Tag Archives: New Mexico

When the West was North

It is probably better to speak of the West at this point as simply the Frontier. On the American continent the East was even at once considered West. But it is more than a direction. Colonial frontiers such as New York and Ohio, are almost laughable as “West” by the standards of the Montanans and any of the video game characters that you managed to get to the end of the Oregan Trail without dying of dysentery or starving to death. Even the idea of West as being westerly falls into disarray when you look at it from the perspective of New Spain and Mexico. For them the West was North, into Texas (and even farther).

This notion goes overlooked by many because there are not the copious amounts of art that depict encounters between the Spaniards and the Indians and/or Mexicans, or the Mexicans and Spaniards against the Indians, or Mayan, Aztec, and Incan civilizations. The bulk of European (or at least European style) art depict the French and Indian Wars that ravaged the colonial holdings of France and England in what is now the northern United States and southern Canada. Even literature followed this suit. I still do not know of a spanish equivalent of “The Last of the Mohicans.”
There are a few things that we do have, however and they paint a vivid picture of the American Southwest, or the Mexican Northwest depending on your point of view. One (or really, two) is the Segesser Hide Paintings that are housed in the New Mexico History Museum in downtown Santa Fe. 
The other is a piece of religious and historical art. “The Destruction of Mission San Saba in the Province of Texas and the Martyrdom of the Fathers Alonso de Terreros, Joseph Santiesteban” was completed in the 1760s. To have room for the subjects and the title, the piece is an enormous 83 by 115 inches (6’11” x 9’7″) and tells the story of the destruction of a Spanish Mission. So, there’s that.