Presence of a People
Reminiscence of the City of San Gil
By Rito Rueda Rueda, J.D.
Translated by Eduardo Rueda Vasquez, M.D., LTC, M.C., USAR and Edward Alexander Rueda
Copyright 1998 by Eduardo Rueda Vasquez All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
Eduardo Rueda Vasquez wishes to dedicate this book to Lope de Rueda, the Spanish conquerors, and all the families bearing the Spanish last names, who may be all related , starting with Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who became the first Vasquez to roam south of the border from Mexico into California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas etc. in 1539, twenty years after Cortez had conquered the Aztec Empire, and more than a century earlier before the English speaking immigrants of the Mayflower settled in Plymouth and the early Colombian Ruedas, whose ancestors came with Christopher Columbus and later founded the Royal Town of Santa Cruz y San Gil of the New Baeza of the New Kingdom of Granada. To my mother Eugenia Vasquez who became the first American citizen in my family, to my maternal uncle Captain, later Colonel, Alejandro Molina Vasquez , who helped the Americans and became the first Korean War Veteran of my family, to my wife Barbara and my son Edward Alexander, who are the first Ruedas born in the United States of America and who helped me in the translation of this book, my brother Miguel who became the first Viet Nam War Veteran of my family, his wife Rubiela and his daughter Monica Maria, my maternal uncle Arcadio, maternal great-aunt Mercedes Vasquez Cohen and my father Rito whose book Presencia de un Pueblo inspired me to attempt a literal translation into an equivalent and approximate English version for those non-Spanish speaking countrymen who may be interested to read this old story written in a prose and poetic style of early Renaissance Spanish. To Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, the very first First Lady who ever visited Colombia and addressed the Colombian People in Spanish in support of her husband's foreign policy toward the neighbors south of the Rio Grande, "The Alliance for Progress", which inspired my mother to immigrate to the United States of America in the early 1960's. To all the Hispanic Veterans who have fought in all the battles of the Republic starting with the Revolutionary War and ending with my fellow comrades and combatants in the Persian Gulf War. To the Colombian and American peoples who have fought and shed blood, together, shoulder to shoulder, in this century.
In order to have a solid culture, we must read and learn the history and customs of other peoples, other generations, other lands and other civilizations. You will learn about San Gil, the Ruedas, the Silvas and over three hundred years of their history. Lope de Rueda, a distant relative, was a playwright and actor, peculiar founder of the Spanish Theater of the sixteenth century. He was a mentor, idol and friend of Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra. Cervantes describes Lope de Rueda's work thus: "The comedies he embellished and dilated with two or three acts farce of black, ruffian, fool and solecism type of humor. Lope de Rueda would make them with the most excellence and propriety somebody could ever imagine". My father's book, one of the greatest and enduring histories ever written of a Conquistador town and its people, inspired me to attempt a literal translation into an equivalent and approximate English version for those non-Spanish speaking countrymen who may be interested to read this old story translated literally with a dictionary in my hand, trying to best approximate equivalent terminology and prose of early Renaissance Spanish. My wife and son helped me give the sentences some clearer meaning to the translation, since English is my second language and the original Spanish used in the textbook was archaic, with prose and verse which Lope de Rueda could have used in his time. The first edition was printed in the Graficas Salesianas of Mosquera, Colombia in 1968. The Santander Bank which record has been constituted in San Gil in 1960, associated itself with the third centenary of the foundation of the city (1668-1968) sponsoring the publication of the book. This edition can still be found in the major libraries of the Western World. Its history and information describe part of what was popularized in AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD, a 1972 German movie which was described in Leonard Maltin's Twenty Fifth Anniversary Movie and Video Guide 1995 thus: " A powerful hypnotic tale of a deluded conquistador who leads a group of men away from Pizarro's 1560 South American Expedition in search of seven cities of gold. This dreamlike film was shot on location in remote Amazon jungles". The movie, later inspired the author of the New York Times Notable Book for 1994 AGUIRRE, THE RECREATION OF A SIXTEENTH CENTURY JOURNEY ACROSS SOUTH AMERICA, by Stephen Minta, first published in the United States of America in 1994 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. Mr Minta passed through the Santander Department, the old Guanenta Region and the City of San Gil in 1987, when he set out to recreate Aguirre's journey. Even though it may not be easy reading, the most approximate poetic translation gives a more broad and universal meaning that this writing has tried to achieve. The books's antonomasia accomplishes its maximum expressive force. The literary culture of the author was at least equal to the majority of his contemporary writers; he possessed a solid humanistic and legal formation. He wrote with deep knowledge of both learned and popular language which he read and heard continuously from the people of San Gil. Here was inspired his affection for folklore, stories and sayings which enriches but impedes the comprehension of his writing.
Both my father and grandfather had the opportunity to meet and work with the leading families of the country. My grandfather worked with Pedro Nel Ospina, who was elected President of the Republic in 1922. Pedro's grandfather, Mariano Ospina Rodriguez, had been also elected President of the Republic in 1857, but was overturned in a coup d'etat by General Tomas Cipriano de Mosquera in 1861. This incident triggered one of the bloodiest civil wars in the country, around the same time of the American Civil War. The Mosqueras like the Ospinas was one of the ruling families. Mosquera's father, Joaquin Mosquera, overturned the Liberator Simon Bolivar in 1830, in the first coup d'etat in the history of Colombia. Joaquin Mosquera has the distinctions of being one of the conspirators in the assassination attempt against Bolivar and of being the first president excommunicated by the Pope.These incidents against Bolivar ended Bolivar's dreams of uniting the former Spanish colonies in a republic similar to the one formed by the former thirteen British Colonies. Washington, Jefferson, the Adamses, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson, all, agreed that Bolivar should not have realized such a powerful idea of a Spanish speaking country west of the Mississippi, and south of Georgia, all the way down to the Patagonia, which could have threatened the United States of America's existence, and which could have been named, if successful, the Continent of Bolivar. To what extent secret American interventions and negotiations occurred between American agents and the local Latino-American nations' officials is a matter of extreme interest but of difficult study. Two centuries destroy many documents and silence all participants involved, but the end result is evident in Bolivar's premature death after an assassination attempt and the expansion of the new North American nation and its influence and dominion in the Western Hemisphere. Not in vain, a "Berlin type of wall" has been erected on the Mexican Border, a realized dream of the first American presidents aforementioned, and the last American presidents of the twentieth century. Two great writers share to the interested reader a little information on events of long ago. Nathaniel Hawthorne in his The Scarlet Letter, mentioned the names of the buccaneers and privateers whose action against the Spanish Commercial Fleet triggered grievous events described as the "Comunero Revolution". And, the 1982 Nobel Prize-winning Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of the classic The General in His Labyrinth, recounts the Liberator Simon Bolivar's last year of life. Both of these themes are touched, as they formed an integral part of the long story summarized here. Laureano Gomez became president in November 1949, during the bloodiest civil war in the nation's history which started on April 9, 1948 when the leading socialist democratic candidate Jorge Eliecer Gaitan was assassinated. The killing of such a leader must not have worried President Truman and his Secretary of State Marshall. Had Gaitan lived and become Colombia's President, then the need of "neutralization" would have arisen. Uncle Sam would not have liked one of his favorite South American Republics to become socialist , much less to have not even a hint of "pseudo-communism" in a post World War II- Cold War Era.
This assassination, which is shrouded in mystery just like the assassinations of President Kennedy, or Martin Luther King, having theories of conspiracies going from Moscow to Washington, occurred during the presidency of Mariano Ospina Perez who had become president in 1946. Mariano Ospina Perez was the grandson and the nephew of two previous Colombian presidents in the Ospina family. Fidel Castro was the Student President of the School of Law of the University of Havana during a Latin American student congress celebrated at the same time that Marshall presided over a Pan-American conference. Castro invited the Colombian leader Gaitan to innaugurate the student congress the same day that Marshall was to innaugurate the Pan-American Conference. To avoid this distraction, Gaitan was assassinated and the same day, April 9, 1948, Castro and the students participated in the "Bogotazo", the unexpected and spontaneous people's insurrection that followed. This most violent massacre and the most violent civil war in Colombian history, which lasted several decades afterwards, and in which millions of Colombians died, was the price to pay for the disruption of Mr. Marshall's conference. Laureano Gomez, editor of the newspaper El Siglo, a great writer and orator in his own right, boasted that he had never endorsed anybody's writing; but, he made the only known exception, when he decided to endorse my father's book. Laureano Gomez had the distinction of being the only president in Latin America who sent troops to help the United States of America in the Korean War. This is one of the bloodiest wars in which Colombian soldiers suffered the highest casualty rate in the country's history. President Gomez's participation served mainly two purposes: to apologize to Truman and Marshall for the "Bogotazo" and to obtain arms and military training to try to defeat the liberals in the civil war triggered by the "Bogotazo". My maternal uncle, Captain Alejandro Molina Vasquez, was one of those legionnaire soldiers from Colombia who served shoulder to shoulder with the American soldiers during the bloody Korean War.During the long task of translation, I learned about the rich heritage of my names. The Vasquez name has been around since October 12, 1492. One of them, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado roamed the Indian territories of what is today the states of Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and most of the West from 1540 to 1542. Five hundred years after Columbus, the name of another Vasquez appeared printed on the American dollar, when Ms. Catalina Vasquez became Treasurer of the United States of America in the early 1990's. Rueda is a wine country in Valladolid, Castile. The Ruedas were originally Sephardic Jews. Some Rueda ancestors lived in Andalusian Seville during the Middle Ages and the time of the Spanish Reconquest. Later, some participated in Columbus' adventure, when Isabella, Queen of Castile, financed the expedition at the same time that mandated, under penalty of exile or execution, the conversion of all the Jews to Christianity.I learned that my very ancient Indian ancestry included Caribes, Guanes, Muiscas and other Chibchas.
My Spanish ancestors have owned African slaves and have mixed the blood of their descendants with the best native Indian and African members of the times. This is expected of native people who have been around in America for thousands of years, mixing, at least, twenty-five generations with the Spanish and the Africans who started arriving with Columbus 118 years before the Mayflower brought the first British colonists.Thus, for five hundred years the Ruedas and the Vasquez have followed the sea to both North and South America; they have been born and buried in the Western Hemisphere, the hemisphere of the earth which should have been called Christopher Columbus Continent (CCC) in honor of the man who came on October 12, 1492. America and Colombia would be but parts of the Christopher Columbus Continent. Maybe it will take another five hundred years before the peoples of the Western Hemisphere agree to recognize Columbus in such a way, perhaps for the bimillenarian celebration in the year 2492? I doubt there is an American citizen who has an unknown tale to tell for upwards of twenty-five generations of Spanish, African-American, and thousands of generations of native South American Indian and Jewish families. I have held a President's commission in the United States Army and served during the Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm of the Persian Gulf War. Thus, I became the third member of my family to serve in the three wars America has been involved within the span of my family's present living generations.During five centuries, at least five times, the English Channel prevented Spanish, Dutch, French and German to be the dominant language in the world. If the Supreme European War Lord, Philip II's Spanish Armada would have been successful, in the first place, this translation into English of three hundred and thirty years, on May 3, 1998, of the history of Santa Cruz y San Gil of the New Baeza would not have been necessary.
Eduardo Rueda Vasquez, M.D., LTC, M.C., USAR
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