Photos by Robin Alaniz from Feb. 29 presentation by historian/ author Michael Hogan in Goliad, Texas
Michael Hogan, the author of Abraham Lincoln and Mexico, was recently invited to speak in Texas following an editorial he wrote for the Dallas Morning News after the El Paso massacre of Mexicans and Mexican Americans at a Walmart. Dr. Hogan suggested in the editorial that anti-immigrant rhetoric and even violence might be prevented in the future if our children knew more about the history of the Americas.
The editorial received a mostly positive response from many Texans, and one group invited him to speak at the Goliad Historical Society. The topic was “How the Study of History Can Promote Unity in a Multicultural Nation.”
It was an unusual place to speak of the unifying power of history.
Some readers, especially those from Texas, might recall that Goliad was the place where the Mexican general Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna executed 417 Texas soldiers after they surrendered. It is still considered a war crime in Texas today, much more brutal than the Alamo. Knowing that this was the dominant narrative in the area was challenging. However, Dr. Hogan pointed out that many of his forebears, Irish Americans, were among those who died at the hands of this cold-blooded general in 1836.
A short 11 years later, a direct ancestor of his, Roger Hogan, was hanged along with many of his countrymen by a brutal US general in San Ángel on the outskirts of Mexico City after being captured for fighting on the side of Mexico after the USA unjustly invaded that country to start the Mexican-American War. He and many of his compatriots were killed in what is now considered the largest hanging affair in North America. Others were whipped and branded in a display of ferocity never before witnessed by even objective observers. The true story is the basis for Dr. Hogan’s 1997 book The Irish Soldiers of Mexico.
History is complex, messy, and seldom sees any ethnic group with clean hands or any nationality blameless. History is full of such contradictions and nuances, and it is important in these divided times that we pause to address them. The answer is not more tribalism—whether Anglo Saxon, or Mexican Hispanic, or Irish Celtic—but a coming to understand the complexities of history.
The only way to do that is to be open, to listen, to read, and to understand the messiness of national and ethnic conflicts, and to comprehend the twists and turns of the rocky and tortuous road which might lead the next generation to build a better world.
Dr. Hogan fielded many questions after his talk, some supportive, some questioning and even critical. But the result was positive. People came together in a civil way in good faith to help build trust between the various ethnicities in the community.
Among those in attendance were news media representatives, educators that included the principal of a local high school, the fire chief, city councilmen, one mayoral candidate, notable academic historian and Texas scholar Dr. Robert Shook, and the director the Goliad Historical Society, Ernest Alaniz. They all shared a barbeque together, and the following day attended a Mass and then visited historical sites in the region.
One site was the childhood home of General Zaragoza, the hero of the battle of Cinco de Mayo in Puebla, Mexico—a reminder of another war when the US and Mexico came together to defeat the last empire in the Americas. This latter topic is the subject of Dr Hogan’s most recent book: Guns, Grit and Glory. It’s available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2vGBuOj.