Monday, September 28, 2009

The Comanche Empire

Pekka Hämäläinen's The Comanche Empire (Yale University Press, 2008) provides a riveting reassessment of North American history, particularly in the area of what is now the US Southwest and Northern Mexico. It opens up new vistas for inquiry and is nothing less than mind-blowing.

That's the short version. One could easily devote several posts combing through Hämäläinen's tome, bit for now here's one thread. The Comanche (operating from a core area called the Comancheria, once they harnessed the horse and moved out of the mountains and into the plains in the late 1600s) were major players in shaping historical developments in the 1700s and 1800s.

The Comanche Empire kept the Spanish at bay, mostly confined to Santa Fe and a ribbon of territory down the Rio Grande through New Mexico, and also around San Antonio, Texas. Heavy and repeated Comanche raids into Mexico in the 1800s undermined organized development in the northern regions of the Mexican Republic, leaving all of Mexico vulnerable to attack by the industrializing United States.

Once the United States defeated Mexico, it eventually destroyed the Comanche Empire, too, in large part by nearly exterminating the American bison herds that helped sustain the Comanche way of life.

Not in the book, but a probable corollary: an unintended consequence of the US takeover of Mexican and Comanche areas will continue to come home to roost for the rest of the 21st century: the demographic Hispanicization of much of the US Southwest. In one of those great ironies of history, US imperialism trumped Comanche imperialism, only to bring about now what the Spanish and Mexicans had hoped to achieve centuries ago -- expanding Hispanic influence in those areas.

Today's Rune: The Self.


the walking man said...

If we continue to cede the constitution then it may make a difference who lives in the South West portion of the nation.

The choices made in D.C. seem to be coming round ever more frequently now to bite us in the ass.

Johnny Yen said...

As I've observed often in life and in history, irony's a bitch, man!

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