Inside the Capitol

Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Mexico Has It Over Texas


Syndicated Columnist

                SANTA FE – New Mexico needs a change in attitude. It won't happen, but it should. It would be great if New Mexico's children could be treated to the same glorious view of their state's history as Texas children receive about their state.

                The basic difference is that Texans are braggarts and New Mexicans aren't. Visit Texas historical sites and you will notice that the state's history dates back far less than 200 years. New Mexico celebrated its 400th anniversary almost a decade ago.

Texas indoctrinates its children with textbooks and presentations that would make one think it has more to be proud of than New Mexico does. You and I know better, but we're in the minority.

Most New Mexicans believe the story dished out by so many of our politicians that we rank first in everything bad and last in everything good. And that spills over onto our kids.

                An objective view of history, geography and any other topic reveals few areas where Texas outshines us except for having more oil under their state.. Winning independence is about its only other claim to fame.

Some big-league bungling by Gen. Santa Anna had a lot to do with it too. Certainly Texas military leaders made a ton of mistakes, but they got lucky and extracted a surrender from Santa Anna and then proceeded to sensationalize it.

                During their decade of independence, Texas had constant trouble with Indian tribes to the north and east, so decided not to attempt enforcing its claims to those lands. An attempt to secure their western boundary claim at the Rio Grande ended in utter defeat by New Mexicans in 1841. And a further attempt in 1862 was even more of a disaster.

                The core of Texas pride involves its massive loss at the Alamo, where every man supposedly fought to the death. Mexican accounts of the battle indicate some did escape but were quickly captured and taken to Gen. Santa Anna, who ordered their execution.

The inhumanity of that act brought Santa Anna much criticism back home, especially since one of the escapees he ordered killed was the famous David Crockett, whom some of Santa Anna's lieutenants thought should have been spared because of his celebrity.

                There shouldn't even have been a battle at the Alamo. Sam Houston had sent Jim Bowie there to close it down because Texas couldn't protect it. But Bowie disobeyed orders and decided to defend the Alamo.

Mexican critics of Santa Anna faulted him for not doing a better job of negotiating some type of surrender with Col. Travis, who had taken over command by that time, thereby avoiding the heavy Mexican casualties.

                But Texas has built that loss into a sensational moral victory. It has turned drab geography, an often-unpleasant climate and a brief history into something glorious with head-pounding, heart throbbing Imax productions that send students back to the real world thinking they are part of the greatest state and culture in the world.

                And yet New Mexico has so much more to be proud about. Our human history dates back to Clovis Man, the earliest culture found in the hemisphere. We have Spanish history, Civil War and Wild West history; living Indian communities; an enormous artistic, literary, architectural and scientific heritage; the birthplaces of the Atomic Age and the Space Age and food that lures the world.

                If military action is your thing, we have our two victories over the Texans, our service as Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War and the New Mexico National Guard's courageous defense of the Philippines in World War II that gave our nation time to mobilize for the war in the Pacific.

                But the best we can do is argue over which dry textbook should become New Mexico's official history. It's time for our whining politicians to quit talking about how bad we are and think of ways to make New Mexicans prouder of their heritage.


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