Come and Take It Day

Institute History


On June 22, 1901 thirty miles form the certain freedom of the Mexico border, infamous fugitive Gregorio Cortez was finally caught by a posse of horseback-riding Texas Rangers. the wrongfully accused Cortez was captured only after fellow Tejano Jesus Gonzales turned him in for a thousand silver dollars in reward money. And while Cortez instantly became a revered regional folk hero, the Judas-like Gonzales became, just as quickly, an instant pariah in the tight-knit Mexican-Tejano community. In despair, Gonzales buried the silver dollars and hung himself dead.

To this day, almost a hundred years later, the treasure has never been found.

That is, of course, until our story, and the start of the annual "Come and Take It Day" weekend celebration.

It's present-day San Antonio, Tex Mex home of the Alamo, the "puffy" taco, and the San Antonio Riverwalk, a meandering, picturesque half-mile stretch of restaurants and Hyatt hotels, and the prime generator of the city's booming tourist economy. Low on the totem pole of Riverwalk workers are its busboys, cooks and food servers, and absent from work this day are four of its employees.

In a cheap hotel on the outskirts of Gonzales, Texas, seventy miles away, sit Jesse and Miguel, a dishwasher and a cook. It's the morning of the "Come and Take It Day" parade, an annual event celebrating the first act of defiance by the Texans in their eventual successful 1836 revolution against Mexico. And—more importantly to Jesse and Miguel—the one day a year the Texas National Guard Armory grounds are open to the public. Over the very spot, they're certain, where the lost treasure of silver dollars lies burried. For the scheming cook and dishwasher, the irony of celebrating their ancestor's loss of a land that once was theirs, is unrecognized amid the last-minute details of their up-coming double-cross. Carlos, the "rich boy" waiter they both can't stand, is set to take the fall before the two escape with the loot. He's due to arrive any moment. The plan is foolproof. Their revenge set. Carlos's van pulls up right on time. Unfortunately, he's not alone; Nena Cantu, a waitress from work, steps out with him. this wasn't part of the plan. Before the night is over loyalties will end, secrets will be revealed, and the curse of the lost treasure of Gregorio Cortez tested once again . . .

This is a story dramatizing the rarely discussed issued of class differences among Mexican Americans; an exploration into how assimilation into "mainstream" white America and subsequent economic attainment affects relationships between those Mexican Americans who've "made it," and those still struggling.

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