A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Civil War Soldier / Las memorias de un mexicoamericano en la Confederación
by Rev. Santiago Tafolla
Publication Date: November 30, 2009
Bind: Trade Paperback
A powerful autobiography that reclaims the history of Latinos in the area that has become the U.S. during a time of continually shifting borders and allegiancesLook Inside
In his memoir that he began in 1908, Santiago Tafolla recalls finding himself—along with his fellow Mexican Confederate soldiers—terrorized by white Confederates. When the “americanos” take up arms and threaten to eliminate all the “greasers,” Tafolla is forced to desert to Mexico in order to survive.
This fascinating autobiography recounts the life of a man born in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1837, long before Mexico lost control of the region following the Mexican-American War in 1848 and the state achieved U.S. statehood in 1912.
One of the first Methodist preachers of Hispanic descent in the United States, Santiago Tafolla chronicles his life during turbulent times. An orphaned runaway, he left New Mexico in 1848 on a U.S. Wagon Train, and traveled through Missouri, New York, Washington, D.C. and the Deep South. He experienced firsthand the racism inherent to the time period and was an eyewitness to slavery. He was a veteran of the Texas Indian Wars and the Civil War, having served as a bugler in both the U.S. Army and the Confederate Army. And he spent the last 35 years of his life as a Methodist circuit-riding preacher in a time when most Hispanics were Catholics.
The preservation and publication of this memoir is almost as fascinating as the life described within its pages. The handwritten, Spanish-language manuscript—left unfinished when Tafolla died at the age of 73—was passed from relative to relative until his grandson, Fidel Tafolla, took on the task of translating and transcribing it in the late 1960s. This first-ever publication of a remarkable look at life in the 19th century has been edited by Santiago’s great-granddaughters, Carmen Tafolla and Laura Tafolla. It includes sample pages from the original, handwritten manuscript; the complete original Spanish manuscript; an epilogue describing the significance of Santiago’s later life; the English translation; and historical photos of Santiago and his family from the 1800s.
Published as part of the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project series, A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Confederate / Las memorias de un mexicoamericano en la Confederación is an invaluable aid to understanding the upheavals of the 19th century in North America. An absorbing account of personal survival in a world of fluid and changing borders, it is also an affirmation of ethnic identity in a time when racial and ethnic differences were subject to greater ignorance and often, violence.
SANTIAGO TAFOLLA was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1837, one year after the Republic of Texas declared its independence from Mexico. He worked as a soldier, hunter, trader, farmer, rancher, civil rights activist, Justice of the Peace, and preacher. He died of a heart attack while delivering a sermon at the pulpit of the Methodist-Episcopal church in Seguin, Texas, in 1911.
CARMEN TAFOLLA, great-granddaughter of Santiago Tafolla and a native of San Antonio, Texas, is an award-winning poet, educator and children’s book author. A member of the Texas Institute of Letters, she is a recipient of the Art of Peace Award for writings which promote peace and justice.
LAURA TAFOLLA, great-granddaughter of Santiago Tafolla and daughter of Fidel Tafolla, the original translator of the memoir, has been an educator in the San Antonio School District for 30 years. She has worked as a counselor and currently is an instructor in the Gear-Up Program at Lanier High School in San Antonio.