The Symbols We Use, the Stories We Tell

The Virgin of Candelaria at San Fernando Cathedral

Symbols are powerful. Stories are powerful. When they are put together, they are formidable.

Coming back to San Antonio has been special for me. Having spent much of my childhood here, this city embraces very special memories for me. Revisiting this city I love, however, has opened my eyes to the symbols and stories I was fed as a kid.

During my childhood I was fed the dominant version of history, Texans love their history and there is a “Texan pride” that they exude. I was not excluded from this. I was one of those kids who wore a coon-skin cap and sang the Davey Crockett theme song. What I never even thought of was the other side of this history I was fed, the history of the people who lived here before the Anglo settlers.

Over the last year I have had an opportunity to learn this version of history and it has opened my eyes to the symbols and stories dominant society feeds the majority of people. It has opened my eyes to the way it affects our society. What does it mean when the symbol of what a “Texan” is always bears a white face? What does it mean when the Institute of Texan Culture tells the story that reason military troops were sent to Texas was to protect the settlers from “hostile Indians” who unfortunately would needlessly attack them?

It’s not just Texas that does this, think of American history and the stories we tell. Think of the religious symbols and stories we use to talk about our faith. Symbols and stories are powerful, who are we leaving out or bringing down in the one’s we use?

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