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Tuesday, January 19 2021 @ 11:42 AM CST


History Anomalies

By Marilyn K. Martin

During the 1500-1600s, Spanish expeditions mapped the Texas coastline, and explored the Texas interior, starting with Alonso Alvarez de Pineda in 1519. In 1528, Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked on Galveston Island, and later explored the Texas interior. These Spanish explorers were many times lessor Spanish aristocracy. They were younger siblings who, although well educated, were destined to inherit little, compared to older, first born brothers. So they were driven to explore distant lands, possibly with the idea of earning "land" thru their own efforts, even if across the Atlantic.

By 1716, Spain was finally interested enough to establish Catholic Missions in Texas to solidify Spanish control. Around the same time, the Spanish established the towns of San Antonio, Goliad and Nacogdoches. Given the uncertainty of their control over a primitive and dangerous land so far from Spain, the Spanish ruling early Texas may have tried to apply secret secondary meanings to place-names.

This may have been done to quietly give the Spanish access to secret knowledge they could use if seriously challenged for control over those sites. So they possibly named places with dual meanings, one local and one Indo/European, which these well educated aristocratic Spanish explorers and Catholic priests would have been familiar with. And I have, in fact, found dual meanings for those first three towns established by the Spanish in Texas - San Antonio, Goliad and Nacogdoches.

San Antonio translates fairly straight-forward as "St. AnthonyThe Great" (251-356AD). He was the first known ascetic or monk to go into the wilderness. He was also the patron saint against infectious diseases or pestilence, as well as the patron saint over pigs, cattle, dogs and horses. So invoking his protection in the wilderness of early Texas, especially against pestilence and gaurding those necessary domestic animals, was perfectly logical from the Spanish viewpoint.

And, in fact, the area in and around San Antonio was indeed later the site of major battles between Mexican forces and the Texas rebels. Texas Independence was finally won by Sam Houston defeating Santa Anna's forces at the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836. Yet Mexican forces still re-occupied San Antonio several times in 1842. So this city was still considered a "prize" to the Spanish heritage transferred to Mexico.

Goliad was historically the changed name of La Bahia, the settlement that grew up around the final location of the fort and mission of the Presidio La Bahia. Officially, "Goliad" is an anagram for the name of well respected Father Hildalgo.

But there is also an Old European term for "goliard", or a lusty and ribald traveling entertainer in Medieval Europe. (And possibly related to "goliardic", a Middle English term for a glutton.) So it's possible that Goliad, surrounding the Presidio of La Bahia, was that standard military town for off-duty Mexican soldiers to party-hearty.

Nacogdoches, according to Wikipedia, is the oldest town in Texas, with settlement on that site going back 10,000 years, to the primary village of the Hasinai tribe of Caddo Indians. The Caddo had a very civilized culture and impressed the early Spanish. The Caddo's "confederacy" type of government was translated as "Tejas" in Spanish, from the Caddo Indian term pronounced "Te-haas". So we have the Caddo Indians' term, and the Spanish translation, to thank for the state name of "Texas".

I couldn't find an exact translation for Nacogdoches but, like Goliad, the Spanish may have used a secret, secondary Indo/European term. A "naga" was a celestial snake or dragon in Sanskrit. And "dosha" is an Ancient India term for 'Life Force'.

If this sounds like too much of a stretch for the Caddo Indians of Texas, consider this: There are Caddo artifacts showing a "winged/plumed snake", such as the design at the bottom of this cup. (

In addition, it's not well known, but the Mesoamerican religions that arose around a "feathered serpent god", like the Aztec's Quetzalcoatl, and the Maya's Kukulcan, were also carried north to the American Indians of the Southwest. And, like other Indian tribes, the Caddo often decorated their dress and objects with mystical animal symbols, to absorb and protect themselves with that animal's magical powers.

Were the Spanish cautiously impressed with the widespread belief in this "plumed-serpent", especially since they (or their more educated explorers or priests) were already familiar with a similar term for a "celestial snake" from Indo/European beliefs? Did they want to give a superstitious nod of caution, if not respect, to such a widespread and powerful diety? Perhaps to warn all future European travelers by naming that powerful Caddo site, "Naga-Dosha" (Nacogdoches)?

Remember, Muslim Spain lasted up until 1492, so these Indo/European terms would have been familiar to, and thus carried to this continent by the early Spanish. And, in a strange land with a powerful and widespread belief in a god who was a "plumed-serpent", the early Spanish didn't want to infuriate a powerful local god. Especially since it was possibly related or similar to the "celestial snake god" beliefs on their half of the globe.

Sort of an early Spanish version of "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." They had their Catholic Patron Saint city of San Antonio to the west. And, just to hedge their bets, they gave a respectful don't-send-thunderbolts-down-to-kill-us nod to a powerful Caddo Indian god, by naming that eastern town Naga-Dosha, or Nacagdoches.


Marilyn K. Martin

Resources: (For word translations, history, meaning)

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