While reading With His Pistol in His Hand I thoroughly enjoyed reading the legend of Gregorio Cortez. I love how Cortez is said to have been feared across Texas and could strike fear into the hearts of 300+ armed men with a glance. The supernatural power of the sorrel mare also was quite impressive as it outran numerous sturdier and stronger horses. Though El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez is very hyperbolic and at times utterly ridiculous, I found two important topics covered in the first half of this book; the prejudiced beliefs held by the border people and how Gregorio is not only a simple icon but rather a representation of the characteristics of the Mexican people.
Both sides of the Border, whether Mexican or Texan, held unsavoury beliefs about the opposing group. Texans, mainly Texas Rangers, believed that they were superior to everyone, especially in relation to the thieving, inferior, and cowardly Mexican. On the southern side, we see Mexicans understand the Texan Rangers as bloodthirsty yet lily-livered Americans that were afraid of confrontation and often “shot first and asked questions later”. These beliefs about the other proved to further divide a people already separated by national boundary. We can still see some of these prejudices today, showing that they were not simply divisive remarks made to hurt the feelings of the other, but have tremendous implications in forming meaningful relationships with people of different backgrounds. The Mexican and Texan beliefs created an even larger divide between citizens of different societies, but in reality, the two groups may have had more commonalities uniting them rather than segregating them.
Though there were strong divisions in the Border communities, the legend of Gregorio Cortez truly brought the Mexican people together, as he represented what a Mexican citizen could become. Gregorio Cortez was a simple man with a very eventful life and though he was transformed into a historic icon, the legend was formed in such a way to connect wholeheartedly to every Mexican citizen. It is said he was neither short nor tall, not light nor dark, and not skinny nor heavy. He was an expert in farming, a master in taming horses, and an excellent gunslinger. Cortez represented every Mexican landowner, symbolizing what every Mexican wanted to become. The creation of the legend only strengthened the feeling of pride within Mexican communities, as they were honoured to share qualities with the Border Hero, Gregorio Cortez. Although the beliefs held by both the Mexicans and Texans sought to divide the people indefinitely, the legend of Gregorio Cortez was the epitome of brotherhood and unity within the nation of Mexico.