Heritage, Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 1989 Page: 26
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Let There Be Towns:
Spanish Municipal Origins
in the American Southwest
Let There Be Towns: Spanish Municipal
Origins in the American Southwest, 16101810,
Gilbert R. Cruz, Texas A&M University
Press, 1988. $24.95 cloth.
Reviewed by John Peterson
Spanish missions and presidios have
received much attention from Mexican
scholars because of their obvious impact on
the settlement of New Spain. They were
vessels of colonization, where the mission
carried the word of God while the presidio
housed His secular arm. The hacienda
provided a self-sufficient economic equivalent
of the village that replaced local
autonomy with Spanish authority. But
there was a fourth institution, the town or
Spanish municipio, that imprinted another
dimension of Old World Spanish organization
onto the frontier landscape. It traces
its origins to the Mediterranean where
Romans established planned communities
in their colonies, and where later, in the
11th and 12th centuries, the Iberian peninsula
was repopulated by the Spanish with
a distinctive town plan and political structure.
In this volume, author Cruz documents
the Spanish histories of Santa Fe, El
Paso, San Antonio, Laredo, San Jose and
Los Angeles in the light of their common
ancestry as planned frontier municipios.
This volume is an excellent thematic
introduction to the complex history of
northern New Spain. It has a fluid, entertaining
style, and the author has command
of the original source material including
much of the official representation of the
period. It is a tantalizing appetizer to a fuller
course. I wanted more though, on several
issues that Cruz alluded to only cursorily.
To call Nufio de Guzman, the butcher of
the Chichimeca, merely "controversial" is
too polite. On the same page, where Cruz
comments "Once he realized the implications
of Cortes' dramatic military success,
Charles V took steps to establish royal
control over Spain," he might have added
that at least as motivating was Cortes'
pretension to seignoralty that threatened
the preeminence of the Crown in New
The colonists of northern New Spain
might not have agreed with Cruz' praise of
the Spanish King Charles III who embraced
Bourbon reforms and tried
ineffectually to cut off the contraband
commerce of New Spain. While his policies
couldn't stop the ships that fleetingly
appeared, he did have some effect on more
visible threats to the Crown's monopoly.
Early in his reign he outlawed the export of
olive oil from the few groves that had been
started in New Spain and which had begun
to supply most of the colonies with this
staple of the Mediterranean diet. When
that didn't work, he ordered all the groves
in New Spain destroyed. That broad stroke
of royal prerogative may have changed the
diet of the New World. Olive oil might
have been the basis of Tex-Mex cooking
instead of lard. For that sin against fine
cuisine I would hardly describe Charles III
as "endowed with determination and foresight"
as does Cruz in his first chapter. All
that aside, this is a fine introduction to the
history of the borderlands.
A Folk History of Texas Foods
by Ernestine Sewell Linck and Joyce Gibson Roach
foreword by James W. Lee
A monument to Texans, the things they eat, and the tales that have grown
from their culinary enterprises, Eats celebrates history, folklore, food and
recipes from salt pork and wild greens to chicken fried steak and fast-food
fried chicken. Eats chronicles all the victuals that today's Texans and their
forefathers have found edible-and why.
Available in March
TCU Press books may be ordered from Texas A&M University Press, Drawer C,
College Station, TX 77843-4354 (409-845-1436).
TEXAS CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY PRESS
26 HERITAGE * FALL 1989
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 7, Number 4, Fall 1989, periodical, Autumn 1989; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45433/m1/26/: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.