Brown Quarterly - Vol. 2, No. 1 (Fall 1997)

Hispanic American Heritage Issue

Vol. 2, No. 1 (Fall 1997) is not available in pdf format, but you can read the articles on the following pages.

The Brown Foundation would like to express its appreciation Payless ShoeSource for their contribution toward the publication of this newsletter.

Coronado National Memorial

By Barbara Alberti

"I did not wish that they (the Zunis) should be attacked, and enjoined my men, who were begging me for permission, from doing so, telling them that they ought not to molest them, and that the enemy was doing us no harm, and it was not proper to fight such a small number of people." -- Coronado to Viceroy Mendoza, August 3, 1540

Interpreting cultural history at Coronado National Memorial can be both complex and controversial. Some People consider the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the Southwest to be the beginning of a tragic story of European dominance over Native American peoples and cultures. Others are proud to point out that Spaniards had explored and established villages and trade routes in the southwestern part of the country long before the Pilgrims arrived on the east coast. Was Juan Vasquez de Coronado a heartless mercenary, or just an ambitious young man seeking fame and fortune in the "New World?" The goals of the expedition were to claim new lands for the king of Spain, spread the word of God and find gold (of course). Were the tactics used by Coronado and his captains any different from those used today by many military organizations around the world?

The largest of 27 memorials in the National Park system, most visitors come to Coronado National Memorial to enjoy the scenic beauty of the area. It is a Memorial, not a Monument; there is no statue of Coronado, nor do we display his sword or his campsite or any other tangible object relating to the expedition. In fact we do not even believe that Coronado ever set foot on the land within the Memorial's boundaries. So why are we here? Our location provides spectacular views overlooking the San Pedro Valley, believed to have been the expedition route as it crossed into what is now the United States. Our legislative mandate is to interpret and symbolize the Coronado Entrada (entry); to memorialize the ties that bind the U.S. to Mexico and Spain; to strengthen international amity and cultural understanding; and to protect unique natural and cultural resources.

To fulfill that mandate and the more general mission of the National Park Service, the Memorial must become and integral part of the community. Therefore, we made a decision several years ago to ask the local school system how we could help their teachers. The teachers decided that a program based on the history of the Coronado Expedition would fit right into the fourth grade curriculum requirements for students to learn local history. We also decided that the Expedition should be viewed not just as a cultural history story but also as a natural history experience.

Each spring Coronado National Memorial presents a Cultural and Natural History Program for fourth grade students. Classes spend about three hours at the memorial participating in a series of hands-on activities guided by park volunteers and rangers. This program began in 1994 with funding provided by grants from the National Park Foundation's Parks as Classrooms program and the Southwest Parks and Monuments Association. About 600-700 students from public, private and home schools in southern Cochise County participate in the program annually.

The first year, we gave each fourth grade teacher in the schools within the local area a packet of materials containing: an Activities Guide with classroom activities for each chapter of the Children's book Gonzalo (a historical fiction written from the point of view of a shepherd boy who accompanies his father on the Expedition), videos to acquaint students with the history of the Coronado Expedition and the National Park Service, brochures, maps, posters and books used as reference material, and a Teacher's Guide with the logistics of the field trip and useful information about the Memorial. Post-visit activities and evaluations were also provided for students to use in the classroom as a wrap-up after their visit to the Memorial.

The goals of the program are to: give students an overview of the expedition and its objectives; develop students' appreciation for the cultural diversity of the area by emphasizing both the Spanish and Native American cultures and lifestyles during the period of first contact; familiarize students with the clothing, weapons and tools of both the Spanish conquistadors and the Pueblo Indians; and acquaint students with the native flora and fauna used by the Indians for food, textiles and utility items at the time of Coronado's arrival.

For the cultural history activities, half of the class learns about the Expedition from the Spaniards' point of view. Using reproductions of 16th century clothing, armor and weapons to enliven the discussion, the students learn about the goals of the expedition, the hardships of the soldier's everyday life and what motivated them.

Simultaneously, the other half of the class learns about the lifestyle of the Zuni Indians before the Spaniards arrived. By combining storytelling with replicas of clothing and tools, students learn about the various tasks children and adults might have performed in the pueblos. They also discuss what natural materials the Indians used to make their tools and weapons and where those materials were found.

Following their discussions, the two groups, dressed as Spaniards and Zunis, meet to reenact the encounter between the Zunis and Coronado when he first arrived at Hawikuh pueblo. During the reenactment, the two groups use only sign language to communicate. (Teachers are expected to have familiarized their students with a short list of essential signs before the field trip.) Although adults are on hand to act as advisors, the students are encouraged to make their own decisions, not necessarily based on what actually happened over 450 years ago.

After the encounter, students examine what affected their decisions during the reenactment. They also discuss how the different beliefs, customs and languages of the Spaniards and Zunis in 1540 may have influenced the outcome of the actual confrontation. Finally, the importance of the Coronado Expedition and its effects on modern life (religion, architecture, food, language, etc.) are reviewed to develop student's appreciation for the cultural diversity of Arizona.

Besides learning about cultural history, the classes also participate in hands-on demonstrations to acquaint students with the native flora and fauna used in the 16th century for food, textiles and utility items. Volunteers guide students through three activities.

At the "Zuni Snack Bar" students try their hand at grinding corn with a mano and metate, drink prickly pear cactus fruit juice, and taste the cactus pads, or nopales, both raw and cooked in salsa and served on blue corn tortilla chips. They also learn how edible with nuts, berries and flowers were cooked and eaten.

Another activity demonstrated the use of traditional methods for spinning, weaving and dying natural fibers into clothing and blankets. A volunteer presents a history of the fibers used in textiles, beginning with the early use of plant fibers, dog fur and rabbit skins, and proceeding to cultivated native cotton and finally wool, used after the introduction of sheep by the Spaniards. A dye chart vividly illustrates the wide array of colors obtained from various native plant parts. Students test their skills by carding and spinning native cotton. Finally, a loom made from native plant stalks and fibers is used to show the fine art of weaving both simple and intricate designs.

Perhaps the most popular activity of the day is making rope from yucca leaves. First, students are introduced to a variety of plants in the agave family. They learn to characteristics of each plant which make them particularly suitable for processing into thread, twine or rope. They also are shown other examples of the uses of native plant fibers such as paintbrushes and scrubbers. Students are each given a yucca leaf that they enthusiastically pound with wooden sticks. Once the fibers are exposed, they twist them into a short section of rope that they can take home to finish.

Most of the activities are presented by a staff of trained volunteers who give generously of their time to make this program a success. In addition, many local experts have been called upon to make the costume, weapons, tools and displays and to provide specialized training for our volunteers. For more information, contact Coronado National Memorial, 4101 East Montezuma Canyon Road, Hereford, AZ 85615.