the Tortilla Curtain
Mary Dejewski, "Hispanics Put their Stamp on US"
The backdrop had all the magnificence of the American
Southwest, with its panorama of blue-
desert and ahead, the tree-
But the scale of the festivities was akin to a village fete:
05 stalls selling local history and crafts, a town plaza decked
out in red, white and blue balloons, and a couple of hundred
people waiting, on damp grass in blistering sunshine, for pro-
ceedings to begin. The only peculiarities were the bulky
10 to the square, and the prominence of the US Postal Service,
After a flourish from the brass band, a solemn rendition of the
US national anthem, the pledge of allegiance (first in Spanish,
then in English), (...) all was explained. A clutch of dignitaries
gether tore down a white sheet to reveal a giant mock-
the latest US postage stamp, which commemorates the 400th
anniversary of the first Spanish settlement in today's United
States of America.
20 The issuing of the stamp in Espanola, a dust-
miles north of the state capital, Santa Fe, was the US federal
government's contribution to a series of events marking the
25 Espanola, at the junction of the river Chama and the Rio
Grande, is the modern-
of San Gabriel del Yunque, where Don Juan Onate, described
as the "last of the Conquistadors", brought his 80 settlers
from the then Spanish colony of Mexico. They had set out in
30 January, 1598, from (...) Durango, crossed the Rio Grande into
what is now the United States, in April, and arrived at San
Gabriel on 11 July. Each of these milestones has been
marked this year, culminating in the Espanola fiesta close to
the settlement that, four centuries ago, was the end of the
The cuarto centenario, however, has not been the easiest of
events for the United States to commemorate, as the resort to
the postage stamp with its highly coloured picture of the
Espanola mission may suggest; its contribution was at
40 best double-
On the one hand, as one of New Mexico's US Senators, Pete
Domenici, put it: "400 years of Hispanic heritage will be
communicated throughout the United States on these 46
million stamps." On the other, a postage stamp is an asser-
45 tion of federal authority in a US state. New Mexico, which has
a population almost 40 per cent Hispanic, is the only state in
the Union which feels the need to specify on its car licence
plates that it is New Mexico, United States.
Obtaining any federal recognition of the anniversary at all,
50 though, is accounted something of an achievement in
Espanola, given that New Mexico was joined to the United
States more than two centuries after it was settled by the
Spanish and the anniversary, arguably, has nothing to do
with the United States.
55 In April, after the last major anniversary was marked -
crossing of the Rio Grande -
that the occasion had been virtually ignored by the main-
stream (East coast, English-
says 'Mayflower this and Mayflower that'," said Gabrielle
60 Palmer, a Santa Fe art historian. "But the English were the
last to conquer, so they had the history written in their
language." As Stephen Fosberg, a New Mexico historian
quipped:"If the Pilgrim Fathers had arrived in New Mexico,
rather than Jamestown, they could have gone shopping."
65 That this weekend's anniversary is celebrated at all is partly a
tribute to the efforts of local people like Ms Palmer and Mr
Fosberg and the increase in historical awareness in the
American Southwest. But it is also evidence of the growing
political importance of Hispanic America nationally -
Americans classifying themselves as Hispanic comprise 11
per cent of the US population. (...) By the year 2050, if not
before, they will make up 25 per cent of the population and
help make white Americans a minority in what they still see as
75 "their" country.
The point was drummed home by Senator Jeff Bingaman near
the close of a weekend symposium, also near Espanola, on
the significance of the Camino Real -
supply route that linked Mexico and its new settlements to
80 the north. He told the 100 or so participants, from the US and
Mexico, that by the time the US celebrates the 400th anniver-
sary of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers, "we need to ensure
that people understand that people came here in 1598 to
establish the European heritage here."
from: The Independent, 13-
Give short answers; use your own words as far as possible.
1.1. What was being commemorated in Espanola on 11 July, 1998 and why did the organizers consider this event worth commemorating?
1.2. Why does the author call the federal government's contribution double-
2. Analysis and discussion
2.1. How do the festivities in Espanola and their setting reflect the double heritage, i.e. Anglo-
2.2. Explain the meaning of ll. 59-
"But the English were the last to conquer, so they had the history written in their language."
2.3. Delineate the author's train of thought.
2.4. In his novel The Tortilla Curtain T.C. Boyle paints a dismal picture of Anglo-
2.4.1. Point out the general attitude of Anglo-
2.4.2. How can their behavior be explained?
2.5. In reaction to the cultural consciousness movement of the 1960s the federal government introduced bilingual education programs, which have become a crucial political issue.
Do you agree with the Californian voters who opted to abandon bilingual education in 1998 or do you think that children of ethnic minority groups should be taught in their native language? Considering the situation of minority groups in Germany might be of help.