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Fronteras Extra: 'Jesus, María, y Jose' - The Document That Spurred Texas Independence

Harvard University Press

A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture” by Raúl Coronado explores the forgotten print culture that paved the path for individuals who oversaw Texas transform from a Spanish colony to a Mexican republic, to a Texan republic, to one of the United States of America.  

José Álvarez de Toledo's 'Jesús, María, y José,' 1811.

The “Jesus, Maria, y Jose” document by Jose Álvarez de Toledo was the document that ultimately led to thefirst declaration of independence by Texas from Spain in 1813. And it spoke specifically to the Catholic tendencies of Tejanos of like minds.

“(T)he masthead has 3 crosses at the top, then underneath that it has the names Jesus, Maria, y Jose,” Coronado said. Underneath that it says ‘en nombre de dios y la virgen de Guadalupe.’”

The document had originally been printed in Philadelphia in 1811 and was brought to printers in western Louisiana, which Coronado called “a version of (a) modern day FedEx Kinkos.”

Coronado said many historians, when reviewing the document, say it mimics Anglo American and French revolutionary rhetoric. Coronado disagreed. “‘Mimic’ already has a tone of condescension in terms of not being original, not being a faithful copy, it’s pretending to be revolutionary.” Some historians have also described the document as “stained with Catholic rhetoric,” said Coronado.

Coronado, an associate professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, said historians got it all wrong.  “It was revolutionary, but it was not the revolutionary language I had studied in my classes on the American Revolutionary Wars or the French Declaration on the rights of man, or Anglo American, British, and French political philosophy I was familiar with,” said Coronado. “It’s almost as if I was a kid who was eating cereal and I had found a decoder at the bottom of the cereal box, and this decoder opened up this world to me that I could not fathom.”

Coronado said Álvarez de Toledo was employing Catholic political philosophy in his argument for revolution. That’s not a political philosophy familiar to the dominant Anglo American tradition. Instead of focusing on the rights of the individual, Catholic political philosophy focused on the well-being of the pueblo.  “I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the political slogan in Spanish, ‘el pueblo unido jamaz sera vencido,’” Coronado said. “It can be loosely translated as ‘the people united will never be defeated.’ But pueblo can also mean community, a town, it means a people as well.”

Coronado hopes his book generates more research into how political ideals have translated through the ages.

Coronado said writing about political philosophy, or even the events leading to the early revolutionary movements in Texas, was not his original intent in writing the “A World Not to Come.”

Raúl Coronado explains that writing about Spanish print culture wasn't his original intent.

Credit Courtesy of Raúl Coronado.
Raúl Coronado

“What I had originally wanted to do was write a history of Tejano literature,” Coronado said. “I wanted to understand  how Tejanos in the 19th century used writing to imagine new worlds, to express their dreams, their wishes, their fears.”

After years of research, he came up with nothing.  “No novels, no fiction, no collections of poetry.”

It wasn’t until he spoke to his advisor that Coronado realized what he actually had. “(My advisor) said, ‘wait a minute. You have 2 filing cabinets full of stuff of what they wrote, but they didn’t write what you wanted them to write?’ I was like, ‘exactly.’ When he said it like that, I was like, ‘oh, wait!’”

Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren