THE ALMAGRE REVIEW
Issue Number One
by Joe Barrera, publisher
We would like to inaugurate our new literary journal, The Almagre Review/La Revista Almagre, with the theme of “Coming Home.” The theme of coming home is not uncommon in literature. “Home” always provokes nostalgia, a return to roots and a sense of security which no other human experience can duplicate. In our case, “coming home” suggests itself in the name of our magazine, which we are publishing on the banks of Fountain Creek in El Paso County, Colorado, in the city of Colorado Springs, home to myself and our Editor, John Lewis. We are conscious of the history of this part of the Front Range of the Rockies, and as such would like to “come home” to this history.
The “home” or context in which we want to publish The Almagre Review is what we hope will give it a unique character. That context is embodied in the history of the Pikes Peak region. The name “Almagre” dates back to the Spanish and Mexican presence. Fountain Creek, as the stream which flows down Ute Pass through Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs is now called, was known to the New Mexicans who traveled this region long before the arrival of Anglo Americans. The Spanish military officers and their New Mexican soldiers called the placid stream, which could be a raging torrent in flood stage, by several names. The best known name was el río Almagre, or the River of the Red Ocher. Undoubtedly, these early explorers, military commanders, soldiers, priests, shepherds and buffalo hunters found deposits of red ocher along the banks of the stream, and must have noted its use by the Utes, Cheyennes and Arapahos who frequented the area. The Spanish cartographer, don Bernardo Miera y Pacheco, who accompanied don Juan Bautista de Anza on his famous expedition of 1779 to this part of Colorado, drew on his map a mountain range he called la Sierra de Almagre. Perhaps this was an attempt to lure settlers to the area, because it was a common belief at the time that deposits of red ocher indicated the presence of gold ore. To the east of these mountains he drew a tributary of el río Napestle, as the Arkansas River was called, which he labeled el río del Sacramento, or River of the Sacrament. It seems that a previous Spanish expedition had come upon the stream on the feast of Corpus Christi, and so piously named it in honor of the Eucharist. This tributary we now call Fountain Creek, after the French name, Fontaine qui Bouille. French fur-trappers and traders from St. Louis, men whom John C. Fremont called voyageurs and who were his guides on the expedition of 1842 to the country lying between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains, had visited the bubbling springs at the foot of Pikes Peak and given the colorful name to the creek, “the fountain that boils.” Apparently, the voyageurs believed that the springs were the source of the creek.
The original Spanish name for Fountain Creek did not long endure. Miera y Pacheco made his map soon after Anza’s victory over the Comanche chief, Cuerno Verde, in 1779. By the year 1810, however, el río del Sacramento was called el río Almagre in official New Mexican colonial documents, a name which was known to Irving Howbert, who records it in his Memories of a Lifetime in the Pikes Peak Region, published in 1925. This change happened probably because la Sierra de Almagre, or the Almagre Mountains, was the better known geographic feature to the New Mexican frontiersmen who frequently traversed the region. A memory of the Spanish name for the southern Front Range of Colorado survives in the designation of Almagre Mountain, to the south of Pikes Peak, which was conferred on this summit by the Colorado Mountain Club, who wanted a more distinctive name for it than Mount Baldy.
When we envisioned the creation of The Almagre Review, which we also call La Revista Almagre in order to provide it with a genealogy rooted in history, we wanted the first issue to remind us and our readers that everyone at some time comes home. Coming home is a natural thing. We all travel, depart from familiar places to wander in new and strange ones. In those travels we experience adventures, face challenges and overcome obstacles, learn lessons through both sorrow and joy. We hope to return home wiser and more mature than we were when we left. But wiser or not, in the end we all want to come home.
When we come home we want to tell those who have remained at home about our adventures. We want loved ones and friends and neighbors to know what risks we took, what we have lost or gained. We also want to tell them how we feel when we come home, what it is like to return, the joys or disappointments we may face upon our return. We hope that they will understand our feelings and our desires now that we are safely back home.
We all return home eventually and we all tell our stories of coming home. This is my coming home story. In 1968, I came home from the Vietnam War. First, I returned to my original home in south Texas, in the region now called the Rio Grande Valley, but which at one time was part of the province of Nuevo Santander, on the northern borders of New Spain, as Mexico was then known. The province of Nuevo Santander, or New Santander, was settled in the 1740’s by Spanish Mexican pobladores or settlers led by don José de Escandón, a Spanish nobleman from the province of Cantabria and the city of Santander, in the north of Spain. Don José was a Spaniard, as were almost all the high-ranking colonial officials, but the settlers he brought were from the older settled parts of Mexico, hence the term “Spanish Mexicans.” My family line goes back to those first settlers, people who came in the 1740’s and 1750’s with Escandón and settled along the Gulf coast on both sides of el río Grande, the Rio Grande, which is now the international boundary. This means something very significant in terms of identity. The significance is that when the United States invaded and occupied that territory in 1846-1848 my ancestors did not come to the U.S. The U.S. came to them, to us, to me. As their descendant I am heir to that legacy of imperial incorporation into the United States. I am conscious of this, but reconciled to it, even if at the same time still caught in an in-between space culturally. This history is important to me because I have always felt that in order to live a meaningful life one has to know the truth about his or her origins. You can’t go forward unless you know where you come from.
So, in 1968, I came home from Vietnam, from a war for which I had volunteered. I soon left south Texas and came north to Colorado Springs, where I was stationed at Fort Carson, named for that intrepid Anglo American, Kit Carson, who came west as a boy in the 1820’s, took up residence in Taos, married a beautiful New Mexican girl named Josefa Jaramillo and quickly became thoroughly Mexicanized. He learned Spanish and was so completely assimilated into New Mexican culture and society that he became a Mexican citizen. He never went home again, but he never forgot his origins and thus was able to serve as a mediator between Anglos and Mexicans on the frontier. Like Kit Carson, I also came west and have not returned home to south Texas. Home is here now, and when I tell my coming home story it is about coming home to Colorado Springs. This is my story of coming home and I wish very much that all who pick up this modest publication, The Almagre Review/La Revista Almagre, and read my story will feel inspired to draw upon their own deep reservoirs of reminiscence and begin to tell their own stories of coming home.
March 17, 2016. To Be Continued…