Michael Brescia, Ph.D.
As most of us ASA members were growing up, just about every kid played at being a cowboy! We pieced together outfits that looked Western. The hat was dad’s worn-out fedora twisted to. have curly brims. Our mount may have been a saw horse draped with old blankets. We LOVED cowboy movies seen for a dime at the Saturday matinee: Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, singing wrangler Rex Allen from Willcox (often paired with Slim Pickens) and many more! And there were some cool cowgirls too, like Roy’s beautiful lady Dale Evans! To say nothing of official, semi-official, and vigilante lawmen and outright villains. Who can forget the Lone Ranger and Tonto? Or Lash LaRue, Zorro, or the Cisco Kid and Pancho? But did we ever guess that we were participating in a cultural exchange with our southern neighbors? Many of our heroes were also singers who delivered some serious C&W music. Listening to those songs now, we hear echoes of a Hispanic heritage in many: “El Paso,” “Streets of Laredo,” “South of the Border,” “Vaya con Dios,” “The Old Cantina,” and more recently, “Buenos Dias Argentina,” to name a few.
Dr. Michael Brescia, Curator of Ethnohistory at the Arizona State Museum, returns to the ASA with a presentation explaining the profound Spanish influence on cowboys everywhere. Historians have traditionally approached this subject through a lens colored by stories of the American West. Professor Brescia believes that the cowboy phenomenon can better be understood when evaluated from a broad multi-national perspective. Employing this approach, he’ll narrate how Spain’s compelling vaquero culture spread throughout our hemisphere, producing a range of colorful regional variants.
Written by Stan Davis, Academy Village Volunteer