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Fireworks were enjoyed in Goliad before U.S. celebrated independence
by Rex Niemeyer, Goliad State Park Ranger
Jul 30, 2014 | 292 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GOLIAD – As we Americans celebrated our Independence Day with the splendor of aerial firework displays, many thoughts went through my mind about the men and women who have served and continue to serve this country. To them, I give my thanks.

Another thought I have was of something I read many years ago about the fifth day of the festival at Mission Espiritu Santo that was in honor of the new King Ferdinand VI. The fireworks for that celebration failed due to the dampness of the air.

I would never have imagined that the missioners of long ago had fireworks. The missioners used celebration and dancing as a way to sway the Native Americans away from their own culture and into acceptance of the Spanish lifestyle.

The Native Americans would hold dances called “mitotes.” They would use an assortment of instruments from tortoise shells to reed flutes.

“These mitotes according to the instruments that accompanies the dance are expressive of joy and mirth, gloom and sorrow. They have several saints in whose honor they held these mitotes; one is the god Pichini; another saint Mel.” (The Solis Diary of 1767, translated by Rev. Peter Forrestal, C.S.C. Am. Litt. D. pg. 12)

The Native Americans danced for various reasons such as victory over enemies, good hunting and to spirits of ancestors.

To persuade the Native Americans to give up their mitotes, the missioners introduced the old Spanish dance of fandangos. According to the Solis Diary, Native Americans learned to play the guitar and violin as good as or even better than most Spaniards. They also performed the dances quite well. Special clothing with masks and palms for crowns would be worn for the fandangos. Solis mentions that the fandangos were only partly successful because the Native Americans would sneak off into the woods to perform their mitotes.

Surprisingly, on “the evening before the principle feast of the most Holy Virgin, fire crackers are set off and lights are lit in front of the friar and candles are given to the Indian women to illumine their homes.” (Library of Historical Research Translation by Fr. Benedit Leutenegger O.F.M. Volume 1 pg. 13.)

The friars used what was available to bring significance and meaning to a holiday. The fireworks display would not be impressive by today’s standards, but to the people back then, the same emotions went through them as today.

Imagine 250 years ago, people in Goliad were watching fireworks in awe just like you and me.
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