EN EL RINCÓN DE UNA BIBLIOTECA
In a recent piece for “Pensamientos Literarios” (Somos en Escrito: Latino Literary Online Magazine, May 2013) I wrote: “It occurs to me that most of my life has been suffused with books—all kinds of books: small books, large books and in-between books.” At the entrance of the University library at Western New Mexico University where I have my office as Scholar in Residence, a wall-sized epigraph of gold letters assaults one’s entrance with a quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman and scholar who vainly tried to uphold republican principles in the final civil wars that destroyed the Roman Republic. The quote reads “A room without a book is like a body without a soul.” However, I’ve long thought that the better epigraph might be “Books are the gunpowder of the mind,” But the caveat here is that “explosive” as a book might be far too many books—especially history books—occult, ignore, or dismiss facts essential to the complete story of the American experience.
I’m pained about the incomplete story of the United States in so many American history books—leaving out the story of the Hispanic Southwest, particularly about New Mexico. California had its gold, Nevada, Utah and Colorado their mines, Arizona its grand canyon, and Texas its cattle. New Mexico has its Rio Grande and Corazon (heart). It’s this heart that makes New Mexico unique. This may sound like apostasy coming from a Tejano. Pero en el rincon de una biblioteca se encontrara la historia verdadera de nuevo mexico (But in a corner of some library one may find the true history of New Mexico).
Some of the unique features and characteristics of New Mexico start with its landscape llanos and rugged high desert country that are an integral part of its long history with Spain starting with Francisco Vasques de Coronado in 1540—almost 5 centuries ago. Santa Fe, New Mexico, is the oldest capital city in North America, Though officially founded in 1609, at 7,000 feet above sea level the area of Santa Fe and environs boasted a Spanish colony 25 years before the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the English Puritans.
Santa Fe is the oldest European city west of the Mississippi, and is the site of both the oldest public building in the United States, the Palace of the Governors, and the nation’s oldest community celebration, the Santa Fe Fiesta, established in 1712 memorializing the Spanish Reconquista of New Mexico in 1692. However lacerating the almost 300 year Spanish occupation of New Mexico, in the last 200 years a certain pride of heritage has evolved among Hispanic New Mexicans, a pride that seems to have rubbed off on non-Hispanic New Mexicans as well. There’s much history to be proud of about New Mexico despite parts of its embarrassing history—especially with its Native Americans. New Mexico is the only state with a constitution that declares it officially as a bilingual sate—English and Spanish. Unfortunately there are efforts today to quash Spanish in the public arena of New Mexico, especially at high school sporting events. Because Spanish is protected by the state constitution, No Spanish restrictions are illegal.
Nowadays the state boasts its priority as the world capital of green chile—especially green chile from Hatch, New Mexico, green chile harvested twice annually and a “must” in the state’s cuisine. In New Mexico the question is: Red or Green?—meaning “red chile” or “green chile” as a sauce for particular New Mexican dishes like enchiladas which are typically served flat in New Mexico and identified as “montadas” (flat, on top of each other) as opposed to “rolled” enchiladas served typically in Texas. Elsewhere in the country, Southwestern Hispanics are identified as Tejanos or Nuevo Mexicanos by the way they order enchiladas: flat or rolled. An added feature of New Mexico enchiladas—since they are served flat—is an over-easy egg on top of the enchiladas. Bon appétit!
Historically, evolution of the first nuclear bomb took place at Los Alamos, New Mexico, with the first detonation at Trinity, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, followed by detonations at Nagasaki, Japan, on August 6 with the uranium bomb “Little Boy” and Hiroshima on August 9 with the plutonium bomb “Fat Man” bringing to a close World War II with the defeat of Japan. During the war, the 200th Coast Artillery—often called “the New Mexico Brigade”—stationed in the Philippines just north of Manila was captured by the Japanese on April 9, 1942 and forced to endure the 65 mile Bataan Death March. They were held captives until the summer of 1945—more than 3 years. Most of the troops with the 200th Coast Artillery were Hispanics from New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Before its assignment to the Philippines its Headquarters had been in Deming, New Mexico.
About 700 men of the 200th Coast Artillery died during the Death March and their 3 ½ year captivity. More than 10,00 Filipinos perished as a consequence of the Bataan Death March. Colonel Virgilio N. Cordero, Battalion Commander of the 31st Infantry Regiment wrote about his captivity as a prisoner-of-war in a 1950 book entitled My Experiences during the War with Japan. In 1957, he authored a Spanish version of the book with the title Bataan y la Marcha de la Muerte. During the war, New Mexico Navajo Code-Talkers emerged as America’s secret weapon, and belatedly have been honored by the nation for their service.
Annually, Albuquerque hosts the world’s largest international hot-air balloon festival. Beginning with Robert Goddard’s rocket testing in New Mexico in the 30s and culminating with Werner Von Braun’s German scientists testing missiles in the state after World War II, New Mexico has emerged as a leader in the aerospace industry, constructing the nation’s first Spaceport with promises of civilian flights into space.
Despite political obstacles, the state has made great strides in its film endeavors.
Films made in New Mexico:
Since 1898, starting with Thomas Edison’s film about the Pueblo Indian Day School, more than 100 movies have been filmed in New Mexico. Following is only a select list of films.
ACE IN THE HOLE (aka THE BIG CARNIVAL)
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES
THE AVENGERS (AVENGERS ASSEMBLE) (2012)
BLESS ME, ULTIMA
COWBOYS & ALIENS
EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
KING SOLOMON’S MINES
LONELY ARE THE BRAVE
THE MAN FROM LARAMIE
THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH
THE MILAGRO BEANFIELD WAR
NATURAL BORN KILLERS
THE LONE RANGER
WILD, WILD WEST
YOUNG GUNS II: BLAZE OF GLORY
Bravo Road Copyright 2013 by Dr. Philip De Ortega y Gasca