Borderlands, Spanish

Serious consideration of the Spanish borderlands as a legitimate field of history was inaugurated by Herbert Bolton, who, in 1921, published the landmark study The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest. Bolton, along with many of his followers, found Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis (that U.S. society was shaped by its frontier experience) interesting, but he pointed out correctly that it did not take into account areas colonized by the Spanish. Since its inception, the study of the Spanish borderlands has expanded in geography and chronology. These borderlands now are considered to include parts of the Southwest, Texas, the Southeast, and northern Mexico. Chronologically speaking, the history of the borderlands begins with the colonization efforts of the Spanish in these various regions. Although many of the former borderlands have been divided by the border between the United States and Mexico, they continue to exist in cultural terms on both sides of the fence that separates the two modern nations. To define the borderlands rigidly in time and place is difficult; they are the fluid middle ground that exists whenever cultures meet and neither dominates the other. As they relate to the region and time traditionally known as colonial America the present United States prior to 1776 the Spanish borderlands consist of the Spanish colonies in Florida, New Mexico, Texas, and California. It bears mentioning that 1776 is not a particularly significant date in the history of the Spanish borderlands, though it did eventually result in the creation of the United States, a force that would eventually come to dominate much of the region. Spanish colonial goals and institutions are essential to understanding the borderlands. It is easy, though overly simplistic and inaccurate, to dismiss Spanish motives in the New World solely as having to do with plunder. The old story goes that while the English came to the Americas to settle and the French came to trade, the Spanish sought to extract precious metal. The Spanish actually had a number of reasons, not all of them financial, for colonizing the borderlands, and a closer look at the mission system reveals some of these complexities. Throughout their history in the New World, the Spanish founded missions, beginning in Florida in the 1570s and New Mexico in 1590s and stretching in a thin line across the American Southwest all the way to California by the 1760s. Although a few of these were Jesuit missions, the overwhelming majority were Franciscan undertakings. The role of the missions helps to explain the ambiguities of the borderlands. On one hand, the missions were instruments of imperial control. Friars could extract labor and other forms of tribute from Native Americans, and their basic goal was to remove traces of indigenous religious belief. However, Native Americans resisted this cultural imperialism and sometimes relied on friars to protect them from exploitation at the hands of Spanish colonists. Revolts in New Mexico and Florida in the 1680s, the latter undertaken under the auspices of English slave traders, convinced Spanish authorities of the necessity of military outposts, or presidios. These were intended to pacify restless Native American populations. As with the missions, the real-world application of the military posts was complicated. Some Native Americans, such as the Apaches, attacked the posts as soon as they were established, seeking to continue slave raids among natives associated with the missions. Other native peoples sought the protection of the Spanish. The presence of the English in South Carolina and later Georgia and of the French in the Gulf of Mexico signaled a shift in the history of the borderlands. Increasingly, the region’s Native Americans found themselves embroiled in international disputes between European powers. At the same time, they struggled to maintain their own cultural and political autonomy, a viable land base, and their diplomatic relations with other Native American communities. The Spanish borderlands are crucial to a full, accurate understanding of colonial America. The European colonization of America does not begin only at Roanoke, Jamestown, and Plymouth; it also must take into account the interactions between Spanish and Native American peoples all across the continent. Many of these interactions occurred prior to English colonization, and their effects were long lasting, yet they still are not fully understood or incorporated into colonial history. Finally, the careful study of these borderlands can be applied to many different fields and allow for fruitful comparisons that transcend the once-rigid boundaries of American history. Matthew Jennings See also: New Mexico; New Spain; Santa Fe; Spanish Colonies on Mainland North America (Chronology). Bibliography Adelman, Jeremy, and Stephen Aron. “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History.” American Historical Review 104:3 (June 1999): 814 41. Jones, Oakah L., Jr., ed. The Spanish Borderlands: A First Reader. Los Angeles: Lorrin L. Morrison, 1974. Weber, David J. The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992. Boston In 1629, a group of English Puritans, led by merchants and country gentlemen, obtained a charter from King Charles I for the Massachusetts Bay Company. This was in many respects a typical joint-stock company, except for one critical feature: The charter did not specify the company’s location. Led by John Winthrop, the Puritans used the charter to create the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England, putting the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean between them and the hostile rule of Charles I. In 1630, after leaving Salem and Charlestown, Winthrop and his followers settled on the Shawmut Peninsula, in Boston. Borderlands – Setting – Book Drum Mission Dolores Author Interview: Spanish Colonial Women In The Borderlands …

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