21 July 2008
Cast of Characters #1 - Coronado
I've lived in Massachusetts most of my adult life, but from 1992-1995 Lynn and I lived in Taos, New Mexico, a place I had visited often and fallen in love with. Before we moved there I knew that Taoseños divide the town's population into three basic ethnic groups -- Indians, Spanish and Anglos -- but what I didn't know until I moved there was that the Spanish families of Taos have roots going back farther in time than any of the "brahmins" of Boston. The first Spanish arrived in Taos in 1540, eighty years before the Mayflower Pilgrims stepped on their famous rock, when Capitan Hernando Alvarado came north from Mexico as part of the expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. From then on, except for a 16 year period after the 1680 pueblo revolt which led to the expulsion of the Spanish from New Mexico for a time, Taos was colonized by Spanish families, many of whom still live there. At the time of the American Declaration of Independence, the Taos Valley area contained 67 families with 306 Spaniards.
Both the Spanish and the Pueblo Indians of Taos have long deep roots in the land there, and one of the most common questions I was asked by people from both populations was "Why aren't you with your people?" By the time I had lived in Taos for 3 years, that question had done its work, and I came back east to be nearer to "my people."
Here in the American east, this early exploration and colonization of the United States by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and other Conquistadors is largely unmentioned and ignored, but in both Mexico and the U.S. Southwest, Coronado is a well-remembered figure. There are Coronado high schools, Coronado Parks, Coronado highways, Coronado bridges, towns and islands called Coronado, and Coronado monuments scattered from Kansas to California to Mexico City.
I wanted to include Coronado in this print, so I carved a block modeled on Frederick Remington's famous painting of Coronado setting out on his journey.