Inspiration for the book ¡Todos al rodeo! A Vaquero Alphabet Book

By Dr. Ma. Alma González Pérez

The inspiration for ¡Todos al rodeo! – A Vaquero Alphabet Book, third in our popular series of children’s bilingual books, runs deep in my blood and in my roots, for my ancestors were among the families awarded land grants by the King of Spain to settle the South Texas region under José de Escandón.

I had the personal privilege of growing up in our family ranch which was part of the famous porciones. I experienced the daily life on the range as I watched my life-long vaquero father and uncle branding and rounding up cattle to move them from pasture to pasture and to take them to market. I also lived the pain and frustration with the dry spells of South Texas which have such a drastic impact in the cattle industry even today.
Old Ranch House
I also had the special privilege of growing up in a truly bilingual, biliterate, bicultural environment on the Texas-Mexico border known to us as la frontera – El Norte to our ancestors. La frontera was settled by our mestizo ancestors who fought the odds and risked their very own lives in their quest for el Dorado. Many, of course, perished in that quest.
South Texas Scrubland
Nonetheless, to undertake the enormous task of surviving in the New World and in a totally new environment, our Spanish ancestors brought along cattle and the horse. They also brought all the techniques and equipment to work the cattle. Thus, the history of the vaquero begins and evolves while the cattle industry propagated and prospered in the Americas. In the process, they also introduced the rich vocabulary which, coincidentally and over time, was adopted and adapted by the English language. This is known as linguistic borrowing. For me, words like vaquero (from vaca), rodeo (to round up), pinto (painted), bronco (bronc), mesteño (mustang), and galope (gallop) were household words that needed no translation nor explanation.
Old Cattle Corral
As a result, this book was yearning to be written deep in my heart and in my soul. I just felt the moral obligation to write it to highlight the life and the history of the vaquero through the rich vocabulary that expresses key concepts. My basic premise is my belief in the critical importance of providing the Hispanic children of the United States background and understanding of the contributions of our ancestors to the American way of life.
Charolais Cattle
All my children’s books are written bilingually in English and Spanish. First and foremost, I do not want language to be a problem. Instead, I want it to be a choice for children to read in whatever language they prefer, or that they have greater proficiency. I also especially want my books to contribute to the biliteracy of children. In today’s world, we should not be settling for literacy. Rather, we should be giving our children the opportunity, support, and resources to read and to write in their native language as well, for biliteracy has many cognitive benefits for the developing brain.

Most importantly, I write all my books for the Hispanic children of the United States because they are the ones who must carry the torch and learn as much as they can about the history and the culture of our people and, thus, pass it on to future generations.