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This book is to tell of Spanish pathfinders and pioneers in the regions between Florida and California, now belonging to the United States, over which Spain held sway for centuries. These were the northern outposts of New Spain, maintained chiefly to hold the country against foreign intruders and against the inroads of savage tribes. They were far from the centers of Spanish colonial civilization, in the West Indies, Central America, Mexico, and Peru.
The rule of Spain has passed; but her colonies have grown into independent nations. From Mexico to Chile, throughout half of America, the Spanish language and Spanish institutions are still dominant. Even in the old borderlands north of the Rio Grande, the imprint of Spain's sway is still deep and clear. The names of four States — Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and California — are
Spanish in form. Scores of rivers and mountains and hundreds of towns and cities in the United States still bear the names of saints dear to the Spanish pioneers. Southwestern Indians yet speak Spanish in preference to English. Scores of the towns have Spanish quarters, where the life of the old days still goes on and where the soft Castilian tongue is still spoken. Southwestern English has been enriched by Spanish contact, and hundreds of words of Spanish origin are in current use in speech and print everywhere along the border.
Throughout these Hispanic regions now in Anglo-American hands, Spanish architecture is still conspicuous. Scattered all the way from Georgia to San Francisco are the ruins of Spanish missions. Others dating from the old regime are yet well preserved and are in daily use as chapels. From belfries in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, still sound bells cast in Spain and bearing the royal arms. In many of the towns, and here and there in open country, old-time adobes are still to be seen. Moreover, the Spanish element has furnished the motif for a new type of architecture in the Southwest that has become one of the most distinctive American possessions. In California, Texas, and Arizona, the type is dominated by mission architecture. In New Mexico it is strongly modified by the native culture which found expression in pueblo building.
There are still other marks of Spanish days on the southern border. We see them in social, religious, economic, and even in legal customs. California has her Portola festival, her rodeos, and her Mission Play. Everywhere in the Southwest there are quaint church customs brought from Spain or Mexico by the early pioneers. From the Spaniard the American cowboy inherited his trade, his horse, his outfit, his vocabulary, and his methods. Spain is stamped on the land surveys. From Sacramento to St. Augustine nearly everybody holds his land by a title going back to Mexico or Madrid. Most of the farms along the border are divisions of famous grants which are still known by their original Spanish names. In the realm of law, principles regarding mines, water rights on streams, and the property rights of women — to mention only a few — have been retained from the Spanish regime in the Southwest. Not least has been the Hispanic appeal to the imagination. The Spanish occupation has stamped the literature of the borderlands and has furnished theme and color for a myriad of writers, great and small. Nor is this Hispanic cult — or culture — losing its hold. On the contrary, it is growing stronger. In short, the Southwest is as Spanish in color and historical background as New England is Puritan, as New York is Dutch, or as New Orleans is French.
My original manuscript for this book was written on a much larger scale than the Editor desired. In the work of reduction and rewriting, to fit it for the Series, I have had the able assistance of Miss Constance Lindsay Skinner.
H. E. B.
University Of California,