I have just finished reading El Gringo, by W. W. H. Davis. Davis’ 1853 description of New Mexico is one the earliest full-length accounts to appear in English. It provides a beautiful picture of a newly conquered land, its customs, languages, landscapes and histories. He really captures the protected and unique nature of New Mexico in this paragraph:
“There is no country protected by our flag and subject to our laws so little known to the people of the United States as the territory of New Mexico. Its very position precludes an intimate intercourse with other sections of the Union, and serves to lock up a knowledge of the country within its own limits. The natural features differ widely from the rest of the Union; and the inhabitants, with the manners and customs of their Moorish and Castilian ancestors are both new and strange to our people. For these reasons, reliable information on this hitherto almost unknown region can not fail to be interesting to the public.”
Davis was a veteran of the Mexican War of 1846-48, and returned to New Mexico in 1853 to become United States Attorney for the territory. He traveled with only a few changes of clothes, a two-book law library and a ravenous curiosity, and he thoroughly journaled his entire travels to and throughout New Mexico.
His thousand-mile journey from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe would take 25 days by mule train, traveling in torrential rains and drifting blizzards. Many nights were spend sleeping on the ground under the wagons for shelter, and many meals were skipped due to inclement weather.
El Gringo was written by W. W. H. Davis (1820 – 1910) and first published in 1857. You can order from the Books page; enjoyi!