The Rio Grande River is the border between Texas and Mexico, the fifth longest river in the United States, and many simply don’t know about it. But Don Juan de Onate and an army of soldiers and colonists knew about it and in 1598 crossed it and then followed through the mountain pass which became known as El Paso del Norte, today’s El Paso, Texas, my home town. The Rio Grande plays a role in the novel based on my father’s tale “Dos Gringos.”
As a kid and a Boy Scout, we used to splash in the river, known to be “a mile wide and an inch deep,” actually a muddy waterway about knee-deep. But, in Onate’s day it was crystal clear and a life-saver for his army. From there he marched north with his soldiers, horses, and mules, fighting Indians and eventually founding Santa Fe, now the oldest continual state capital in the United States. The Rio Grande flows out of the San Juan mountains of southern Colorado and streams straight south, splitting New Mexico, to El Paso where it forms the American border with Mexico and then on to the Gulf of Mexico, a total of about 1900 miles.
North of Santa Fe, near Taos, New Mexico, I recently visited this river of my youth, but there near its source, the river was a noisy rushing stream in a rocky deep canyon. Beautiful. What a piece of history.
Buy a copy of “Dos Gringos” here.