Saturday, October 13, 2012

Salt Flat and the Salt War

Guadalupe Peak and El Capitan of
Guadalupe Mountains National Park as seen from the west
Approach Guadalupe Mountains National Park and a vast area of white covers the landscape.  This is salt, left over from an ancient sea that covered the area.  Because of salt's importance, it was considered sacred to Native American tribes, including the Apache and Tigua Indians of the area.  It was used to tan animal hides and in food as a condiment and preservative.

From the park's website:

"In 1692, Diego de Vargas led an expedition in search of salt deposits in and around the
Guadalupe Mountains. An Apache prisoner led de Vargas and approximately 20 Spanish soldiers from Socorro, through the Hueco Mountains, eventually arriving at the base of the Guadalupes after a four day trek across the desert. After discovering the salt beds, de Vargas collected a sample of the salt and returned to New Spain (Mexico). This expedition helped pave the way for future Spanish expeditions to the Guadalupes."

Over time, people traveled long distances to harvest the salt,

"Mexicans and Mexican Americans from the El Paso Valley communities would make a 70 mile, two day journey from San Elizario to the salt beds. The salt would then be transported by mule drawn wagons south to Chihuahua and Sonora, where it was an important trade item. In addition to traditional uses, in Chihuahua the salt was used in the smelting of silver.

Prior to 1848, the salt beds, under Spanish law, were common land not owned by any one individual. After 1848, under American law, these were unclaimed lands, available to anyone who filed there. The Mexicans, believing that everybody had the right to the salt, never thought to file claims to the salt beds in the name of any one individual or group."

Which led to the El Paso Salt War:

The El Paso Salt War began in the late 1860’s as a struggle between El Paso businessmen W.W. Mills, Albert J. Fountain, and Louis Cardis in an attempt to acquire title to the salt deposits near the base of the Guadalupe Mountains. Mexican Americans of the valley communities, who had for years collected salt there for free, were now faced with the threat of being charged salt collection fees.

For the rest of the story, click here....

There's a hike in the park with great views of the Salt Flat and of El Capitan.  The Salt Basin Overlook is part of the free and fun Peak Fitness Challenge.  To see the trail's page on the Challenge website, click here.  Join the Challenge and join the fun, and learn about our Texas Heritage at the same time!

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