In Notable Men and Women of Spanish Texas, Donald Chipman and Harriett Joseph combined dramatic, real-life incidents, biographical sketches, and historical background to reveal the real human beings behind the legendary figures who discovered, explored, and settled Spanish Texas from 1528 to 1821. Drawing from their earlier book and adapting the language and subject matter to the reading level and interests of middle and high school students, the authors here present the men and women of Spanish Texas for young adult readers and their teachers.
These biographies demonstrate how much we have in common with our early forebears. Profiled in this book are:
- Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca: Ragged Castaway
- Francisco Vázquez de Coronado: Golden Conquistador
- María de Agreda: Lady in Blue
- Alonso de León: Texas Pathfinder
- Domingo Terán de los Ríos / Francisco Hidalgo: Angry Governor and Man with a Mission
- Louis St. Denis / Manuela Sánchez: Cavalier and His Bride
- Antonio Margil de Jesús: God's Donkey
- Marqués de San Miguel de Aguayo: Chicken War Redeemer
- Felipe de Rábago y Terán: Sinful Captain
- José de Escandón y Elguera: Father of South Texas
- Athanase de Mézières: Troubled Indian Agent
- Domingo Cabello: Comanche Peacemaker
- Marqués de Rubí / Antonio Gil Ibarvo: Harsh Inspector and Father of East Texas
- Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara / Joaquín de Arredondo: Rebel Captain and Vengeful Royalist
- Women in Colonial Texas: Pioneer Settlers
- Women and the Law: Rights and Responsibilities
Explorers and Settlers of Spanish Texas is intended for younger readers. When the authors finished preparation of their work on Notable Men and Women of Spanish Texas, also published by the University of Texas Press, we were reminded of a conversation some years ago with Dr. George B. Ward. George is managing editor of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly and assistant director of the Texas State Historical Association. He is also a good friend. George remarked that in traveling around the state of Texas, one public school teacher after another has asked him why there was so little in print on Texas history--other than textbooks--for adolescents. Teachers who wanted to assign reports on such individuals as Coronado, Cabeza de Vaca, or the Lady in Blue could find little other than adult-level works. Even the great six-volume New Handbook of Texas (1996) is hardly designed for younger readers.
The authors had never tried to write for an audience other than adults. And neither of us was at all certain that we could do it successfully. We began by scanning and reading history textbooks used in the public schools to get a feel for an appropriate level of vocabulary. Next, we tried writing and then rewriting a sample chapter on Cabeza de Vaca. The task proved much more difficult than we had thought it might be. We simplified sentences, reduced the length of paragraphs, and struggled to find an acceptable style of writing.
After polishing a draft, we gave copies to several students in the Brownsville ISD. To our surprise, all of them thought the writing was "pretty good" and the subject matter "interesting." More important, those students made good suggestions, and we took them to heart. We followed by writing a second chapter on Coronado. The new chapter, together with the Cabeza de Vaca chapter, went to a friend and former student who teaches eighth-grade United States history in the Keller ISD. He made photocopies of the two chapters and had his students read them. Those students were especially complimentary of the chapters and remarked that they were well written and interesting. We also asked public school teachers in the Brownsville ISD to read sample chapters, as well as a specialist in reading in the Carrollton/Farmer's Branch ISD. Once again, the comments were generally positive. Those students and teachers who were kind enough to donate their time and serve as guinea pigs for Explorers and Settlers of Spanish Texas are gratefully recognized by name in the Acknowledgments.
As an observation, the popularity of biography seems at present to be at an all-time high, with various outlets ranging from television to CD-ROM to the printed page. In the sixteen chapters that make up the text, we have used the biographical approach to Spanish Texas. In this manner, we have tried to humanize the past and to make our readers realize that the past was shaped by individuals who had the same strengths and weaknesses that we and our leaders have today.
In looking at personalities from Cabeza de Vaca in the early sixteenth century to Joaquín de Arredondo in the early nineteenth century, the reader is exposed to the full span of recorded history in the Spanish period. These men and women of Spanish and French ancestry are an important balance wheel of both Texas and United States history. Many of them walked the land and breathed the air that was North America well before English and Dutch nations colonized it.
The first literature that addressed parts of what later became the United States came from the pen of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca--that Great Pedestrian of both North and South America. Don Alvar was the first historian, anthropologist, and geographer of Texas and the Southwest. He was likewise the first merchant and physician-surgeon in the American Southwest. Those are a lot of firsts.
The reader will also learn about many other Spanish and French pioneers in the future Lone Star State. Herein one will find biographical sketches of sixteen men (some famous and some infamous) and of a notable Spanish nun.
The authors are especially pleased to offer adolescent readers a better understanding of women and their contributions to Texas history. Until recently, many of them have remained largely nameless and faceless. We know that they had children, washed and mended clothes, and swept their houses, but those activities are hardly the stuff of interest to readers of any age. And the importance of women as settlers in the colonial period goes far beyond bearing children and housekeeping. By reading the final two chapters in the this book, one can learn about the roles, rights, and responsibilities of flesh-and-blood women in early Texas and American history.