By Angelica Sanchez-Clark
One of my first assignments after joining the National Park Service National Trails Intermountain Region in October 2014 was to assist in the planning of a binational workshop focusing on two of our National Historic Trails: El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and El Camino Real de los Tejas. This initiative involved many partners in the U.S. and in Mexico and soon became a labor of love. In the spirit of cooperation called for in the enabling legislation of these two trails, the binational workshop was proposed as a way to meet the legal framework of both the U.S. and Mexico.
In June 2016, the workshop, “Los Dos Caminos: Bridging Borders Across The Centuries,” took place in Laredo, Texas, bringing together approximately 40 binational participants representing Mexico and the United States from various governmental agencies, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations to share ideas, experiences, and develop work plans for the research, preservation, development and interpretation of El Camino Real de los Tejas and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro.
As part of the workshop, we organized a field trip for the last day to visit several historic sites and communities associated with El Camino Real de los Tejas. This proved to be a wonderful opportunity to share trail resources and to continue our discussions about on-going and future preservation and interpretation plans with our partners from Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, and New Mexico. For many of our partners, this was their first time visiting places like Los Corralitos Ranch; Fort Treviño in San Ygnacio; and the Drexel Rio Grande Picnic Area overlook, from which we were able to observe vast distances across the Rio Grande into Mexico and to contemplate our shared heritage as exemplified by the two caminos. More importantly, we were able to hear directly from community members and advocates about what the trails mean to them about the work they are accomplishing to preserve their history.
The workshop was a testament of collaboration between professionals and advocates from both Mexico and the United States who came together to identify ways of preserving and telling the story of our shared culture, lifeways and identity that the two caminos represent. The recently printed, bilingual workshop report captures the priorities identified during the meeting in Laredo and serves as a work plan that has already helped all of us maintain and build on the successes achieved during the workshop, thus ensuring that we continue to preserve, protect and tell the important stories of the two caminos.
Angelica Sanchez-Clark is a historian with the National Park Service National Trails Intermountain Region.