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With His Pistol in His Hand: Part One

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.

-Curtis HR

4 thoughts on “With His Pistol in His Hand: Part One

  1. “The legend of Gregorio Cortez was the epitome of brotherhood and unity within the nation of Mexico.”

    I’d like to suggest that this is one possible reading of the corrido (and the legend), but not necessarily Paredes’s. Doesn’t Paredes want to distinguish between what he called “Greater Mexico” (i.e. Mexico per se, as a nation) and Border culture? I think he wants to claim that the corrido properly belongs to the latter, which is different in important ways from the former.

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  2. Hi Curtis!
    I agree with you that Gregorio Cortez is not just an icon but rather a social representation created by Mexican-Americans about what a Mexican-American should be. You show that the legend was formed in such a way to connect wholeheartedly to every Mexican citizen. I think we have to stress that point. The legend of Gregorio Cortez was directly created by this Mexican community. The ballad is a common and ongoing creation that has involved many people who have participated in building and sharing this legend. That is why I think this book is very useful to learn more about the history of the southern part of the United States and the relationship between Chicanos and Anglo-Americans. The legend informs us about the perception of reality by particular social groups that have been and still are marginalized and discriminated against. Therefore, this oral tradition and ballad is an incredible primary historical source that needs to be studied in order to learn more about the political and social context of that time.

    Aurélien

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  3. Hola!

    I agree with your statement about Cortez being amazing. It seemed all too good to be true to me at first that I thought it was all purely fictional. But upon learning that an actual man did actually exist, my interest in knowing more about who he is and how he built up such legacy has exponentially grown. His legacy being passed down orally from one generation to the next has its disadvantages as there may be some alterations but I think there’s something exciting about hearing the truth after hearing the legends first.

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  4. Hey Curtis,

    I agree with you. I like the ‘super hero’ quality that Gregorio Cortez is given. I’m sure in reality he was just a regular guy. But these supernatural, extraordinary things that he is said to have done are really neat to imagine.

    Have a good weekend,
    Craig

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