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Post "Vosotros" in New Mexico; Juan de Onate
Created by John Eipper on 11/06/13 3:28 PM

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"Vosotros" in New Mexico; Juan de Onate (Richard Hancock, USA, 11/06/13 3:28 pm)

John Eipper suspects that the people I encountered in New Mexico using the vosotros pronoun were Spaniards.  (See José Ignacio Soler's post of 5 November.) I can certify that they were not, although both of the men were of light complexion and had blue eyes. They were Spanish in that their history in New Mexico could be traced to the Conquest. The New Mexicans of Spanish lineage are proud of this. Articles have been written about these vestigial pockets of sixteenth-century Spanish in northern New Mexico, but we were surprised to find elements of it still occurring.

The Mestizo element, formerly known as Genízaros, do not respect those who take pride in their Spanish ancestory. They are called Chicanos and are disrespectful of Oñate, as are the Pueblo Indians. Incidentally, the Spanish club at New Mexico State University, my Alma Mater, was called "Los Conquistadores."

In recent years, a great conflict has arisen in New Mexico between Hispanics on one side and Chicanos and Pueblos on the other. The Chicanos and Pueblos succeeded in placing a statue of the Pueblo Indian Po'pay in Washington, DC's National Statuary Hall. Po'Pay was the leader of the 1680 Pueblo revolt which ousted the Spanish from New Mexico, resulting in the deaths of 380 Spaniards plus 21 Franciscan missionaries, the greatest victory for Indians over Europeans in American history. The Hispanics placed statues of Oñate in both northern New Mexico and at El Paso in honor of his conquest of New Mexico in 1598. The northern NM statue was vandalized and the El Paso statue was renamed "the equestrian" and transferred to an easily protected site near the El Paso airport. (For full details of this, please see the New Mexico Historical Review, Summer of 2007.)

Oñate was undeniably heavy-handed, as were all of the Spanish "conquistadores." At the risk of offending the indigenous people, I say that, on balance, the Spanish conquest of the New World has resulted in a positive influence because it resulted in establishing Christianity and the Spanish language in all regions south of Taos, NM to Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America. Spanish and Christianity constitute the common elements in the lives of the vast majority of people who populate this enormous region. The same can be said of Brazil with the substitution of Portuguese for Spanish.

JE comments:  Richard Hancock has convinced me:  "vosotros" is used amongst the old-timers in New Mexico.  I'm honored to learn this from one of my favorite Hispanists.

Returning to the conquistadores, I'm much more ambivalent than Richard.  They were as ruthless as they were tireless, and left a mixed legacy of "civilization."  I should acknowledge, however, that they are the reason I have a job now (i.e., teaching Spanish in a US university).

Juan de Oñate was born in Zacatecas (Mexico) to Basque parents. As our host son Aritz likes to point out, the Basques are everywhere, and always have been. Oñate married Isabel de Tolosa Cortés de Moctezuma, who was both the granddaughter of Cortés and the great-granddaughter of the Aztec emperor, Moctezuma. Fascinating history.

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