Through the voice of Palo Alto, a mesquite tree, Elena Zamora O’Shea relates the story of one Spanish-Mexican family’s history, spanning over two hundred years, in South Texas, the area encompassing between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. As the narration of the Garcia’s family history progresses through the different generations, becoming more Mexican-American, or Tejano, peoples and things indigenous gradually grow faint. In her account of South Texas history, Elena devalues the importance and impact of Indians, placing a greater precedence on the Spanish settlers.
In Elena’s own introduction to the novel, she recalls an empty, inhabited American West and questions why the forefathers of South Texas have been forgotten:
From my earliest childhood I remember the open country between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande; the vast expanse of territory that our early historians do not mention in the days of early history. Sometimes I have wondered why it is that our forefathers who helped with their money, their supplies, and their own energies have been entirely forgotten. (Zamora O’Shea n.p.)
A similar introduction to the novel is also implemented in where the mesquite tree reminisces about standing by itself looking down on the vast Southwest. Resulting in Zamora O’Shea repeating the failure to acknowledge that there were Native settlements on South Texas prior to the arrival of the Spanish. Leaving me to question, why she herself forgot to include the indigenous peoples in her novel as the first inhabitants of the land, instead of dismissing them like the historians she is criticizing. She is simply contributing the erasure of the Indian existence.
Still within the first chapter, the superiority Palo Alto asserts over the other two strains of mesquite trees parallels that of a social class hierarchy. The Arrastrado at the bottom of the hierarchy providing very small beans and no shade, then the Mesquite, which grows to some height, provides more food and shade, and finally the Mesquite Rosillo, as the superior breed with better wood quality than the other two (Zamora O’Shea 1). Similarly, the Arrastrado can be a representation of the Indians at the bottom of the hierarchy, since the Fathers think of them as savages and a “little lazy.” While the Mesquite Rosillos counterpart are the Spaniards, depicting the superiority of the Spaniards over the Indians. Hence, only after the Spaniards name the mesquite “La Posta del Palo Alto” does the mesquite, take more pride in itself, since it has been worthy of being named and recognized for its finer qualities by the Spaniards. Through the continuation of the novel, the partiality of the mesquite for the Spaniards is perceptible, further depreciating the Indians. For instance, after Pat moved his family to Mier and left the best-liked peon, Juan Vasquez as the boss, “the rancho was surely a dead thing without the master and his family,” thought the mesquite. “The white crosses on the hillside...