So. This is the recalcitrant one, the secretive, the silenced, named “first lady of a country she would never see.” Mother of Texas. And so she was. At least as much as Tiana, left in the Arkansas territory some called Houston’s military staging ground. Or the third wife, Margaret Lea, whom he would leave to her multiple birthings alone in the Texas country, or the “pretty sefloritas” he evoked for volunteer soldiers who still identified women as part of the spoils of war. We are cautioned, as students of history, not to demand more of past heroes than they are able to deliver to us in character or culture due to the limitations imposed upon them by their times. But to paraphrase the Old Wives, wise children can benefit from knowing their Fathers, including their private dreams and secret priorities, as well as their Mothers’ internalized angers and suppressed natures. And sound knowledge can come in novel as well as more traditional research, bringing to light the invisible forms which have shaped society under the Lone Star insignia. Railroaded in California: Reclaiming a Heritage BY LETICIA GARZA-FALCON SANCHEZ THE SQUATTER AND THE DON By Maria Ruiz de Burton 381 pp. Houston: Arte Piiblico Press, $14. FIRST PUBLISHED 98 YEARS AGO, and recently resurrected by Arte Public Press, Maria Ruiz de Burton’s The Squatter and the Don, is a chronicle of loss the loss of lands and rights of los Califomios, U.S. citizens of Mexican descent who had been granted full citizenship by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo after California’s annexation by the United States. The history embraced by this novel runs parallel to the history related in some Texas-Mexican novels, such as Americo Paredes’ George Washington Gomez, which was written in the 1930s and published in 1990. There are differences, of course. In Don Americo’s Texas, the Texas Rangers provided the muscle for the Anglo occupation; in California a corrupt U. S. Congress wrote the laws that moved the Spanish Mexicans off their land and eventually reduced them to a laboring force. The social and political conflicts in The Squatter and the Don are deeply rooted in what had been Confederate California, particularly San Diego, where squatters, settlers, and Spanish-Mexican landowners each thought that the other was the enemy. That is, until all were pushed aside by the Central Pacific Railroad monopoly controlled by the “Big Four”: Leland Stanford, Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker and Mark Leticia Garza-Falcon-Sanchez is acting director of the Center for Multicultural and Gender Studies at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos and teaches Chicano/a Literature in its English Department. Hopkins. Legislation like the Land Law of 1851 called all Spanish-Mexican land titles into question and encouraged squatters to settle on “public lands.” For Don Mariano Alamar, one of the characters in the novel, the new laws mean that he is required to pay taxes on all land legally in his possession, even land occupied by squatters, while he spends his family wealth on litigation in an attempt to win recognition of his land title in court. His wealth is further depleted as his cows are shot by squatters for wandering into Alamar family pastures planted in the squatters’ crops. It is through the rancher-squatter conflict, and a romantic relationship, that the families of the Don and the Squatter of the title come together. The Darrells are a squatter family whose oldest son, Clarence, at the request of his mother, has paid for the land without his father’s knowledge or consent. Mercedes, the beautiful youngest daughter of the Alamar family, becomes the object of Clarence’s love. The discovery of Clarence’s secret purchase divides the two families and the two lovers, who but for their class distinctions could serve as the stock handsome hero and angelic heroine of any romance novel. History here is disguised as a romance novel. But ranchers and squatters alike are moved aside by a greater power, which also has designs on land rights, when Congress passes a law that grants nine million acres of land to the Central Pacific Railroad Company of California. The enactment of the law ended all plans to build a competing Texas Pacific Railroad, which could have transformed San Diego into the boom town on which landowners had bet their futures are dead. Ruiz de Burton carefully documents this historical moment, revealing how monopolists hired lobbyists and bought legislators in order to seize control of California’s rail routes. Ruiz de Burton’s novel also describes a legal system that allows the wealthy to commit “disgraceful acts, any one of which were it to be perpetuated by a poor man, would send him to the penitentiary.” In language less fictional than historiographic, the author tells of the price settlers and squatters paid for trusting in the American Dream, which in in the Mussel Slough Massacre of 1880 became an American nightmare: These poor farmers were told by the railroad monopoly to locate homesteads and plant orchards and vineyards and construct irrigating canals; that they would not have to pay for their land any higher price than before it was improved. With this understanding the farmers went to work, and with great sacrifices and arduous labor made their irrigating canals and other improvements. Then when this sandy swamp had been converted into a garden, and valueless lands made very valuable, the monopoly came down on the confiding people and demanded the price of the land after it had been improved. The farmers remonstrated and asked that the original agreement should be respected; but all in vain. The arm of the’law was called to eject them. They resisted, and bloodshed was the consequence. Some of them were killed, but all had to submit, there was no redress. There is real Evil here but it does not appear in the context of one race fighting another; pioneering frontiersmen and Mexicano landowners together are cheated out of their dreams in an encounter with the raw power of capitalist enterprise. Until they came to know the poverty and hardships of a working class that once had hardly concerned them, the Alamar family was not personally affected by the anti THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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