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Bill Thayer

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The Spanish Borderlands
Herbert E. Bolton

 p. iii  Preface

This book is to tell of Spanish pathfinders and pioneers in the regions between Florida and California, now belonging to the United States, over which Spain held sway for centuries. These were the northern outposts of New Spain, maintained chiefly to hold the country against foreign intruders and against the inroads of savage tribes. They were far from the centers of Spanish colonial civilization, in the West Indies, Central America, Mexico, and Peru.

The rule of Spain has passed; but her colonies have grown into independent nations. From Mexico to Chile, throughout half of America, the Spanish language and Spanish institutions are still dominant. Even in the old borderlands north of the Río Grande, the imprint of Spain's sway is still deep and clear. The names of four States — Florida, Colorado, Nevada, and California — are  p. iv Spanish in form. Scores of rivers and mountains and hundreds of towns and cities in the United States still bear the names of saints dear to the Spanish pioneers. Southwestern Indians yet speak Spanish in preference to English. Scores of the towns have Spanish quarters, where the life of the old days still goes on and where the soft Castilian tongue is still spoken. Southwestern English has been enriched by Spanish contact, and hundreds of words of Spanish origin are in current use in speech and print everywhere along the border.

Throughout these Hispanic regions now in Anglo-American hands, Spanish architecture is still conspicuous. Scattered all the way from Georgia to San Francisco are the ruins of Spanish missions. Others dating from the old régime are yet well preserved and are in daily use as chapels. From belfries in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, still sound bells cast in Spain and bearing the royal arms. In many of the towns, and here and there in open country, old-time adobes are still to be seen. Moreover, the Spanish element has furnished the motif for a new type of  p. v architecture in the Southwest that has become one of the most distinctive American possessions. In California, Texas, and Arizona, the type is dominated by mission architecture. In New Mexico it is strongly modified by the native culture which found expression in pueblo building.

There are still other marks of Spanish days on the southern border. We see them in social, religious, economic, and even in legal customs. California has her Portolá festival, her rodeos, and her Mission Play. Everywhere in the Southwest there are quaint church customs brought from Spain or Mexico by the early pioneers. From the Spaniard the American cowboy inherited his trade, his horse, his outfit, his vocabulary, and his methods. Spain is stamped on the land surveys. From Sacramento to St. Augustine nearly everybody holds his land by a title going back to Mexico or Madrid. Most of the farms along the border are divisions of famous grants which are still known by their original Spanish names. In the realm of law, principles regarding mines, water rights on streams, and the property rights of women — to mention  p. vi only a few — have been retained from the Spanish régime in the Southwest. Not least has been the Hispanic appeal to the imagination. The Spanish occupation has stamped the literature of the borderlands and has furnished theme and color for a myriad of writers, great and small. Nor is this Hispanic cult — or culture — losing its hold. On the contrary, it is growing stronger. In short, the Southwest is as Spanish in color and historical background as New England is Puritan, as New York is Dutch, or as New Orleans is French.

My original manuscript for this book was written on a much larger scale than the Editor desired. In the work of reduction and rewriting, to fit it for the Series, I have had the able assistance of Miss Constance Lindsay Skinner.

H. E. B.

University of California,

October, 1920.

Ponce de León, Ayllón, and Narváez

Cabeza de Vaca

Hernando de Soto

Coronado, Cabrillo and Vizcaíno


New Mexico

Jesuits on the Pacific Slope




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Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here is the "Textbook Edition" in the Chronicles of America Series, Yale University Press. It was copyright 1921 and is thus now in the public domain: details here on the copyright law involved.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree; otherwise the backgrounds would be red. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The accuracy of my transcription owes a good deal to a second proofreading by Robert J. Homa. I incorporated his (embarrassingly many!) corrections, and am grateful for them.

The edition I followed was very well proofread, with almost no typographical errors, and those trivial: I therefore marked the few corrections with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the underscored words to read what was actually printed. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A small number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

Pagination and Local Links

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

[image ALT: A map of the United States, in which a swath from Pacific to Atlantic, including about a third of the country from the southern border, is shaded. It represents the approximate area explored or colonized by Spain, and serves as the icon on my site for Bolton's book, 'The Spanish Borderlands'.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is an obvious but graphic one, showing the approximate extent of Spanish exploration and colonization within the present boundaries of the United States.

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Site updated: 2 Apr 16