Thursday, September 1, 2011

Santa Ana

Santa Ana.  No, no, NO!!! You must pronounce this correctly.  You must not say this name as Santa Ana like "Santa" [tiny pause] "Ana."  You must say it as though it was written Santana.  And for my sake, please do not say it Sigh-yunta-Yan-ah as so many Anglos do if for no other reason perhaps than to make the hair on the back of my neck rise as though they had scraped their fingernails across the surface of a metal table.  Pronounce the "a"s as on croatian, or on polish, or on latin or even Spanish.  Perhaps say the "a"s as the "a" as on english "father."  

In the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield, Illinois, there is a a prosthetic cork leg captured by American armed forces during the Mexican American war.  It once belonged to Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón.  The "Napolean of the West," as he liked to call himself, lost his leg during the great "Pastery War" of 1838 to French grapeshot while he was harrying the flank of a French advance against the  Mexican army to collect monies owed to France and to French citizens from a relatively lawless Mexican regime.

Most people think of the "Texas Revolution" as the small matter where  Texas freedom lovers objected to Santa Ana's revocation of the Mexican Constitution with his "Seven Laws."  The real Teksikanski revolution, however occured much earlier when the Teksikanski had joined in the general revolt  against the Hapsburg regime which controlled Spain and her holdings in the  New World.  Santa Ana had been the officer who attempted to put that rebellion  down too.  Santa Ana worked hard to earn himself the title of the "Villan of  Texas History" and he succeeded.

Oddly perhaps, grants made by the decree of the Spanish King are still honored in the laws of the State of Texas and they have been honored by the Supreme  Court of the United States as well.  In the  1950's there was an effort by the United States to bring oil well drilling in the Gulf of Mexico under their  control.  They succeeded of course, by force majure if not by law - except  along the Texas coast.  Texas was and is a nation.  By international law recognized in writting by Mexico, France,  England, Belgium, the Netherlands,  the German states, and the United States, Texas has jurisdiction twelve miles out to sea. That detail was to make a considerable difference in which entity governed the territory offshore from Texas. Texas levys its own tax on  minerals extracted from that territory.  No other coastal state of the United States has nearly so much jurisdiction as does Texas.

According to the US CIA World Factbook, the economies of the world ranked by nation were United States, Peoples Republic of China, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Brazil, California, Canada, Russia, India, Spain, Australia, and in fifteenth place in the world ahead of New York and Mexico is Texas.  Poland was in 30th place.  The Czech Republic held the 45th spot, and Slovakia the 60th.  The Republic of Croatia was in 66th place ahead of Serbia in 74th.  Here in Texas, which no one lists among the slavic lands of  the world, the legacy left by Peneda, that "Spanish" explorer from St James Bay in Dalmatia, and the legacy left by Lucac, the Croatian oil engineer, and the legacies of so many many others, thrives in an economy about as large as the entire Russian Federation. The state tourism slogan is "Texas: It's like a whole other country," and there is more truth in that than sometimes meets the eye.  A case could be made that, over all, Texas is the most prosperous Slavic nation in the entire world.

Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón (remember  how to pronounce his name correctly would you please, was an ignoramous.  He dropped out of school to join the infantry where he learned the tactics of Commandante Joaquín de Arredondo. Arrendondo's favorite tactics were ignorance and brutality.

flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande
Francisco Xavier Mina from Navarre was a student at the University of Zaragoza in 1808 when the revolt against French rule began.  After Ferdinand VII returned to power Mina left for England where he met Winnfield Scott who encouraged him to strike  against Spain by invading Mexico.  This was but one of many challenges to imperial  authority that convulsed New Spain.  Each of which was met by mass executions,  purges and by "ethnic cleansing."  Arrendondo and Santa Anna were in the midst of all this, seemingly enjoying the blood which flowed in their wake. In the Federal District of  Mexico, mouldering in storage at the Chapultepec Museum,  is the flag of the Republic of the Rio Grande which lasted 283 days before General Arrista, one of Santa Ana's supporters utterly destroyed it in a battle at Saltillo. Afterwards there was a blood bath in the Rio Grande Valley during which many of the inhabitants learned to keep silent, very very silent.  Even today, knock on Carlos' door and ask for Carlos.  Carlos will say "no se" (neznam) and shut the door.

Because of his lack of respect for human beings as human beings, because of his  lack of respect for the Constitution of Mexico, because of his sheer ignorance of the facts, Santa Ana (say his name correctly please) lost the last legal argument he might have had for the lands between the Rio Grande and the Nueces Rivers in Texas.  No one was going to tell him either.  Santa Ana had shown his disregard for the people of the north.  He had brutalized them, butchered them, betrayed them and no one was going to tell him anything.

I saw some papers a few days ago.  Yellowed papers. Old papers. Papers which appeared as if they may have been yellow when they were new.  How they survived here where the humidity is high would have been impossible except these papers were free of acid  when they were made. Joe had dug these papers out of a strongbox somewhere and he brought them to me to see.

There was the Baron Esparza y Garza arriving at Los Brazos De Santiago Matamoros in 1700. Between 1680 and the teens of the 1700s, there was significant resistance to  the Hapsburg regime all over eastern Europe.  The Hapsburgs had responded by killing protestants, especially protestant pastors.  Protestant warriors were food for the ravens.  Some people managed to come away from those disturbances.  The warrior Esparza (the Scatterer) came by way of a ship from Barcelona.  There he was when Matamoros faced the sea.  There there is the family when Matamoros moved  inland away from the ravages of huricane driven seas and mosquitos to the vicinity of the old courthouse in Brownsville.  Here in these papers was the family when the city moved away across the river in the late 1700s to the present site of Ciudad Heroica Matamoros.  They stayed on the north side of the river.  There was the proof I wanted to find that Matamoros was not named after Mariano Matamoros but named originally after Saint James of Compostello who had once come to lead the hosts of heaven against the heathen.

In 1793, Francisco Pueyes and Manuel Julio Silva, two Franciscan missionaries established  parish south of the Rio Bravo in about the location of the main plaza of Matamoros today. They named their parish Villa de Refugio in honor of "Our Lady of the Refuge of the Estuaries." It wasn't long before most of the town moved south of the river around the church.  The name Matamoros moved with it and in 1826 a decree from Mexico City announced to everyone that the town was now Heroica Mariano Matamoros after a hero of the revolution and so the name was finally Mexicanized and St James was forgotten.  Except ... there are some who remember.

Presidente Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón (say it correctly please) wanted so badly to press his claim that the border between Texas and Mexico was the Nueces River.  He fought wars to force his claim.  He went to Washington to talk to the Americans and got no where because he did not know the history of the settlement of the region.  He didn't know, and the survivors of his brutal attacks kept their mouths shut and put the paper work that might have helped deep in the bottom of  strong boxes which they kept out of sight.  Santa Ana failed in his life long quest partly because he dropped out of school and he didn't care to know what he needed to  know.   

Santa Ana lost the hearts of the people here and he lost again and again on the battle  field.  Any one who wants to say the Americans took this land by force from Mexico ought to think these matters over.  That's not how it was.  And that's not how the people who have lived here a long time think.  Mexico slapped them in the face and threw them away.  Memories are long.  He could not win this land without knowing the backgrounds of the peoples who lived here and he could have never controlled it. The Americans don't much control it now. The new immigrants don't have any sense of this history.  Perhaps in another generation it will be completely forgotten.  But today we remember.

There were other things in Joe's hand which were of interest to me, sometime I may get around to telling other stories - stories about others of his relatives - like Col Cavazos whose great grandchildren I went to high school with up in Wharton County.

There's one story I must relate today.  This story is for Kotasierota.  My freind,  have you gotten this far down in all this reading?  Home.  We talked about Home. Daleko daleko i davno,  far far away and long ago, Home.  Missing Home.  Well the joke is on us my friend.  We found the first Polish folk in Texas arrived in time to help with the battle of Goliad and the Battle of San Jacinto.  Heros of the wars against the Prussians and the Russians.  Defeated, transported by the Austrians to become heros again.  But in Joe's documents I discovered they were not the first people from Poland in Texas. Ummm  lets try 1700.  Dominski was the name he went by.  Think the man was homesick?  I do.

In the 1860's the Dominski family were heros.  There had been a little ethnic cleansing  going on in Texas.  In Texas?  Da! In Texas - ethnic cleansing, you bet, and I'm not  going to apologize for phase one of the cleansing program.  The first Roman Catholic missionaries to the San Antonio area in 1718 stumbled upon a horror.  There were in those days "Indians" who were simply freakish perverts.  The men's idea of courting a woman was to rape her and then pass her to his buddies so they could rape her.  A woman was simply a utility for their violent "pleasure."  If she became submissive enough and pleased the gang enough, when she got pregnant they might dump her off  along the San Antonio River to have the baby.  After the baby was born, they might  come get her again and either kill or simply abandon the baby to die.  When she was too old for their taste, they might dump her off by the river again. Some of the "old" women would rescue some of the babies and care for them.

The Roman Catholic missionaries were justly horrified at what they found.  They built a  chain of mission forts close together which served as armed women's shelters.  The children had a chance to grow up in fairly secure and decent surroundings. These hoodlums managed to maintain their presence. The Spanish government and later the Mexican government seemed  unable to assist the church in bring law and order into the area.  This was not a "white" or European issue. Other "Indians" in Texas were being raped and pillaged by these thugs as well.  The Texas Rangers were assembled and they rode against these demons. For the most part they were exterminated.  Some survived and much of the gang activity in the San Antonio area follows the ancient pattern with the same result.  They are finally arrested and imprisoned or executed.  Don't some bleeding heart liberal go screaming "noble savage" at me or tell me these "native Americans" have the right to a culture of abusing women.  No one has that right. Not now. Not ever.  Come to rape my woman and you die, I don't care what your culture is.  The Texas Rangers did the right thing.

But ,,,,,

Then there was another problem.  There were Spanish families north of the Rio Grande who had land grants going back centuries.  There were some Anglos who wanted their land. The Rangers were called in again, and this is the deep black secret no one wants to talk  about very much.  One time the vulture has tasted the blood of a live creature, it wants to feed again and live blood.  The Rangers were sent to the River.  Land owners with the wrong surname and perhaps the wrong color were given the choice to cross the river into a country they didn't want to live in, or die.  Some swam the river, some died.   The Rangers had a problem though. Not far down the road from where they had started on this dastardly mission, they encountered a barony.  Ok, it wasn't a barony, but if it had been in Europe that's exactly what it would have been called.  On it there are still three small communities. The Esparzas and the Dominskis owned it.  It was their land by fiat  of the King of Spain.  And Dominski didn't fit the kind of name the Rangers had been sent to kill.  The thing is, the border folk have had to defend their land against all sorts of folk who wanted to kill them and take their land.  This was like Santa Ana's purges  all over again. They disagreed with the idea that their neighbors should be gunned down.   There was a battle.  Poland won.  This may well be the only battle the Rangers ever lost.

The Rangers left and never returned.  It's amazing that Joe's stash of papers survived all  this time with the humidity, insects, raids by Spain, raids by Mexicans, raids by Teksikans, and raids by Americans.

Sigh, when you leave the Rio Grande Valley by car, be sure and speak only on english to the guys at the immigration check point.  They aren't sure the people from the Valley ought to be allowed into the rest of the United States.  If I haven't told that story  aleady, its a story for another day.  Now I know the definition of Home.  Its the place where you plant your  feet and its the place and the person you would die for or with.

For Dominski that was  his El Ranchito, his family and the people of the river.  For me, this is not the place. These are not the people, though I love them, no doubt of that.  I admire the history  of some of them.  I admire the tenacity of folk who can be and be who they are for 500 years against all odds.  I've been blessed to be part of the history of this place. Some of these folk are Croatians or Slavs like me and I feel close to them, but this is  not Home.  I've a lot more writting to do and some other things to do, but I know now that I will not stay here.  The sunset over the Laguna Madre is absolutely beautiful. Someday, with the right companion, I may want to see a sunset or rana zora na more Jadrana, maybe, I donno. Right now I'm dreaming about the sunset over the Pacific.  Thats even further away from Home, or is it? 

do sljedeći put, blagoslov - until next time, blessings,

Canovals a.k.a. Slavonac


  1. Very powerful article. You are right of course, we can't excuse all behavior because we came to an area. People have been coming into new areas since time began. Punishing and abusing women is for cowards. We must not defend those same cowards because they belong to one group or another. The history of Santa Ana is a brutal one. He is not one of the "nice guys" of history. But very interesting since he is part of our (U.S.) history. This article is just so well written I got lost in it and when I came out my coffee was cold. Excellent piece, sir. I salute you.

  2. Thank you very very much ma'am. So much of this story evades the "official" histories of the the land, and yet the facts, and the documents are there.