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The Editor 2 Clothed Blondes on Escalator The Mexican Contribution to Our Culture a regional blend in language, architecture, food, songs, and tales Conclusion IN REVIEWING the causes for conflict between the Englishspeaking and the Spanish-speaking peoples, it has been my purpose to show the part that was played by differences in culture, rather than differences in origin or race. But in the end conflict gives way to a blending, from which comes something new and remarkable. The Mexican and his culture have contributed much into the special blend that makes the Southwest. Hostility, prejudice, or plain ignorance have in the past made many English speaking writers ignore or slight the Mexican’s contribution in the Southwest. Nor has the ignorance been limited to Anglo-Americans. I have often been surprised by how little the average Mexican-American knows about his own background, and how defensive and apologetic he sometimes is about what he does know. Americo Paredes This too often is true of the better-educated American of Mexican descent, who, by the way, usually thinks of himself as a “mexicano” in Spanish, but who will not use the dirty word “Mexican” in English in application to himself, preferring to be known as “Spanish” or “Latin.” In rural or isolated areas, what in my discipline would be called “folk” areas, people do have an appreciation of their own values. That is all they have and all they know. But once the younger generation becomes more ‘sophisticated, more steeped in the ways of the majority culture, its members try as bard as they can to forget everything their parents knew, including in some cases the Spanish language. For their parents and their ways of life become to them symbols of their minority status, of which they are keenly aware in their efforts to be accepted into the majority. This is not peculiar to our people; it is characteristic of all minorities. While a common attitude, it is not necessarily a healthy one. The British intellectual D. W. Brogan remarks that American minorities “seek symbols of liberation” from their , minority status by revolting against the traditions and the culture of their parents. While approving of their desire for Americanization, Dr. Brogan laments their attitude, which results in their “losing elements in their moral diet that are not easily replaced.” He goes on to say that an American whose pride in his Americanism involveS contempt for the habits, the “folkways” or “mores” of his parents is not necessarily a good American. WE CAN BE PROUD that the Mexican’s contribution to the Southwest’s particular character is an important one. We see the Spanish-Indian influence all about us: in the houses we live in, the foods we eat, the songs we sing, the romantic stories which entertain us on TV, the movies, and the printed page; and even in the language that we speak. Nowhere is Mexican influ ence stronger, a n d nowhere has it been so consistently ig nored until re cently, than in creation of that typically Ameri can symbol of romancethe cow boy. Aside from TV shows of re cent years, try to thing of how many Mexican cowboys you have encountered in Western movies and novels about the West. There may be an occasional Mexican on horsebacka rustler or a bandit. But usually the Mexican appears as a sheepherder, if he appears at all. Yet, the whole American cattle industry began in a small area just south of us here, in the region bounded by the Nueces, the Rio Grande, and the Gulf. It spread from there into the rest of Texas in comparatively recent times, where it was Anglicized and became Texan, spreading from there into other parts of the Southwest and later into the Northwest as well. The cowboy’s chaps are an example of the way the Nueces-Rio Grande area left its mark on the cattle culture. To the working cowboy of Montana, and to the movie cowboy of Hollywood as well, the chaps are a mark of the trade, the cowboy’s badge. But in Montana, as in Hollywood, chaps are as useful as an appendix or wisdom teeth. They are merely vestigial organs one might sayindicating the origin of all cowboys in the Mexican vaquero of the Rio Grande brush country, the chaparral, where thorny ‘brush made it necessary to wear chaparrerasthe American chaps. It was the Mexican, who had been a cowboy for hundreds of years before Anglo-Americans reached the Rio Grande, who gave the American the Mexican longhorn cattle which he later herded north, the Mexican milstang ponies which he rode, the rawhide which he used for all purposes \(and which came to be known in English as “Mexican the lasso, the saddle, the spurs, the chaps, ‘the methods of branding and of working cattle. And the Mexican himself has continued to this day to be a cowboy in the American Southwest. That peculiar Southwestern creation, the romantic “bad man,” is indebted to Mexican and in general to Spanish-American, tradition. Students of the Southwest have expressed surprise that in our tradition a man may be “bad” and yet be the hero of the piece. In other places, if a man is called “bad” he is the villain. One does not hear, for example, of bad knights who marry the heroine. What we have here is a Spanish usage of the word. In English the word “bad” has strong moral connotations; in Spanish, especially in the New World, there often is no moral judgment implied, especially, if the word is coupled with “Man.” , Consider the well-known Mexican song, “El Novillo Despuntado”: “Dicen que soy hombre malo; malo y mal averiguado.” \(They say I am a bad man; bad singer is not confessing his sins; he is boasting. “I am a real toughie,” he says, “a dangerous, difficult man.” There is no element of moral judgment implied by “hombre malo” in this context. On the contrary, the term has a certain dash to it, a flavor of adventure and romance. The Argentines also have their “gaucho malo,” a good man who is outside the law. American English is full of terms which entered the language in the Southwest, and which were contributed by the Mexican. Some of them are directly related to the cattle culture: chaps, cor THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 August 19, 1960 ral, rodeo, lariat, morral, lasso, quirt, hackamore, cinch, mustang, and chapparralto mention just a few. Others are of wider application: motte, arroyo, resaca, ‘acequia, mesa, canyon, patio, adobe, pueblo, fiesta, ranch. And from the seamier side of life: calaboose and hoosegow. Not only in language has the Mexican left his mark on the Southwest; the same is true of law. Many are the cases involving land deeds or water rights which require a knowledge of Spanish and Mexican law. Consider also the foods we eat, many of the items of clothing that we wear, and the architecture of \(stir houses, from the older preference for the Spanish colonial to the current fashion for ranchstyle houses. And if the tempo of our life is slower, more gracious perhaps, than that of other parts of the United States, this owes something to the Spanish-Indian tendency to enjoy rather than to hurry through it. The same may be said of many of the artspottery, weaving, painting, and carving on wood, which have influenced the decoration of homes in the Southwest and from there have carried their influence far from the borders of this region. N FOLK MUSIC it has usually I been held that Mexican influence on Anglo-American folksongs has been negligible, since most songs the cowboy sang have their origins in early British songs. But try to imagine a cowboy singer without his guitar, and then check to see whether the traditional singers of British folk tunes AUSTIN I returned breathless from the Crusades to keep Texas pure with the Observer and found a sex-pot burning in the middle of the office floor. You can’t trust anybody these days. Sex Editor Morris insisted he has received a letter to the Sti!mp about his latest preoccupation from a Waco reader, whom we would not wish to offend, being that sort; but it is ‘printed with a warning that before reading it, those susceptible to the prurient interests should take some kind of depressant, such as the Baptist Standard. Fellow Tex ans, I regret to report from . my voyaging abroad an unwholesome interest in sex among our fel low Texans. I had done my best to persuade one North Texas Young Demo crat to buy her religious books through Dept. B and s end gift subscriptions ‘to her choir sisters, and all she would say was “Poli tics, politicsit’s so hard to sell.” Everywhere I called upon our backers to forego the easy con quests and uneasy virtues and sprawl not upon the broad de bauchee’s bed, so popular among our Texas conservatives. Senator Kennedy himself has bonged the used the guitar to ‘accompany themselves. Many sang without any accompaniment at all; they were Puritans and considered all musical instruments as things of the devil. Those who did use musical accompaniment preferred the fiddle, the dulcimer or the banjo. The guitar was not even a popular instrument among AngloAmericans until the 19th century. Then it was known and played in the polite drawing rooms, where it was either a fashionable gentleman’s instrument or a young lady’s plaything. Such was not the case in the Spanish and Mexican traditions, where die guitara man’s instrument often was looked down upon by the snobbish element as pertaining to the rougher, more democratic element of society. It is not difficult to trace the effects of Mexican influence on American popular music in this respect. First we see the guitar in the hands of the early cowboy singers, as far back as the era of the open plains. Then the guitar invades the Appalachians, in the hillbilly bands. Later we find it of rock-and-rollists like Elvis Presley and his imitators. Lately we have had one final: -development: the ‘boys in beards and huaraches who play flamenco music on the guitar. If ‘ Mexican folk’song did not have a stronger impact on the musical habits of Anglo-Americans during the 19th century \(and that, I believe, is a debatable States by Mexican music in the 20th century is too obvious to need any comment at all. What is perhaps not so wellknown is the influence of other forms of Mexican folklore on American folkways in recent yearssuch forms as the anecdote, the riddle, and the proverb. The number of bilinguals in the Southwest has facilitated the development of the bilingual anecdote, such as the one about Jose the Mexican who goes to the base ball game and cannot get a seat except on top of the flagpole. He comes away enchanted by the consideration all the Americanos gave him. Before the game began they all rose, shaded their eyes with their hands, and looking toward Jose up on the flagpole, sang out, “Jose, can you see?” This particular anecdote h ints at the conflict that has existed between the two peoples. Ot h er anecdotes a r e m ore explicit, but the very spirit in which they are to 1 d shows how the attitudes of the tellers h a v e changed in re cent years. One of my favorites, which I have heard in English and Spanish both, is a variation on the an cient folktale about the character istics of different nationalities, given a World War II variation. During World War II a plane was flying the Atlantic. Suddenly it began to lose altitude. The crew threw out all excess baggage; still the plane flew lower and lower. They threw out the seats, the guns, the ammunition everything but the passengers. And the plane kept coming down. Finally the captain told the notso-VIPs, “Some of you must make the supreme sacrifice for the Allied cause and jump overboard.” The first to go was the Englishman. He turned to the pilot, said, “Cheerio, old top!” and jumped phlegmatically Overboard. The Frenchman followed. He kissed the pilot on both cheeks, shouted, “Vive la France!!” and took the parachute-less jump. A gloomy Russian followed, then a philosophical Chinese, and so on until the long-legged Texan’ turn came. Slowly he unwound his legs from around his chair. He stood up to his full height, threw his stetson in the illegal. Were every liberal journal to plunge head-first into sexthe very word seems somehow too bare and needs, if not a higher collar, at least Bermuda shorts what would become of these alliances of the prude and the prurient without which our society would fall into the grasp of conservatives who, never scrupling, would pry apart the liberal movement with this divisive issue? This week, in response to a fine editorial… of -endorsement in the Alamo Messenger, we received subscriptions from a convent and the very same day the mails brought us a request for an exchange subscription with’ Escapade, one of those brazen New York girlie magazines. Don’t you see? The new assistant editor of Escapade, Bill Helmer, directed our attention to page 62 of his current issue as evidence that he, too. works for a liberal publication. My curiosity whetted by my interest in anything political, I did glance through its pages toward the promised editorial, averting my gaze from the very white girls displayed. On page 62 I found similarly mammalian poses by a lass of color: There is no telling where all this may lead. I have got to go to Minnesota, and snuffed out the sex-pot last night; but I cannot answer for mrhat happens in my absence, which may be neither here nor there. R.D. bong of sacrifice, and grit-jawed we must thread the straight and narrow path of most resistance. I will say this, too. These days it’s thought to be sophisticated to talk about sex, and do it, and sell papers, and Dial soap, and Post Toasties, and Hollywood religion’ with it, and as a nonconformist I feel bound to repudiate it in any and all of its forms and uses and preserve the Observer from its debilitating influence. , Morris, a creative man, ought to know that one’s best energies need to be reserved for the nobler life. We must make allowances and hope for the best, however, for he had just returned from