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According to a new book by Denise McVea, the mother of Texas was a Mulatta

Denise McVea is a black woman from San Antonio, Texas, who speaks better Spanish than me. I used to read her stories in the alternative press in Dallas, where she was highly regarded. However, nothing prepared me for the stunning revelation - a decade-long investigation - into the story behind the Yellow Rose of Texas - the legendary mulatta whose seduction and betrayal of the Mexican General Santa Anna changed the course of history by allowing the Texan rebels the opportunity to defeat the Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.

According to McVea's painstaking research in Texas, Mexico, New York, and France, the mulatta was Emily West de Zavala. She was the legal wife of Lorenzo de Zavala, a prominent liberal Mexican politician who fled from Mexico, traveling through New Orleans, New York, and finally making a home in Texas after becoming the ideological enemy of Santa Anna.

The Yellow Rose is a myth. But Emily West de Zavala was real, and according to McVea's research, she was the mulatta-wife of Lorenzo de Zavala. A quadroon beauty from New Orleans who Zavala married in New York on November 12, 1831.

Lorenzo de Zavala was the interim vice-president of the Texas Republic, and was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence - a document almost as holy as the Bible and more revered. Zavala is a certified Texas hero - in the same league with Sam Houston - and yet, very little is known of his wife, Emily.

And it is the silence about her that speaks loudly to her race, asserts McVea. From her descendants, from the destroyed files, from the historians. Though McVea doesn't prove that Emily West de Zavala was a black woman, she finds clues that a white male researcher would miss. And then she lets you make your own conclusions. Remember, the founders of the Republic of Texas wanted to keep their slaves - contrary to Mexican law which prohibited slavery in 1829. Intermarriage was illegal in the Republic of Texas, and Lorenzo de Zavala was a white Mexican man. Mexican high society - to which Zavala belonged - disapproved of such unions.

McVea told me that the University of Texas Press was interested in publishing her book - but there was unusual, high-level interference. In the last chapter of her book, McVea publishes the entire email conversations between herself and a noted Texan historian and reviewer for her manuscript who obviously didn't want to see McVea's story published. Instead, McVea self-published her manuscript, and the email conversations are included in a just-released Author's Special Edition of Making Myth of Emily by the Auris Project (2005). Making Myth of Emily has just been published for the public, 2008.

I'm not surprised it has taken Denise McVea this long to release her book to the public. This is Texas, after all. Where do I begin to tell you what it's like here? When will it end?

It ends today, April 21st, 2008. As a tejana with my own mulatta great-great grandmother, I am finally, proudly, free.


Anonymous said…
McVea also sued the historian for disagreeing with her research, but the lawsuit was thrown out.

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