Role in the West
September was the
month that large horse raiding parties of Comanche went into Mexico after
horses and captives. The Comanche referred to September as the Mexican
Moon; Mexicans called it the Comanche Moon.
What remained is
the language of the Hispanic west. For example, what other word is more
identifiable with the "Wild West" than buckaroo? Yet buckaroo
(first recorded in 1827) is merely a mispronunciation of the Spanish vaquero
(literally "cow-man", ultimately from Latin vacca, "a cow").
Also, what is generally acknowledged but rarely mentioned is that major
elements of the clothing, food, language and most importantly the cultural
values and attitudes derive from Mexican as well as Southern American
In California the
Colonial Spanish cattle industry was huge and directly tied to Spain and
the Catholic Missions. The Spanish had diverse economics in the new world,
mining, sugar and cattle and trade that reached the four corners of the
earth. In the arid region of their Northern frontier, what we know now
as California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, cattle grazing was sometimes
the sole economic prospect until dams and irrigation techniques were developed.
Spanish cattle leather often returned to the Spanish colonies as fine
leatherworks such as chests, clothing and furniture.
Ranch in Mexico
Skilled ropers and riders, Hispanic-American cowboys employed tools and techniques perfected by Spanish vaqueros (buckaroos) in Mexico and the southwestern United States. They snared livestock with ropes made of rawhide or Manila hemp and rode heavy stock saddles equipped with a horn, which served as a snubbing post while roping. Cowboys also adopted a distinctive, often colorful style of dress that reflected the requirements of the job, the local work environment, and included many elements of the Mexican Vaqueros' personal taste. Most wore wide-brimmed hats to protect their head from sun and weather, tall-topped boots with slanted high heels to help secure their feet in the saddle stirrups, and spurs, sometimes embellished with silver, to motivate their horses. In brush-infested regions they also donned leather leggings, called chaps, short for the Spanish term chaparejos.
The sharp decline of the herds of the Plains created a vacuum which was exploited by the growing cattle industry. Spanish cattlemen had introduced cattle ranching and longhorn cattle to the Southwest in the 17th century, and the men who worked the ranches, called "vaqueros", were the first "cowboys" in the West.
Also, the area which
is now Texas was part of the vast area claimed by the Spanish crown. Since
it was not notably superior to other areas of New Spain that the Spanish
kings needed to develop not much was done in the Texas area until it looked
as though France might establish control there. The Spanish expedition
that was sent to investigate possible French incursions into the area
found that the French had established a colony at Matagorda Bay but it
had been wiped out by hostile natives. The peaceful Caddo and Tonkawa
Native Americans that met the expedition announced their peaceful intentions
by shouting friends in their language. The word for friends in that language
was Thechas, which the Spanish wrote as Tejas and used as the name for
the natives. The Spanish version Tejas was converted into Texias by the
Anglo immigrants. Those first immigrants in acknowledgement to the stipulation
that they become Mexican citizens called themselves Texians for a period
of time before the spellings took the modern forms of Texas and Texans.