Thursday, February 15, 2018

Chicanonautica: Cleaning Up Phoenix with Marshal Enrique

As Joe Arpaio rises out of his political coffin run for the Senate, we should remember that not all Arizona law enforcers have been like him.

If you go back to the early days of Phoenix, the first City Marshal was Enrique “Henry” Garfais, a short brown guy from a California ranchero family. I hadn’t heard about him until I ran across the fascinating new book Dogged Pursuit: Tracking the life of Enrique Garfias, the First City Marshalof Phoenix, Arizona by Jeffery R. Richardson.

¡Guao! What a discovery!

Garfias, once called “the bravest man in Arizona,” was a lawman in the Arizona territory for over twenty years. When he wasn’t a marshal, he worked as a constable, and a translator. He also helped start the Spanish-language newspaper El Progreso. And he was a rancher.

His exploits were well documented in newspapers and court records--the book bristles with quotes, some of them Garfias’ own words. I can see how Richardson could spend twelve years researching this life that was the stuff of western fiction, with shoot-outs, chases, and detective work. He was also an advocate for the Spanish-speaking population, fought against racism and lynching, and sent prisoners out into the streets to pick up the litter.

Can we say pillar of the community?

We could certainly use more like him these days.

Garfias is like Bass Reeves, the black U.S. Marshal whose career was altered into the adventures of the Lone Ranger. I wouldn't be surprised if writers mined Garfias’ life for material. Reading Dogged Pursuit gave me Wild West déjà vu.

Garfias’ early days remind me of ancient TV’s Marshal Dillon from Gunsmoke, and the heroes of countless horse operas. It’s hard to separate the man from the archetype.

He also reminds me of the Arizona constable hero of Elmore Leonard’s Valdez is Coming, who was played by Burt Lancaster in the spaghetti western.

It's been a nearly a half a century, maybe it’s time for a remake with a Latino actor in the role?

I hope Dogged Pursuit inspires hope that Garfias will take his place in the pantheon of the Wild West, as it is being re-created for the 21st century. It would be great to read fiction, see graphic novels, movies and mini-series on which this great American hero can appear unwhitewashed, under his own name. It is about time we gave the vato his due.

Ernest Hogan lived for decades committing acts of Chicano sci-fi in the jurisdiction of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

No comments: