Illegals: Indians, Spaniards, Europeans, or Cockroaches?

It’s difficult to be in
Texas and overhear discussions about the “illegals” when of course us whiteys
were the illegal ones in the first place. Even though Texas was an unimportant
compared to the rest of Spain’s holdings in the New World, the Spanish would
eventually fight for it. Before the Spaniards came the Indians, who were amply
prepared, according to historian William W. Lace: “Mounted on swift
horses—which they had been stealing from the Spaniards for decades—and using
French-supplied firearms, the Apaches and Comanches would swoop down on a
settlement, carry off loot and prisoners, and be gone before resistance could
be organized. By 1793, after seventy-five years of missionary, the Spanish had
only “settled” 43 Indians.

But even before that, in
the 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado met with Hasinai Indians in what is today
called “the panhandle” and Texas earned its name. The Hasinai introduced
themselves as teychas, meaning friends. Over time, teychas turned to tejas
turned to Texas.

Of course, my time here
begins in Houston, now the 5th largest city in the United States,
just an hour north of the Gulf of Mexico. I’m staying in a warehouse off of San
Jacinto Drive, named for the Battle of San Jacinto, which came after the famed
Battle of the Alamo and claimed the war cry “Remember the Alamo!” as soldiers
went on a revengeful slaughter.

take place in a historic brick building underneath this overpass, in the heart
of downtown Houston.]

The logistics of my stay
are thus: 1 painter (Howard Sherman) + 1 writer (that’s me!) + 25 days (until
my next residency) + 1 warehouse (called The Docks) = THE WAREHOUSE SESSIONS.

[View from the futon, our “living
room.” This is what it’s like to live with a painter. That, and odd moments in
public when you’re trying to decide which apples to buy and he’s holding them
up to the light, squinting and describing their color to anyone who will
[View from main door. My
writing loft is high up on the far wall where all the framed windows are. The
sleeping area, closet, and bathroom are behind the curtains. The kitchen is on
the left.]
We’ll be doing some daily
collaboration, I’ll continue my place-based writing about the region, and we’ll
also pursue individual projects. Additionally, I’ll be posting 1 photo per post
for a series I’ll call 25 Ways of Looking
at Houston
. Stay tuned for more place-based fun, culturally pertinent
essays, and a little urban adventurousness…all brought to you by The Writing
Life Blog.
[1 Way of Looking at Houston: La cucaracha en mi
Sorry for the poor
quality. This is a cell phone pic and, as you can imagine, we wanted to get it
over with quickly.]

Showing 7 comments
  • Linda Starr

    That was then, this is now. Being of Native American heritage, we are now a country, the United States of America. Anyone who comes here without immigrating, is illegally doing so. An immigrant applies to immigrate legally. Migrant workers or travelers apply for a visa, when the visa expires they should go back to their country. I researched immigrating to several other countries and every country including Mexico have requirements I'd have to meet before I'd be allowed to immigrate; such as having requied money in the bank, planning to start a business needed in that country and having the resources to do so, not being too old due to the potential drain on their socialized medicine. If I was caught in any of those countries illegally, I would be jailed and/or deported.

  • Mark Buss

    Linda. Well stated. I have lived and worked in several countries and gone through appropriate and often intimidating and personal processes to have the "right" to live and work there. I have compassion, but I am continually aggravated by those that think we should be satisfied to expect less than legal activiites by those less fortunate to have the legal rights to live in our country. I fully embrace and welcome anyone of any race creed or ethnicity who follows the process. By the way, our country's processes are much easier than most first world and significant easier than most undeveloped nations requirements.

  • Philip Hartigan

    I was going to say that it's like the poor people staring through the window at all the things the rich people have, and succumbing to the temptation to take some of. Except the vast majority of illegal immigrants are a) doing work for the rich people, for not much pay, and b)doing it with the complicity of the US chamber of commerce. The rich/poor analogy does work in one way, however. Presumably you would both support the tripling of foreign aid to Mexico as a way of creating an economy that would encourage people to stay home? Katey: great post, as always. Looking forward to linking like crazy to my blog.

  • Lucricia Hall

    I had forgotten how big the bugs are in Texas! Growing up in Texas our washing machine was in the kitchen and HUGE slugs would crawl up the water pipe and if you weren't careful in the middle of the night getting a drink of water…they are so squishy. Wonderful post! I'm looking forward to more.

  • Katey Schultz

    All good food for thought. As an outsider and an underinformed one at that, the best I can do is touch on these issues as they come to me and try to put them into some context. It should be an interesting 6 weeks here. I'm learing already – the Target down the street had signs in English and Spanish, equal sized font for both languages.

  • Joseph

    I don't understand your distinguishing Spaniards from Europeans; Spaniards of course ARE Europeans, and did all of the same mean things the British and French did in the New World (in fact, they enslaved Dar more blacks and killed far more Indians and did so for a much lengthier period of time).

    The way some Americans think of Spaniards as pitiable 'brown' people isn't 'progressive', it's condescending and ignorant.

    The Indians and descendants of black slaves in Latin America aren't Spanish any more than Samuel L. Jackson is English or Eddie Murphy is Irish; they just bear the Spanish surnames if their ancestors' slave masters.

    Sure, there are many more persons of mixed race in Latin America than in the US, but to presume all Latin Americans to be mixed, even when they look Italian, is more racist than the notorious old 'one drop rule' of the old South.

    Save your pity for those who deserve it, which the descendants of the Conquistadors certainly don't.

  • Katey Schultz

    Hi Joesph,

    You raise a very good point – but I will say I was referring to "Spaniards" as people from Spain who were in Mexico with eyes looking northward…Hence the reference to Spain's holdings in the New World. Also, you'll notice the source I cite refers to the late 18th Century, a time that typically used the terms I used in my post–while also acknowledging by way of quotation marks what seems to me to be rather harmful or short-sighted terminology. Your mention of "pity" and "brown" and "progressive" are, of course, your terms – not mine – and while I certainly think you have a good point, you're preaching it to the choir and ranting in the wrong context.


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