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GAIL WOODS AFTERWORD Setting Texas Straight BY LETICIA GARZA-FALCON HISTORY IS written by the dominant culture. It binds us to our past aggressions and justifies our current aggressions. And once written, it’s almost impossible to challenge. Fifty years ago, as a young novelist, Americo Paredes made an early attempt , to set the record straight, writing in George Washington Gomez of how the displaced native Texas Mexican came to be perceived by those who had occupied his state: The word “Mexican” had for so long been a symbol of hatred and loathing that to most Anglo Texans it had become a hateful and loathsome word. In Spanish mexicano has a full and prideful sound. The mouth opens on the full vowels and the voice acquires a certain dignity in saying mexicano. But in English it is much different. The lower lip pushes up and the upper lip curls , contemptuously. The pursed lips go “m-mm.” Then they part with a smacking, barking sound, “M-mmexsican!” Who doesn’t understand will think he’s being cursed at. It is a word that can be pronounced without opening your mouth at all, through clenched teeth. So the kindly Angloamerican uses Latin American to avoid giving offense. With that same ironic humor and honesty, Americo Paredes would challenge the work of Walter Prescott Webb, who swam in the mainstream of contempt toward the Texas Mexican. Webb’s mystification of the Texas Rangers encouraged thousands to uncritically praise their actions, though they committed countless imperialistic atrocities against the native Texans and Indians they helped to displace. In 1935, in “The MexicoTexan,” Paredes considered the displaced. Tejano: A cit’zen of Texas they say that he ees But then, why they call him the Mexican Grease? Soft talk and hard action, he can’t understan’ The Mexico-Texan he no gotta lan’. Webb’s work is an example of how sch61 2 arship considered substantial during one pdrticular epoch, can be later revealed as a racist justification for discrimination and genocide. Leticia Garza-Falcon is a graduate student in comparative literature at the University of Texas at Austin. Writing fictions, Webb made a name for himself as a historian and scholar. In Webb’s collected fiction are statements like this one: “Without disparagement, it may be said that there is a cruel streak in the Mexican nature, or so the history of Texas would lead one to believe. This cruelty may be a heritage from the Spanish of the Inquisition: it may, and doubtless should, be attributed partly .to the Indian blood… The Mexican warrior… was, on the whole, inferior to the Comanche and wholly unequal to the Texan.” It was in 1958, WithHis Pistol in His Hand, that Americo Paredes took aim, and responded: “Professor Webb does not mean to be disparaging. One wonders what his opinion might have been when he was in a less scholarly mood and not looking at the Mexican from the objective point of view of the historian.” For Americo Paredes, challenging the image of the “brave Texas Ranger at a time 22 MARCH 22, 1991 11,41, RP`