LETTERS: Revolutionary giant forgotten; People tend to categorize

Revolutionary giant forgotten

American history has long forgotten Pedro (Peter) Francisco, the Virginia giant and the giant of the American Revolution.

Left on the ocean docks alone by kidnappers, he spoke a language that no one understood: Portuguese. Peter, as he later would be called, would be taken in by an uncle of Patrick Henry, and grew up to be about 6 foot 8 inches tall and weigh 260 pounds. Because of his strength and size, he was apprenticed out as a blacksmith.

At age 16, Francisco joined the 10th Virginia regiment and fought in numerous battles such as the Battle of Germantown, Fort Mifflin and Stony Pine, where he suffered a nine-inch gash across his stomach, and at Guiford Courthouse, where he was bayoneted in the thigh.

At Valley Forge, Gen. Marquis de Lafayette convinced Gen. George Washington that this giant soldier should have a 6-foot broadsword forged just for him, for combat.

At the Battle of Camden, Francisco saw a broken wagon carriage stuck in the mud, its horses dead. Not wanting to leave a valuable cannon behind for the British army, Peter lifted the 1,100-pound cannon barrel onto his shoulders and carried it off the battlefield.

To add to his legend, while recuperating from a very deep bayonet wound to his thigh at a tavern, Francisco was surrounded by nine British cavalrymen from the infamous Col. Banistre Tarleton’s Raiders.

At “Francisco’s Fight,” one of the British soldiers was killed and the other eight were wounded, and to add insult to injury, Peter captured eight horses from the cavalrymen, making the men walk back to camp to tell Col. Tarleton their embarrassing story.

Stories of his strength and bravery were told throughout the Continental Army, and Gen. Washington once remarked that at least two important battles would have been lost without the support of this patriotic giant.

On July 4, Americans should remember and honor our American heroes as well as our Hispanic heroes, like Peter Francisco: Portuguese by birth, but American by choice.

Jack Ayoub


People tend to categorize

The other night, while walking through a dark expanse of overgrown grasses and uneven sidewalk, I passed two young women also out walking. This was a welcome sight, and I would like to interpret this in light of the racial unrest currently on view.

Social constructs such as gender and race are not necessarily evil: they help us simplify the incredibly complex social world in which we live and impose order on the “blooming, buzzing confusion” around us.

The question I pose is whether the upheaval centered on racial identities is not indicative of gains elsewhere.

My recent observations suggest to me that gender roles are becoming less rigid; this translates into greater diversity within gender categories. We use several social constructs to appraise our fellow beings, however, and a decrease in the explanatory power of gender logically necessitates that individuals shift to other constructs that better predict behavior and personality.

I argue that race has become more salient in the wake of this loosening of gender roles; racial identities remain relatively more coherent and thus more useful in making snap judgments of others.

Instead of fantasizing about the elimination of social constructs altogether, it appears that the optimal strategy is to promote diversity within categories.

However, some individuals tenaciously cling to their master statuses as investments, or capital, and attempt to impose their particular readings of those statuses on others.

By addressing as a society how individuals attempt to dominate the identities of others, we can collectively strategize to open up categories to greater internal diversity, diluting the claims of “cultural leaders” to speak for entire “communities” and impairing their accumulated capital through detonating the notion that any one manifestation of race, gender, etc. is representative of all individuals who fall under a given category.

Ken MacKenzie