invaded Mexico (and the former Spanish Empire).

More than Woodard’s book, the reason I was thinking of this is because I just got back from visiting the Southwest and California. I took a family road trip with my family. We arrived in Southern California where we visited some of my mother’s family and headed up the coast to the Bay Area where we visited other family from my father’s side.

On the way up the coast, we happened upon a formerly Danish town, Solvang. It was interesting to discover that it was settled by some Danish from Iowa and the Midwest. However, they settled the land which was before that was a Mexican land grant and before that part of the Spanish Empire. There is a Catholic Mission there, Mission Santa Inés. The mission, along with many other missions, was created as part of Spain’s attempt to maintain its frontier territory.

Today, the mission is a Catholic Church that is still being used by those of Mexican/Spanish ancestry. We happened to be visiting when they were having an outdoor ceremony. There was a procession going on and they were singing in Spanish. We stepped inside and you could feel how old the place was, how old the faith was even. Spanish Catholics have been worshipping Jesus in North America longer than British have had colonies here.

My mom’s family came to California in the 1950s. They are Evangelicals and belong to a mega-church. There are lots of mega-churhes in southern California. We went to a church function. There was a lot of emotion in the singing, but later when visiting the mission I realized how shallow that emotion felt compared the ancient faith of Spanish Catholicism.

It is hard to explain in words. Entering that mission, there was a depth to the place. Part of it was just architectural. It was a place that was built to last, unlike most modern churches. I got the feeling of a faith that was built to last, unlike many Evangelicals who barely can suppress their anticipation for the End Times. I got that sense of depth most clearly when I gazed upon a statue of St. Anthony and baby Jesus which was of Spanish origin and even older than the mission.

The United States is a very young country. We Americans often don’t have much appreciation for the past. We can be naive and superficial in what we think we understand about the world we live in. Almost everything in human history is older than this country… and all of that remains in the background, sometimes emerging to the foreground when we are paying attention or when events in society force us to notice.

Correction (6/13/13): I incorrectly stated Alan Taylor as the author of American Nations. The actual author is Colin Woodard. Alan Taylor, however, has written a not dissimilar book about early settlement patterns: American Colonies.

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