I remember sitting in my Texas History class and hearing about the Texas Revolution, a Sam Houston biography was my major project of the year and the textbooks painted him as a war hero, a leader who’d shed a tear when Texas seceded from the Union, I loved to hear tales of him, Davy Crockett, evil Santa Anna, and Travis.
But my favorite was the tale of Deaf Smith, the sickly man, el sordo, who came down to Texas and married a Mexicana, Guadalupe, and had children, accepted by the Anglos and the Tejanos, his marker read, “Deaf Smith, The Texas Spy, Died Nov. 30, 1837.”
My father told us many times that we were descendants of his, of the deaf man who leaned in to hear people speak of war, the fate of Texas, and it’s people. I leaned in… excited that a white man had accepted and been accepted by the brown. He was the good guy, he had to be. Just like the Tejanos that wore playing cards on their heads so the Texas Army could tell them apart from the Mexican Army, they were the good guys, despite the fact that my teacher and classmates would say with conviction “the Mexicans lost” over and over until I knew, we had lost.
But I wonder now, who was Deaf Smith’s wife? Who was Guadalupe Ruiz de Durán? Who was this woman, this widower, this mother, who married the Texas Spy? Did she worry for him, for her children, did she fear how the war drew lines in the sand, did she mourn the loss of her homeland, did she see the racism, prejudice, land stealing, and pain that would come to her people when Texas “won”?
Or did she simply fall in love with a loyal and quiet scout? Was she fiercely protective of her niños, making them strong for the road to come? When did she decide she was a Tejana before a Mexicana? Did she see that beyond the hate, her children and her children’s children would grow into strong warriors in the fields, classrooms, government buildings, and books of school children? That they would assimilate until the last inch of themselves remained, and when they were ready… embrace that inch with love and remorse?
I remember Guadalupe the footnote, but I wish I knew her story.
Photo: Tejano couple by Elias Andrade [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]