The Hakkapeliitta: Unsung Heroes of the North

In the early years of the 17th century, Europe was in flames. The Thirty Years War ravaged the Holy Roman Empire from within and throughout. At stake was the future of Christianity and the legacy of the Roman Empire. From a distance, it seemed to be a war to determine whether Protestants or Catholics would dominate Europe. In reality, it was a small regional conflict which began in 1618 with the Defenestration of Prague. The war grew from a small conflict centered in Bohemia to envelop nearly all of Europe in a grand war steeped in power-politics. French military involvement was limited to funding the enemies of the Holy Roman Emperor during the early and middle phases of the war. Instead, France turned to its nominal ally Sweden to fight Its enemies for them.

Sweden was still a developing power – it had only been 100 years since a Danish king ruled Sweden under the Kalmar Union. Sweden’s people and resources, (specifically Its grain harvests) had been exploited by Denmark for over a century. During the hundred years following Its independence, things did not improve greatly. Sweden suffered at the hands of the Hanseatic League, which controlled the lucrative herring trade, as well as locking Sweden out of trade relations with most of the other Baltic nations. Moreover, the Swedish army suffered defeat after defeat, especially at sea. Rebellions plagued the country, and the barons took what they wanted. A series of tax reforms, a permanent break from Denmark, and the hereditary ownership of the Swedish crown by the Vasa family was the first step towards power for them.

Finland had been a Swedish territory since around 1250 CE. Throughout the middle ages, Finland had remained a very sparsely populated and rural land. Natural resources aren’t in abundance – the exception being fish. Sami fishermen, (Sami being the native population of Finland throughout the middle ages) made up the bulk of the coastal provinces. Villages were organized through ecclesiastical authorities, and in many ways it was simply a Swedish colony.

In 1628, Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden invaded the Baltic coast of Germany with his Finnish Hakkapeliitta cavalrymen and began a campaign to bring the Holy Roman Emperor to his knees.

The Hakkapeliitta were an exceptionally trained army of light cavalrymen. Their name is derived from the Finnish war-cry “Hakkaa päälle, pohjan poika“, which can be literally translated to ‘Hack through them, sons of the north!’ They were a form of cuirassier, or lightly armored cavalry equipped with sabers and firearms.

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Hakkapeliitta Cuirassier Cavalry.

As they charged their enemies at full speed, they would fire a pistol shot at the enemy to disrupt their formation, and then slash through them with cold steel. Hakkapeliitta typically rode very small horses of the Finnhorse breed. They often performed flanking maneuvers and would bait the enemy into firing their first shot at an elusive and fast-moving target. At a time in history when reloading mechanisms for firearms were still quite slow and cumbersome, this was an invaluable tactic. The enemies of Sweden, who were primarily Catholic, came to have their own understanding of the Hakkapeliitta’s effectiveness.

 

They were witches.

Yes, throughout Germany and the Baltic coastline, the Hakkapeliitta came to have a reputation as practitioners of witchcraft. The Finnish horsemen were said to be invincible, and that gunfire would simply pass through them and leave them unharmed. Western Europe had relatively little knowledge of Finland and the native Sami people, and their understanding was that Finland was the frontier of Christianity, and the home of dark spirits. Finland had fairly recently been the target of the Baltic Crusades. In a time of relative ignorance, the Christian Finnish troops of the Hakkapeliitta were understood as Pagans and practitioners of black magic – it was the only explanation the western armies would accept for how the noble Christian knights of the west could be defeated.

Obviously they weren’t witches, but they were effective.

The Hakkapeliitta were instrumental in the Swedish victories at Breitenfeld (1631) and Lützen (1632), which effectively left Sweden the masters of northern Germany and with the potential to create a new Protestant Holy Roman Empire. The death of Gustavus Adolphus changed all of that, but for a brief moment – the fate of Europe hung in the balance of a small band of ‘witches’ on horseback.

Stories such as these are fundamental to the identities of their respective cultures, but are otherwise unknown to outsiders. I’ve found that the most engaging historical narratives for non-historians are those ‘oddball’ stories about groups often neglected in larger historical narratives. That being said, it’s a shame that researching topics like these is so difficult, and really only a possibility for native audiences. For example, when I was researching this project, I came upon a Finnish website run by their government, with a great deal of historical context for this period and the subject itself. However, I don’t speak Finnish, and neither do 99/100 people on earth. Hopefully, if subjects like these generate more interest, local groups will feel incentivized to translate their sources and appeal to broader audiences.

 

World-Building & Public History: Connecting the Dots

The Top-Down Approach in History

As described in my last post, the top-down approach is generally an easier method to construct a cohesive narrative – a story without voids in knowledge that would cast doubt on the accountability and thoroughness of the author. There is undoubtedly an unacknowledged fear of ignorance in authorship and the practice of history. I would argue that a healthy fear of perceived poor scholarship or having ‘loose ends’ is one of the largest factors that influences what projects are undertaken and in what format their creator chooses to utilize.

While many examples of work I would consider top-down are up for debate in the literary academic community, the fact that most history anthologies before recent years, (let’s suppose 1990 for the sake or argument) utilize the top-down methodology to construct narratives around authors’ arguments.

One of the most popular formats for producing historical materials in narrative format was the classical historical anthology series. A great example of this would be the Great Ages of Man book series, by TIME-LIFE. Each part of the anthology encompasses a wide breadth of knowledge about a particular region at a particular time. The series includes such titles as, Age of Faith, Age of Kings, and Age of Progress, which are all suggestive of ideas rather than localities. Also included are books like Ancient America and Early Japan, which do clearly suggest the locale and the timeframe. There are twenty-one books in the series, and only four take place outside of Europe. The ways in which the authors construct narratives in the non-European focused books inevitably lead into European contact and domination. This would suggest that the authors constructed the narratives with a specific endpoint in mind – the trend of European colonization and dominion is the culmination of world history. History has traditionally been the story of wealthy white men in power – this is established and a subject we’ve beaten over the head constantly in our discussions in class and elsewhere. As such it is not surprising that this series, created in the 1960’s utilized the same approach. But why?

Fear.

Again, it is fear of incorporating new narratives and challenging established authorities in history. It’s fear that years of research studying localities, traditions of indigenous people and interviewing a wide cross-section of people that prevents many from creating a truly original narrative. While many history anthologies do begin in such a way, if we’re to judge by the TIME-LIFE series, leading these new and interesting narratives of foreign people and cultures into the comfortable territory of European involvement and records is a way to preserve the establishment.

The Bottom-Up Approach In History

Finally, let’s talk about the bottom-up approach, Its incredible benefits, and also the deep challenges with this elaborate methodology. To begin, let’s think about the questions we ask as historians. Let’s assume the topic at hand is the lack of Tejano monuments in San Antonio, and the argument being made is that there are deep-seated feelings of resentment towards that community by those in power, and a fear of acknowledging the non-European histories of San Antonio. Obviously, yeah… this is a pretty aggressive argument to make, but is not one without foundation.

What should we ask? Where should we begin?

The Top-Down Historian: Well, I would begin by thinking about the socio-economic status and political efficacy of Tejanos in the state of Texas, in whose hands these decisions often end up. If Tejanos’ interests were equally important to those of whites in Texas, their history would be memorialized equally as well.

The Bottom-Up Historian: Whoa there, I didn’t know this would turn into an argument about politics and socio-economics. I thought the question was about the lack of Tejano monuments in San Antonio. We should restrict the questions to the community of San Antonio at first. Who are the Tejano leaders in San Antonio? What is the proportion of Tejano politicians to Anglo-American politicians? We should quantify Tejano monuments against European-style architectural monuments and determine the extent of the disparity. How vocal are Tejanos about the ways in which their history is being ignored? How do Anglos react? What community projects are there in San Antonio to memorialize Tejano historical buildings and artifacts?

From this brief conversation alone, it should be apparent that the bottom-up methodology is far more difficult to approach, but far more rewarding. Bottom-up has the potential to provide you with a greater number of relevant questions to ask, all the while allowing you to keep the subject in focus.

 

Historia en Vivo | Living History: The Mission to Market Walking Tour

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Recently, The Western History Association had a conference in San Antonio, Texas. It was of no surprise to me that the participants of the conference were very interested in the history of San Antonio and the past of a city reborn.

As part of a course at St. Mary’s University, Dr. Teresa Van Hoy gathered a group of her brightest minds as well as a grad student (that would be me). Dr. Van Hoy engaged these students in research at the level of a graduate

Photo of Casa Navarro courtesy of Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio, Texas

student’s course. These students learned about everything from the battle of The Alamo, the historic Market Square, Casa Navarro, as well as La Villita and The Arneson Theatre. History of these past lives for the places that we were treading upon for the sake of history is important. The major history of the west was highly influenced by the past of Texas and the past of the Spanish settlers of the time.

Pierre, the undergraduate history major, explains The Alamo and the history captured in the historic shrine. Photo courtesy of Gateway Photography

The Alamo is probably one of the most mentioned historical sights of the city in terms of tourism and engagement but the truth of the matter is that there are so many places that are filled with love, hate, energy, and resentment. These places are the true places that affect lifestyles and changes in culture and security and these were those places that the students were talking about.

La Villita, for instance, was a very familiar sight for a local leader, Anthony Delgado, this sight was was more than an artists’ grounds or NIOSA fiesta sight. This compound is holy ground for Anthony. “La Villita” was the land previously owned by his ancestors and Anthony ensured that his history and his family’s past have stayed alive. As the previous president of the organization, “Los Bexarenos,” Anthony knows what it means to be a direct descendant of a people of strength and resilience. Throughout Anthony’s talk, the somber feelings of disbelief and wartime angst began to fill the audience with feelings that some could say only a San Antonian could know.

Photo of Anthony Delgado (former leader of Los Bexarenos organization) presenting the La Villita Historic sights to conferences goers of the WHA conference.

The tour continued and different important topics were discussed and thrown in along the way. There was color-commentary from the beginning until the end and some of those fun-facts just grabbed the attention of the audience. The interesting part of this living history was that history was being created just in the activity itself. Each participant was some sort of scholar of history or fan of the city and learned something new that they had not yet heard before. Up until that day I had not heard of Los Bexarenos. The knowledge was highly appreciated and the “tour in the rain” seemed to be the best part of any scholar’s visits to The Alamo City.

By no surprise, the students, including myself, were introduced to many scholars and writers. These people have continued to keep interest in the students and the leaders of the tour. Recently while sorting through emails, I found correspondence about visits to museums, programs, and schools nationwide as a result of this great tour opportunity.

The Mission to Market Walking Tour was a great opportunity, to say the least. The connections built, the memories made, and the history learned was worth the trot through the pouring rain.

Students from the Texas history course at St. Mary’s University, taught by Dr. Van Hoy huddle together to talk about Henry B. Gonzalez, an influential San Antonio leader. Photo courtesy of Gateway Photography.

Public history is a program at St. Mary’s University, but it is more than that. Public history students are able to take part in these types of programs due to the efforts of the program and the leadership guiding it. The students that are growing due to this program are more than the average graduate and undergraduate student. This cohort is learning to work with and engage the community. In my time as a student (5 years now), I have not felt so empowered until now. I can see the work that is being done, as well as the influence it has on local perception.

The walking tour sure was an opportunity of a lifetime. The walking tour was more than just an opportunity, but a necessary component for the careers of many students and conference-goers. The memory is now an internal archive of a project that became part of a class and a group of students’ journey.

 

Fluxus: A Recipe for Art

Traditionally, the common person explores art through experimentation and schooling– one may take an art class in high school, or draw in the margins of their notebooks during a less than engaging lecture. What if, instead, you could read a recipe for art, and create art based on what was written? If you did, this would be called Fluxus.

The Fluxus movement took place from the last dregs of the 50’s to the late 70’s, primarily in New York City, and was facilitated by artists that believed fine art belonged to everyone. Museums and art dealers had made art a subject for the elites, only those with “good taste” and “finer sensibilities”. What resulted was an art movement for the masses, the viewer being encouraged to participate in the enactment of the art. A Fluxus artwork commonly had an “event score” which dictated what the individual or group should do in order to create a specific piece (though chance and spontaneity were also encouraged). There was no single method for creating Fluxus art, and its goal was to make art accessible to anyone, experienced and created by any common person.

Mieko Shiomi. Event for the Midday (In the Sunlight). 1963. Event Score.

The fun came to an end with the death of the Fluxus movement leader, George Maciunas. His “Fluxfuneral” was marked by several Fluxus performances, and a “Fluxfeast and Wake”, in which all food was purple, black, and white– very fitting. Fluxus was intended to be avant-garde, subversive, and even silly at times. It’s abrupt end begs the question– What would Fluxus look like in today’s world?

There is still art created using a type of event score– art created by Artificial Intelligence. One particular work, “Edmond de Belamy, from La Famille de Belamy” made the news as a work of art created by AI and signed with the algorithm used to produce the final image, the technology for which has been around since 2015. This particular work was created by a machine imitating thousands of portraits over several centuries. The event score is the algorithm, but is this art? Is the algorithm the artist, or are the programmers the artists? And just as importantly, does the AI creation of art grow the chasm between fine art and the common person, or does it make art more accessible to everyone?

Personally, the traditional style of Fluxus speaks more to me– the idea of anyone at all picking up a recipe for art and making it. Whether it be pouring water into a Tuba as its being played, or arranging for a public viewing of a “No Smoking” sign (both of which have event scores), Fluxus encourages us to interact with the people around us, and do outlandishly silly things for the sake of the performance. That, I can appreciate. To learn more about Fluxus in a lovely video format, check out the Art Assignment’s video on the topic, and I challenge you to perform one Fluxus artwork from this Fluxus Performance Workbook. Let me know in the comments which artwork you chose!

Libraries: Repositories of Knowledge

My love of libraries began while attending the University of Texas at Austin, where I worked as a student aide at the Perry Castañeda Library, the main library on campus. For the past two years, I have worked full time as a Library Assistant at the Schaefer library, the newest public library branch in San Antonio, TX . Through these experiences, I’ve accrued a fair amount of library knowledge under my belt, having worked at an academic library and now a public library. However, since starting the Master’s in Public History program at St. Mary’s University, my perception of a library has changed. I had never really thought of a library as a type of museum before now. This semester, we have read a multitude of articles, books, and blogs and had many lively class discussions which has opened my eyes to the many similarities between museums and libraries. In this blog post I will identify some of these similarities:

The Collection

Arguably the most important aspects of a museum are the contents that fill the space. A traditional museum may contain historical artifacts, paintings, sculptures, mummies, dinosaur bones, and the list goes on and on. Science centers and children’s museums may not even have collections, but instead they may have rotating exhibitions or hands on activity stations. A common theme is that all institutions offer a rewarding experience for visitors. Similarly, libraries are repositories of knowledge, housing an assortment of books on all imaginable subjects; patrons can gain numerous skills by simply selecting the right book — car engine repair, GED study guide, cookbooks for diabetics, etc. In addition, libraries help bridge the digital divide by offering computer classes for beginners, coding workshops, and most notably, free and unlimited access to the internet. There are even online certification courses you can take to learn a myriad of skills ranging from conflict resolution to cake decorating, all free with a library card. The collections of both libraries and museums serve as community catalysts for positive change.

 Collection Maintenance

In Library land, the process of acquiring items for the collection is similar to museums. All items must go through processing and assigned a barcode, as well as entered into an integrated library system, which is basically a digital platform to keep track of collections and patron accounts. The process of removing items from the collection in libraries is known as weeding. This process does not seem to carry the stigma that deaccessioning does for museums. Weeding items in libraries is a necessary part of maintaining the integrity of the collections. Working in a public library means serving the entire public, which often means a significantly shortened life span for the items in the collection. Just as we are continually repairing or weeding items, new items are also continually arriving. And so the cycle of life for the library collection continues.

Public Programs

My favorite aspect of working for the San Antonio Public Library is the wide variety of public programs I am able to plan, facilitate, or simply take part in. Public engagement through programming is a hugely important and vital service offered by libraries. Just like with museums, public programs are new ways to engage your public at all levels. Libraries offer weekly story times, teen programs, cooking classes, informational health workshops, and so much more. There are special events such as “Human Libraries” composed of people with varying life experiences where essentially patrons are able to “checkout” a human library book and have a conversation with an interesting stranger to learn more about their life. Libraries also work to extend their services through community outreach. The LA County library has a fleet of mobile makerspaces called MākMō, which are used to provide hands-on STEM education to all areas of the community.

Future of Libraries

And just as the future of museums is an uncertain one, with the need to evolve to a more visitor-centric approach, the future of libraries is constantly being debated. Not too long ago, I was asked by a woman if libraries still contain books, her assumption being that everything has been moved to a digital platform. The answer is yes we still have books, in case anyone is wondering. These types of questions are not uncommon as is the sentiment that libraries are a thing of the past. I believe that libraries are evolving, some quicker than others. A trend for relevant innovation is underway in the library community, as evidenced by many libraries worldwide. Collections are growing, adding more to their repertoire than the traditional books and movies. The Sacramento Public Library has tools and musical instruments available for checkout in the “Library of Things“. The architecture of libraries is also becoming more modern and aesthetically pleasing rather than the boxy look you see in a lot of older buildings, such as the new Austin Central Library, a model of stylish sustainability. The library I currently work at has an enormous public art piece for viewing as well as a record collection available for checkout.

Austin Public Library | Photo Credit: Lake Flato
“Past, Present, and Future” by Cakky Brawley | Artwork located at Schaefer Branch Library

I think the most promising change is the evolution to be more inclusive for all communities. Both libraries and museums are “unique in that they teach communities about the past and present, they provide resources for struggling families, refugees, and the LGBTQ community, and they preserve history“. Libraries and museums are community resources and are uniquely situated to tackle difficult social justice issues. These institutions are not extinct, but are instead in their next phase of evolution to become living cultural centers.

 

Brothers in Rhyme: Fat Pat, Big Hawk, and the Screwed Up Click

In being part of the public history program at St. Mary’s, I have found myself noticing things that I hadn’t ever noticed in the past. An example of this happened recently on an unexpected trip to Houston. Though honestly, I more than likely would have seen what I’m about to divulge regardless. Not wanting to get behind, I figured I would allow myself to take this trip and just set aside some time to do a little work at the University of Houston. Beginning the day, I wasn’t entirely sure how this plan was going to go, you see I have never actually been to the University of Houston, so I didn’t know how concerned I should be in parking my car. Considering I was planning to leave that evening, this was a great concern for me.

As I approached the University and began to look around at nearby buildings, it dawned me. I never checked where exactly the library was. Perplexed by this, I decided just to park at Cougar stadium, and do a quick search as to where I was going. Upon realizing that I wasn’t actually too far, I made my way to the nearest parking lot, only to discover a new problem. Situated in varies places in the parking lot, there were parking meter machines similar to the ones you would find around downtown San Antonio. I found myself excited by this, considering parking was a significant concern for me before making this trip. An excitement which quickly dissipated though, as I realized all the machines were broken.

A little flustered by all this, I finally decided just to make my way to the library. Finally, after a short walk I found my myself there though as I walked into the library, I immediately found myself with a feeling of uncertainty as I met eyes of the security guard at the top of the stairs leading up to the main level. As I came to the top of the stairs, uninterrupted, I saw it. Initially, I thought I was looking ahead at a book display, though upon a second glance I realized it was a mini-exhibit. Forgetting why I enter the library, I quickly made my way over to the built-in display cases along the far walls. As I began to get closer to the wall, I quickly became more and more confused. From a distance what I thought to be an exhibit turned out to be what I thought was a dedication of sorts to a rap artist.

Intrigued by this, I found myself in a daze trying to figure out what it was that I was looking at when suddenly I realized this case was duplicated by three or four others. Quickly I made my way to the far end to decipher this newly found mystery. As I stood there, I immediately realized that this, in fact, wasn’t a shrine but a fully produced exhibit as previously thought. Complete with artifacts and wall labels, fully assembled with attention given to so many of the areas I’d recently learned about in Professors Sternbergh’s class. It was fascinating to me as I stood there, everything seems so put together, it was so creative. Presented in a way I had only imagined appropriate for historical artifacts.

Not satisfied with my created assumption on this display, I immediately made my way to the circulation desk to inquire who was responsible for this. Considering it was a Sunday, it wasn’t surprising that I was met with a whole lot of shrugged shoulders. What I did get out of it though was an opportunity to leave my contact information for a follow up in the days that followed. Not expecting much to come of this, I was extremely delighted when a few days later I came to learn the name of the exhibit, “Brothers in Rhyme: Fat Pat, Big Hawk, and the Screwed Up Click”. It turns out, this exhibit, curated by librarians and archivists from the Special Collections, is a rotating semester exhibit, each drawn from the special collections at the University of Houston. The librarian informed me that more on this exhibit could be found at the University of Houston’s Special Collections website in the Houston Hip Hop Research Collection.

Never did I imagine to be directed to any Hip Hop Research Collection, so fascinating.

La Musica, La Passion, La Vida – Azul

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The quiet air of the Jo Long Theatre quickly filled with Latinas, Latinos, Gente de San Antonio in anticipation of the Azul Barrientos concert at the Jo Long Theatre. The event was sponsored by The Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. From clean quiet air to chatter and zeal, the Jo Long Theatre was met at the brim in occupancy. The “Buena Gente” of the Esperanza Center, the

 

Photo Courtesy of Gateway Photography: the crowd gathers in anticipation in the main lobby of the Jo Long Theatre at the Carver Center

patrons of the concert and the theatre staff awaited patiently as final touches on the concert floor were put on and the mics were put up.

Azul Barrientos, an artist originally from Mexico City, is the artist in residence at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center. The sounds of the generation’s before her’s past is what resonated in that theatre on September 16, 2018, and now, a month later, I am able to share in the experience that was the Azul concert.

En Preparación

The concert hall was dark when I entered. There seemed to be a sense of accomplishment in the eyes of the staff that was walking around getting finishing touches taken care of but don’t take my words lightly, there was a

Photo Courtesy of Jo Long Theatre

great sense of urgency.  Spotlights flooded the great red curtain that covered the stage and smoke from the background protruded from under the curtain. I wondered where Azul was when the music would start but the preparations were still underway and the crowd was enjoying their time in the lobby/gallery

Concierto En Vivo

The lights came up a bit and the dim was brought back up to help patrons to their seats. There had to have been well over 200 guests present but it was a bit hard to eyeball.

Xochipilli Ballet Folklorico

This would have been my first time hearing Azul sing. Honestly, I had only heard of Azul a few days before because of the Facebook post that was listed online but I was excited to see a local artist. The show began with the folklorico group from Austin, Texas. The group was dressed in traditional

Photo Courtesy of Gateway Photography: Xochipilli Ballet Folklorico

folklorico dresses that originated in several parts of Mexico including Oaxaca and Guanajuato as well as from the major city of Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. The group danced some traditional songs and settings, many of which were done barefoot. Imagine the sound of soft puddles of water being struck by the passing wheel of a vendor in the street of a small pueblo. The whooshing sounds of their feet hitting the stage set a mood for the concert to come. Tradiciónes y la cultura (tradition and culture) were clearly now in the air. It was beautiful. It was historical. It was something I had never heard before.

As the group left the stage I was a bit more enticed by the show. My family and those who know me are aware of my love for the culture that is sustained in mariachi music, Folklorico, flamenco, and other Mexican cultural arts and this feeling of awe left me speechless.

“…this feeling of awe left me speechless.”

I took some shots of the group leaving and happened to grab some of them in the lobby as well to share later while I imagined how the show would continue to captivate.

Acción

The red cloth began to move from center to the respective sides. It was interesting to think about. For years this red curtain has presented so many cultural, local, and political minds that it was somewhat the curtain that paved the way for a new beginning. Azul stood there, in a white dress with red

Photo Courtesy of Gateway Photography: Photo of Azul singing in concert at the Jo Long Theatre

accented roses. This particular dress was a ball gown and flowed as if it fit on her the way Cinderella’s glass slipper slipped right on her. Azul began singing and the overzealous crowd quickly found themselves quieter than calm before the storm.

The strum of her guitar to the tunes of the folk Mexican music beat the heart of every patron.

“…y de ilusiones, y te ofrezcan un sol, y un cielo entero…”

I just remember the lyrics of one of my personal favorites, Un Mundo Raro, by Jose Alfredo Jimenez as she played the beloved song. I continued to shoot. Shot after shot reminded me of the early moments of my childhood when my grandma would show me the words of the Spanish language as well as the songs that I was hearing at this concert.

Transfiguración

Azul continued her concert and my grandma and I enjoyed every song that was performed with heart and soul. I left that day with a reminder that the reason I continue to study in this field of history is that of the nostalgia that it brings me. To remember what was once a faint memory as a recent ripple in the pond that is my life is important. I guess you could say it adds the reference to my story. The culture of these events has changed history worldwide. Locally, artistas like Las Tesoros de San Antonio has changed the landscape for music in San Antonio and they all started here in San Antonio. Azul lives a legacy. Azul Barrientos shares the generational love that was passed down to her in music by her family and those who study history like

Photo Courtesy of Gateway Photography: Azul Barrientos thanks the crowd as the concert comes to an end.

myself are, in many cases, passing down a deep concern for the past and a meaning for the future. Importance floods our work and will continue to do so here.

The music and culture have transfigured San Antonio and will continue to do so. Each major quadrant of our city has a club or dance venue of some sort. If not one, then many of them. These clubs and venues have changed over the years as well just based on the population around them but what hasn’t changed is the beauty that the culture brings and the history that the culture continues to carry along with it. This concert was just one reminder of where the culture and history of our people meet and mend the surrounding community.

Civic Engagement and Public History Collide

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It could be argued that much of the local history that occurs today is brought forth by our “leaders”, those who are elected or placed into a public office or position. Well, I was able to spend some time with many of those leaders on a day called “Civic Engagement Day” that was hosted and arranged by the LSA 300 team.

LSA stands for Leadership San Antonio and as you would expect, those individuals that took place in this class were just that, leaders of San Antonio. Just a quick fact, of the people that were present for this event and team included individuals from every district in San Antonio except for one. Now back to LSA and where it came from.

LSA is a leadership development course that incorporates members of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. These leaders come together and learn about topics concerning the city and the development of San Antonio as a whole. These include but aren’t limited to infrastructure, educatio

Photo courtesy of Gateway Photography: Michael Quintanilla talking to the LSA300 group on civic engagement day

n, civic engagement, etc. The groups tackle a variety of questions regarding their selected topics and work within the groups and as a whole to come up with possible solutions. The program also incorporates visitors that come through and talk to the participants about their roles as leaders and how the leaders sitting before them can grow as leaders and join councils, boards, and positions in the public as well as in their selected private sectors.

LSA Civic Engagement Day was the last day of the program and involved a jam-packed day of activities and learning

Photo courtesy of Gateway Photography: During an innovative session with students of CAST Tech High School, audiences were captivated by the ideas that the students came up with

opportunities for San Antonio’s future leaders. I was able to participate as the group’s photographer of the program and did so with pride being that I am also a member of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as well.

We started the day at San Antonio’s very own Doseum, which as you may know is a great museum that is relatively new to the city and is located on Broadway St. Here we heard from the CEO of the Doseum, Leticia Van de Putte, former member of the Texas House of Representatives as well as several other leaders. Van de Putte and the rest of the panel talked about the injustices and hardships that have had affects on their lives and their careers. All of these women were inspirational and left an impact on my dat for sure!

Following our initial visit to the Doseum was a visit down to none other than San Antonio’s very own City Hall located on the site of one of San Antonio’s first plazas in front of the Spanish Governor’s Palace. Currently, the City of San Antonio residents are in argument over the propositions that have been proposed on this mid-term election. The husband of Senator Leticia Van De Putte paid us a visit at City Hall and explained the importance of civic engagement and the importance of leadership programs like the one that the participants of the group were taking part in.

There were several other stops on the trip that day to places like the AT&T Center, CAST Tech High School as well as another trip back to the Doseum but what I realized was

Photo courtesy of Gateway Photography: innovation session during the LSA 300 civic engagement day at CAST Tech High School

that the leaders that leave this group were all going to leave some impact on the world around them. This is history. These students of this program, a cohort comprised of rising leaders, CEO’s, VP’s, managers and directors, will decide the history of their respected companies and their respected communities. This is part of those community’s history and the chance to share in that was great.

Did I just see what I think I just saw?

I was told by a mentor that a lot could be said about a place by visiting their cemetery. For a long time, this question of what I could learn has been one that had been on my mind. This idea, though intriguing for me, was difficult because I found myself struggling between my initial objection of inviting spirits near me and my curiosity as to what I’d discover. Wanting to overcome this fear, I thought it best to wait for an opportune time to plan my visit. Preferably during the day.

Not too long after I had decided on this, my opportune time presented itself, and I found myself on the grounds of the small-town cemetery of Loop, Tx. Satisfied for the moment with what I discovered there, with every intent to visit another, I left my curiosity with the souls of those I had visited. Since then, a year or so had passed, and my interest had subsided. Thanks in part to graduate school. Until about a month ago that is. A Tuesday to be exact.

On this day, I found myself driving back from an appointment when as I drove by a cemetery I’d driven by so many times before, I became distracted by the waving of flags in a breeze. Caught off guard for a moment, I began to scramble my brain trying to think about what memorial I had forgotten about when suddenly, I returned myself to reality just in time to focus on the sight of a Confederate flag. Amused for a moment at how fast I recognized this banner, I found myself questioning how much of current events played into me identifying these symbols so quickly.

Unable to contain myself, I immediately turned around. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I was so attracted to these grounds I was about to disturb because it’s in the heart of the Eastside. As I made my way back around, I began to see more and more banners waving in the breeze, and I started to question why they were there? I began to go over all that I knew of these grounds. I knew that they were historical as well as that they are owned by the city, but I didn’t understand why I was seeing this.

Still a bit on ease about the whole spirit thing, I quickly did the sign of the cross, thanked those resting for allowing me to enter, asked for forgiveness, and entered. Not wanting to stay too long, I drove around for a minute, looking for an area mostly inhabited by these banners so as to maximize my search without walking around too much. I must say, what I found was absolutely fascinating to me. As I walked around, I learned that not only this the resting place of Confederate soldiers but also wives and children of Confederate soldiers. Distracted by all this, I must have forgotten about the fear I held in coming onto these grounds because by the time I knew it I was much further than I had hoped from my car.

Now pressed for time, I noticed off in the distance a historical marker that I knew would suffice my curiosity until I could make my way back to this fascinating place. As I read it, I found myself mixed with emotion. Wondering how this place existed in the heart of the East-side. Was it respect? Were these good confederate soldiers? Was that even a thing? Did those who laid here advocate for African Americans? Lost in thought, I found myself gazing at the sky pondering these thoughts when I saw it.

“These grounds are under surveillance, those seen damaging these sites will be prosecuted.

Thoughts from the Hockley Cemetery Clean-Up

Everett Fly and Community Members

The Saturday of October 13th, many members of the Bexar community rose early made their way to Northern Hills Elementary School not to brush up on their multiplication and long division, but to clear the cemetery that lay just behind it, over 100 years old. Had a member of the surrounding neighborhood not been curious about the land– surrounded by housing and development on all sides- the historic cemetery may have laid in atrophy for further decades, and its history may have been lost to us all.

The land on which the cemetery lies was first purchased by Jane Warren, a freed slave, in 1873. In 1908, she set aside 1.2 acres of land for the Hockley Cemetery, and that is where it rests to this day. So, then, how did this historic site fall into such overgrowth and disrepair?

The 107 acres Warren had accumulated in addition the cemetery was willed to her four sons. Much of the land found its way into the hands of other community members, and back again. Esther Hockley Clay was the final owner of the cemetery, and passed away in 1982. At that point the historic site was up in the air, the Hockley family members apprehensive about claiming the land for fear of high taxes that they may not have been able to pay, unaware that cemeteries are exempt from these taxes. And thus, the one to claim the cemetery was nature– grasses, bushes, and brambles covering the land and the precious family members below.

Much of the community surrounding the cemetery was once comprised of freemen, which is part of what makes the site so remarkable. Despite the historic preservation efforts of San Antonio, there has yet to be a rediscovery of an African-American historic site such as this one. It is a rarity not just in Bexar, but in the nation to see a discovery and preservation effort of this sort. This is just one of the many reasons that we must work together as a San Antonio community to rescue this site from its disrepair.

We are currently unsure of how many people are buried in this cemetery, and have but a vague idea of who exactly is buried there. The families of the original settlers of the area maintained much of their family histories, orally and through letters and family trees kept from generation to generation. These documents assisted Everett Fly in his research on the site, working tirelessly to compose the history behind it.

Orange Flag with 63 written on it
Flagging fragments, clearing brush, hauling branches… There was much to do at the Hockley Cemetery

Beyond simply being interesting or relevant to Public History, we must remember that this cemetary houses the remains of loved ones, people who were once parents, sisters, brothers, grandparents. The preservation initiative here goes beyond adding another piece to the San Antonio narrative. The descendants of those buried in the Hockley Cemetery are still alive, and deserve to know where their relatives are buried, and that these relatives are resting peacefully. Uncovering the history of this site will affect the community deeply, many neighbors to the site unaware that something of such weight was only meters away from their home. This lack of awareness is likely what led to so many baseballs, shoes, and trash entering the cemetery from these neighbor’s yards and homes.

The initiative, with the help of UTSA scholars, The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM), and many members of the neighborhood and community will continue further into the year. If another volunteer opportunity arises, take the chance to go out and assist however you can, and meet the wonderful people who have taken it upon themselves to restore this piece of history. You won’t regret it.

(Link in regards to Saturday’s efforts)