Alfonso Borrego (66 years old, El Paso, Texas), great-grandson of the Apache Gerónimo, has spent years trying to find out the truth about what happened to his people.
He has come to two conclusions: his great-grandfather died “with no dignity to survive” and it was not the Spanish who drove the American Indians to near extinction.
“In Spanish, a woman or a man is conquered without the need to use violence.
In English, this verb implies the use of force.
For this reason, the Spanish discoverers are always called conquistadores in the United States ”, he affirms.
And he remembers that his ancestor died drunk, "exhibited at fairs and parades by the gringos", but he also rebels against the way in which an "official story" about the conquest has been built ― "at school we are not they stopped speaking Spanish,
When the Comanches and the Apaches smoked the peace pipe with Carlos III
Borrego, an engineer and historian by profession, has become a highly sought-after figure at history conferences, universities and symposiums in America and Europe.
“No one has ever denied me, because I have gone to the reserves, I have met with the chiefs of the tribes, with the authentic indigenous people to contrast what the school books said.
There was an indigenous genocide, but it was not the Spaniards, of course they made mistakes and atrocities, but the Anglos ”, he maintains in an interview with EL PAÍS carried out during a brief visit to Madrid.
"Indians on reservations don't want to talk because they fear reprisals from the government and losing the casinos they have been given in compensation."
Borrego, who is president of the Cultural Heritage Society of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro Association, recalls that it is necessary to uncover "the truth of what happened."
"You can forget her, if that's what you want, but you have to know her."
He gives as an example the story of Juan de Oñate (1550-1626), the first to go up the Rio Grande (New Mexico), and who was accused of cutting off the right foot of 8,000 indigenous people.
“That's exactly what he puts in the books.
However, I read a chronicle of the time in which he pointed out that he took possession of the land in the name of God, of Felipe II and for the preservation of them and us.
Who were they?
I started to wonder."
For nine years, Borrego was visiting all the places in New Mexico where the "tremendous atrocity that the books said" was committed.
The investigator thus discovered a document that explained that on May 1, 1598, a sergeant from Oñate ran into two indigenous people during exploration.
The Spanish gave them clothes and gifts and let them go.
Two days later, eight more Indians showed up.
On May 4, 44 appeared. “How strange!
Hadn't we agreed that the Spanish would kill them, cut off their heads or shoot them?"
Apache leader Geronimo drives a car in 1904. Three other native men ride with him.
CORBIS / GETTY IMAGES
Borrego is a promoter of the recovery of the Camino Real, the south-north road that the conquistadors used to reach present-day New Mexico, a 2,500-kilometer journey, of which only the Mexican part is declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
“And why the American side, no?” he wondered.
“I asked the United States National Park Service for information, but they always answered me the same: 'It can't be.
It is very difficult to declare something like that.
The Spanish carried out tremendous atrocities.
He did not give up and continued to search for the "tremendous atrocities" that prevented the protection of the American road.
“Until one day, finally, I found one: the Spanish had cut off the right foot of 8,000 Indians over the age of 25.
He already had it.
That did square with the official story.
So I went to talk to the heads of the tribes to find out the details."
The Mescaleros responded: "Oh, yes, the Spanish did tremendous atrocities."
"Do you have proof?
"No, not about that, but they did force us to pay taxes because we were subjects of the king," they assured him.
How was it possible that 120 Spaniards cut off the foot of 8,000 Indians?
Did no one fight?"
Borrego then went to the town of the Acoma, where supposedly the greatest atrocities were committed.
"Why did the Spaniards mop their feet?" he inquired.
"Yes, it was terrible, 8,000 were mopped."
The researcher recalls that Oñate's entourage was made up of 539 people, of whom 120 were soldiers, nine were religious, and the rest were families with minors.
"How is it possible that 120 cut off the feet of 8,000 of our brave people?"
“Yes, and they also took 300 of our women to Mexico as slaves.
They robbed us, they left us nothing," they assured him.
Borrego remembers that he asked them if anyone fought to oppose the kidnapping.
"No, it's that they had rifles."
The ones that are loaded by the mouth and that the shot went anywhere?
It is not like our people not to fight.
The Spanish only had three armors for everyone.
120 soldiers against 8,000 indigenous people?
It is better that you do not tell that story anymore, it is shameful.
Then the boss stared at me without resentment and left."
Statue of Juan de Oñate, in New Mexico (USA). Mario1952
The Acoma live on a reservation made up of two mesas about 40 miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“I talked to the women.
Some told me that the Spanish had actually killed nine of us and others that two for the death of 11 soldiers sent by Oñate to the town, including his cousin.
The question is how they were going to cut the foot of 8,000 indigenous people if only 200 people can live in the town of the Ocama [the town has remained since the conquest].
My people are very bad.
They have to think before they speak."
The reservations where the Indians were sent “are all in States with Hispanic names: Montana, Colorado, California, New Mexico... In the north there are none, except one for fled Canadian Indians.
Why isn't there one in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Virginia, or New York?
Why? Why?" He repeats rhetorically.
The answer, according to him, lies in the arrival of the English in Massachusetts, years after Oñate's exploration.
“They were dying of cold, they were all going to perish.
So the Wampanoag Indians were sorry, they fed them, they taught them to plant corn, to survive.
But where are the wampis today?
Not one left!
Because the English killed them all.
When I ask, they tell me no, they didn't kill anyone, it was smallpox.
The towns under Spanish domination were not affected?
The truth is that the Angles wiped them out in the north.
That was what happened."
Where are the wampis who helped the English?
They killed them all."
Borrego remembers that he grew up watching movies about Indians, "the worst of the worst along with the Spaniards."
“Do you know why the bugle of the Seventh Cavalry blows so hard?
To indicate that he has begun the hour of the killing of Indians.
In the head of every American was that everyone had to be killed.
All life has been like this, but now it is changing, although there is a long way to go.
My people are silent, they don't want farts [mess].
That's the problem".
On many reservations, Borrego maintains, photography is not allowed to "preserve indigenous heritage and culture."
"It is not true, it is so that the world does not see reality, that they put us in them so that we would die in nothing, a piece of nothing, in the middle of nowhere, where nothing can be done, because there is nothing to do".
They locked us up in reserves, in nowhere, where there is nothing and where there is nothing to do."
Regarding his great-grandfather Gerónimo, Borrego recalls that he was a shaman, not a chief, “he was a very dignified man, a representative of the tribes.
And the gringos hunted him down, crushed him, took away his dignity, took him to prison in Florida to separate him from the rest, they started dancing to him all over the country and moved him like a
They used his person and sunk him.
He died without dignity.
It was the presidency of the United States that did it."
The gringos hunted my great-grandfather, they drowned him, they moved him like a 'show' and he died without dignity”
“In June 2021, they called me [he is a member of the tribal council] from Ohkay Owingeh, what used to be San Juan de los Caballeros, the one that Oñate founded.
They have changed his name, now everything is inclusive.
They told me they were pulling down the statues.
'What do we do?', they asked me.
Well, knock them down, they can't defend themselves because they don't have shields, we'll put others when this happens.
Then the governor [chief] of the tribe sent me a beautiful letter.
He says: 'From the last place of Oñate.
All these years our community has lived in peace with different cultures, but what happened yesterday [tearing down statues] creates problems.
You can't erase history by knocking down statues.
I am very offended, because no one asked us what we thought.
I hope it never happens again and I can continue to live in peace."
“That's what the tribes really think,” he says, “but they don't want to move because the government may retaliate.
We are in a battle, before a myth that will never be erased, but we need the Spanish to open their mouths and say: 'Hey, dude, that wasn't the case.
Because it wasn't."
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