Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990 Page: 23
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The governor's ruling class was greedy
for slave labor. They ran smack up against
the priests, who wanted the Indian slaves
for their own. Charges and countercharges
filled the air. The Inquisition set
up courts in Mexico.
Priests were scurrying back and forth,
shrieking of the sins the governors were
committing. The governors, on their part,
branded all the priests as liars holding back
the march of progress. All the troubles in
the world could be laid at priestly doors.
The empire was beginning to crumble.
There was worse to come as 1679
dawned with a rumbling in the hills. It took
another year, but the Great Pueblo Revolt
broke out in 1680. The Spaniards were
hurled out of New Mexico, more than 2000
of them settling along the Rio Grande,
bringing more strife and trouble to an
already war-torn land.
They crowded into Paso del Norte
(today's Juarez), set up settlements down
along the river where the bottomland was
rich and the valley famous for its crops and
grapes. They crowded into settlements
called San Lorenzo and Senecu, flooded
over into Ysleta and Socorro, bringing
trouble with them
And then 150 years were to pass before
troubles happened that made everything
else look like child's play. Far to the east, a
new nation was being born and the people
there, newly come from Europe, had a
greed for land even greater than the
Spaniards' greed for gold. A slow, relentless
westward push was in the making, out there
toward that magic land where anything
was possible, where new lives could be
built-out toward the frontier.
An old Indian said, once upon a time,
"We had the land. And then you came,
bringing the Bible. Now we have the Bible
and you have the land."
Times remained unsettled. There
were rich pickings, out here in the Southwest.
Grass growing up past the knees of a
man on a horse and furs and minerals to be
found up there in the mountains. A man
could go out there and, no matter what his
station, make a new, rich life for himself.
The Spaniards already held that land, and
it was part of Mexico? To hell with thatManifest
Destiny is the name of our game.
We are Good and Decent and meaner than
hell, and that good land will be ours.
And the merchants came, slowly
trundling their wagons drawn by oxen,
over what became the Santa Fe Trail. It
continued south, over a track that was
Across Aboriginal America
centuries old, to Paso del Norte and
southward then to Chihuahua City.
The pioneers set up their trading posts
on this side of the river, getting their share
of the Santa Fe-Chihuahua trade and
waiting for the rush of customers sure to
show on the heels of the discovery of gold.
They came, in their dirty, dusty
wagons and on foot. On horseback and by
mule train. The town at the river's bend
grew, promising to outshadow El Paso on
the other side-El Paso, now called Juarez.
The dreamers came-and the ones whose
eyes lit only at the mention of gold. Good
men came-and the scum that always
accompanies the opening of a frontier.
Good or bad, they had one thing in
common-they were tough. You had to be,
if you wanted to survive. Most of them were
only passing through, but a good number
settled down and stayed, liking the
mountains and the desert land , building a
city at the bend of the river.
El Paso became known as The Sixshooter
Capital of the World-but the
gunslingers won a reputation far out of
proportion to their deeds. The legend of a
Western town sprang up and was jealously
nurtured, probably to avoid recognition of
the fact a far older city lay just across the
river to the south, with traditions and a
culture far more ancient than the
newcomers could boast.
Our ghosts walk tall, here at our bend
of the river at the outer edge of Texas.
Rodriguez and Chamuscado, who passed
this way in 1581. Antonio de Espejo in the
following year. Priests and soldiers, out to
find new territory for the King. And,
seventeen years after Chamuscado, Juan
de Ofiate came through, bringing people
with him to colonize this new, rich land.
Otermn.. . de Vargas...
There were good days and hard times,
here at the river's bend. By this time, the
original inhabitants-the Mansos, the
Piros and Tampiros, the Jumanos and the
Mimbres-all were gone. A new race had
taken over. It brought with it a mixture of
the Old World and the New; brought song
and dance and a slow and easy way of looking
at life. In between the times of riverflooding
and years of less than enough
rain, there was fiesta in the air.
This part of Texas managed to hold on
to that tradition; even with the coming of
the railroad in 1880 and the gunfighters
whose deeds shone far brighter in legend
than in fact.
This was a meeting place, these twin
towns at the river's bend; a crossroads, a
hub, where two traditions met and melded,
forming something different from anything
that had gone before. The twin
cities-Juarez and El Paso-that line the
banks of the Rio Grande have become a
place unique in all the United States, rich
in the sharing of twin cultures-and richer
in that sharing than any place else around.
Our Lower Valley-Ysleta, Socorro,
San Elizario, are on the verge of renaissance
as the Mission Trail group plans new
life for the valley. The Mission Trail will be
a slice of Yesterday, a magnet for visitors
near and far. A brand new bridge is being
thrown across the river, bringing the twin
cultures, north and south, closer than
There's a new voice singing, here at
the Edge of Texas-but, if you listen
closely, you'll hear other voices. There are
ghosts, here along the bend of the riverspirits
of all the humans who came this
way before, each one giving, each one taking
and each one leaving a bit of himself
or herself behind.
We're part of all our yesterdays here,
yesterdays that present a pageant few other
places can even hope to match. We live in
a treasure house of all our yesterdays and all
the good days yet to come-and that's what
the Edge of Texas is all about.
Alex Apostolides is curator of The Wilderness
Park Museum in El Paso and creator of the
Edge of Texas radio series. His column "Edge
of Texas" appears weekly in the El Paso
HERITAGE * SPRING 1990 23
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 2, Spring 1990, periodical, Spring 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45428/m1/23/: accessed May 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.