My Blog

January 21, 2018

The Ups and Downs of Life

Last year I had the honor to be a nominee for the honorary post of Texas State Historian. This year the Governor’s office turned me down for the position. Depressing but not devastating.

For those of you who, like I, have lived a while, I’m sure you will agree. One of the benefits of old age is that we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve survived heart breaking sorrows and overcome disappointments that we thought would destroy us at the time. We’ve made mistakes that cost us and perhaps those around us dearly. We’ve been driven to our knees and crawled back to our feet. We’ve fallen off that horse and had to climb back on, many times over. I know I certainly did, broken collar bone and all.

In the grand scheme of things, it is highly presumptuous of me to think of my little downfall as any great calamity. Ego bruising, certainly, but not about to kill me dead. I immediately thought of that quote “bloody but unbowed.” It comes from Hthe magnificent poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley.

Out of the night that covers me,

Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

I am the captain of my soul.


Nothing like a little poetry to put our problems in perspective.

My father was a wonderful showman. He loved people and people loved him. I believe he lived by the quote I saw recently in the movie The Greatest Showman: “The noblest art is making people happy.” Daddy loved to make people happy, whether it was with magnificent floats for the parades in Mexico City, or Christmas decorations for Reforma, or parties for all of us neighborhood kids. I doubt if any of us who lived in Coyoacan will ever forget them. And according to my brother, many people in Mexico still remember my father nearly 70 years after his passing.

My brother, Joe Castillo, has followed in his footsteps. ( He has stumbled on a wonderful means of sharing stories through the art of pictures in sand. He performs all over the world and shares Christian themes and inspiring and motivational images. I have been inspired by his humility and, like Daddy, his dedication to making people happy.

As for me, I have, without realizing it, followed in my father’s footsteps by sharing history with students. For years, I loved to help students see the wonderful stories of history. The dilemmas that we did in class, where students had to invent their own characters and make their own historical decisions, was one of the highlights of my teaching career. And perhaps one of these days I will put those dilemmas together in a book to help other teachers. I know my own students have asked me to do so.

When I was told that I needed to teach ON-LINE, I categorically refused. That is not teaching in my book. The whole point of history is to be able to share the passionate stories of our predecessors. One can’t bring an audience to the edges of their seats by reading some dry list of dates. It’s the bleeding and dying, the hopes and fears, the love and hate, and the anger and sadness that makes history come alive. We learn to overcome our difficulties by seeing what others did with their lives.

Now that I am retired, I have fallen, like my brother, by accident into sharing stories with audiences. For me, it is shivers-up-the-back thrilling to inspire audiences with stories of their own ancestors. I speak to Road Scholars in San Antonio, to members of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, to the Sons and Daughters of the Republic of Texas, to genealogical groups, to my fellow Hispanics and Tejanos, to students and teachers, to Rotary and Lions Clubs.  Sharing stories is a wonderful opportunity to make people happy — and to benefit by learning a little history on the side.

I am also planning to restart my Historic Tours of Texas. It has always seemed to me unfair that the television stars and their producers and cameramen get to go on all these wonderful adventures around the state and all we do is watch it on TV. I say it is time to get out there and see some of these wonders of our state for ourselves.

Over the next few months, I will be doing pre-tours to check out where a small van load of us could go, what wonderful bed-and-breakfasts we could stay in, and what fun things we could see and do. I will post blogs about the places so you can see if you would be interested in coming along.

In the meantime, I may not be the State Historian of Texas, but I will continue to speak on fascinating and inspirational historical topics all over the state. Wherever you need me, call!


Historic Tours of Texas Blog, Historical , , , , ,
About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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