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Beloved Land

An Oral History of Mexican Americans in Southern Arizona

Doña Ramona Benítez Franco was born in 1902 on her parents' Arizona ranch and celebrated her hundredth birthday with family and friends in 2002, still living in her family's century-old adobe house. Doña Ramona witnessed many changes in the intervening years, but her memories of the land and customs she knew as a child are indelible. For Doña Ramona as well as for countless generations of Mexican Americans, memories of rural life recall la querida tierra, the beloved land. Through good times and bad, the land provided sustenance. Today, many of those homesteads and ranches have succumbed to bulldozers that have brought housing projects and strip malls in their wake. Now a writer and a photographer who have long been intimately involved with Arizona's Hispanic community have preserved the voices and images of men and women who are descendants of pioneer ranching and farming families in southern Arizona. Ranging from Tucson to the San Rafael Valley and points in between, this book documents the contributions of Mexican American families whose history and culture are intertwined with the lifestyle of the contemporary Southwest. These were hardy, self-reliant pioneers who settled in what were then remote areas. Their stories tell of love affairs with the land and a way of life that is rapidly disappearing. Through oral histories and a captivating array of historic and contemporary photos, Beloved Land records a vibrant and resourceful way of life that has contributed so much to the region. Individuals like Doña Ramona tell stories about rural life, farming, ranching, and vaquero culture that enrich our knowledge of settlement, culinary practices, religious traditions, arts, and education of Hispanic settlers of Arizona. They talk frankly about how the land changed hands—not always by legal means—and tell how they feel about modern society and the disappearance of the rural lifestyle. "Our ranch homes and fields, our chapels and corrals may have been bulldozed by progress or renovated into spas and guest ranches that never whisper our ancestors' names," writes Patricia Preciado Martin. "The story of our beautiful and resilient heritage will never be silenced . . . as long as we always remember to run our fingers through the nourishing and nurturing soil of our history." Beloved Land works that soil as it revitalizes that history for the generations to come.

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Between the Enemy and Texas

Parsons's Texas Cavalry in the Civil War

Anne Bailey

Much of the Civil War west of the Mississippi was a war of waiting for action, of foraging already stripped land for an army that supposedly could provision itself, and of disease in camp, while trying to hold out against Union pressure. There were none of the major engagements that characterized the conflict farther east. Instead, small units of Confederate cavalry and infantry skirmished with Federal forces in Arkansas, Missouri, and Louisiana, trying to hold the western Confederacy together. The many units of Texans who joined this fight had a second objective—to keep the enemy out of their home state by placing themselves “between the enemy and Texas.”

Historian Anne J. Bailey studies one Texas unit, Parsons's Cavalry Brigade, to show how the war west of the Mississippi was fought. Historian Norman D. Brown calls this “the definitive study of Parsons's Cavalry Brigade; the story will not need to be told again.” Exhaustively researched and written with literary grace, Between the Enemy and Texas is a “must” book for anyone interested in the role of mounted troops in the Trans-Mississippi Department.

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Beyond Redemption

Texas Democrats after Reconstruction

By Patrick G. Williams

At the end of Reconstruction, the old order reasserted itself, to varying degrees, throughout the former Confederate states. This period—Redemption, as it was called—was crucial in establishing the structures and alliances that dominated the Solid South until at least the mid-twentieth century. Texas shared in this, but because of its distinctive antebellum history, its western position within the region, and the large influx of new residents that poured across its borders, it followed its own path toward Redemption. Now, historian Patrick G. Williams provides a dual study of the issues facing Texas Democrats as they rebuilt their party and of the policies they pursued once they were back in power. Treating Texas as a southern but also a western and a borderlands state, Williams has crafted a work with a richly textured awareness unlike any previous single study. Students of regional and political history will benefit from Williams’ comprehensive view of this often overlooked, yet definitive era in Texas history.

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Beyond Texas Through Time

Breaking Away from Past Interpretations

Edited by Walter L. Buenger and Arnoldo De León

The studies in this book consider the topical and thematic understandings of Texas historiography embraced by a new generation of Texas historians as they reflect analytically on the work of the past two decades. Beyond Texas Through Time offers both a vantage point and a benchmark, serving as an important reference for scholars and advanced students of history and historiography, even beyond the borders of Texas.

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Beyond the Alamo

Forging Mexican Ethnicity in San Antonio, 1821-1861

Raúl A. Ramos

Ramos explores the factors that helped shape the ethnic identity of the Tejano population, including cross-cultural contacts between Bexare?os, indigenous groups, and Anglo-Americans, as they negotiated the contingencies and pressures on the frontier of competing empires. Initial peace gave way to violence as tensions between Anglo-American immigrants and the Mexican government made cultural brokerage impossible, leading to Texas's secession from Mexico and subsequent annexation by the United States. Ramos demonstrates that Bexare?os turned to their experience on the frontier to forge a new ethnic identity within dominant American culture. The nineteenth-century story of the Tejano people, who went from political dominance in 1821 to political minority in 1861, is a story of declension, but it is also a story of resurgence in the face of changing conditions and oppressive circumstances.

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Big Bend's Ancient and Modern Past

Bruce A. Glasrud

The Big Bend region of Texas—variously referred to as “El Despoblado” (the uninhabited land), “a land of contrasts,” “Texas’ last frontier,” or simply as part of the Trans-Pecos—enjoys a long, colorful, and eventful history, a history that began before written records were maintained.

With Big Bend’s Ancient and Modern Past, editors Bruce A. Glasrud and Robert J. Mallouf provide a helpful compilation of articles originally published in the Journal of Big Bend Studies, reviewing the unique past of the Big Bend area from the earliest habitation to 1900.

Scholars of the region investigate not only the peoples who have successively inhabited it but also the nature of the environment and the responses to that environment. As the studies in this book demonstrate, the character of the region has, to a great extent, dictated its history.

The study of Big Bend history is also the study of borderlands history. Studying and researching across borders or boundaries, whether national, state, or regional, requires a focus on the factors that often both unite and divide the inhabitants. The dual nature of citizenship, of land holding, of legal procedures and remedies, of education, and of history permeate the lives and livelihoods of past and present residents of the Big Bend.

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Big Thicket Legacy

Edited by Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller

In Big Thicket Legacy, Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller present the stories of people living in the Big Thicket of southeast Texas. Many of the storytellers were close to one hundred years old when interviewed, with some being the great-grandchildren of the first settlers. Here are tales about robbing a bee tree, hunting wild boar, plowing all day and dancing all night, wading five miles to church through a cypress brake, and making soap using hickory ashes. "The book is a storehouse of history, down-to-earth information, good humor, leg-pulling spoofs, tall tales and all kinds of serendipitous gems . . . Readers inclined to fantasy might like to think of two giant Texas folklorists of the past, J. Frank Dobie and Mody Boatright, nodding and winking their approval of Big Thicket Legacy."—Smithsonian

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Blood Oranges

Colonialism and Agriculture in the South Texas Borderlands

Timothy P. Bowman

Blood Oranges traces the origins and legacy of racial differences between Anglo Americans and ethnic Mexicans (Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans) in the South Texas borderlands in the twentieth century. Author Tim Bowman uncovers a complex web of historical circumstances that caused ethnic Mexicans in the region to rank among the poorest, least educated, and unhealthiest demographic in the country. The key to this development, Bowman finds, was a “modern colonization movement,” a process that had its roots in the Mexican-American war of the nineteenth century but reached its culmination in the twentieth century. South Texas, in Bowman’s words, became an “internal economy just inside of the US-Mexico border.”

Beginning in the twentieth century, Anglo Americans consciously transformed the region from that of a culturally “Mexican” space, with an economy based on cattle, into one dominated by commercial agriculture focused on citrus and winter vegetables. As Anglos gained political and economic control in the region, they also consolidated their power along racial lines with laws and customs not unlike the “Jim Crow” system of southern segregation. Bowman argues that the Mexican labor class was thus transformed into a marginalized racial caste, the legacy of which remained in place even as large-scale agribusiness cemented its hold on the regional economy later in the century.

Blood Oranges stands to be a major contribution to the history of South Texas and borderland studies alike.

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Bloody Bill Longley

The Mythology of a Gunfighter, Second Edition

Rick Miller

William Preston “Bill” Longley (1851-1878), though born into a strong Christian family, turned bad during Reconstruction in Texas, much like other young boys of that time, including the deadly John Wesley Hardin. He went on a murderous rampage over the last few years of his life, shotgunning Wilson Anderson in retribution for Anderson’s killing of a relative; killing George Thomas in McLennan County; and shooting William “Lou” Shroyer in a running gunfight. Longley even killed the Reverend William R. Lay while Lay was milking a cow. Once he was arrested in 1877, and subsequently sentenced to hang, his name became known statewide as an outlaw and a murderer. Through a series of “autobiographical” letters written from jail while awaiting the hangman, Longley created and reveled in his self-centered image as a fearsome, deadly gunfighter—the equal, if not the superior, of the vaunted Hardin. Declaring himself the “worst outlaw” in Texas, the story that he created became the basis for his historical legacy, unfortunately relied on and repeated over and over by previous biographers, but all wrong. In truth, Bill Longley was not the daring figure that he attempted to paint. Rick Miller’s thorough research shows that he was, instead, a braggart who exaggerated greatly his feats as a gunman. The murders that could be credited to him were generally nothing more than cowardly assassinations. Bloody Bill Longley was first published in a limited edition in 1996. Miller separates fact from fancy, attempting to prove or disprove Longley’s many claims of bloodshed. Since the time of the first edition, diligent research has located and identified the outlaw’s body, the absence of which was a longstanding myth in itself. This revised edition includes that part of the Longley story, as well as several new items of information that have since come to light.

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Blue Texas

The Making of a Multiracial Democratic Coalition in the Civil Rights Era

Max Krochmal

This book is about the other Texas, not the state known for its cowboy conservatism, but a mid-twentieth-century hotbed of community organizing, liberal politics, and civil rights activism. Beginning in the 1930s, Max Krochmal tells the story of the decades-long struggle for democracy in Texas, when African American, Mexican American, and white labor and community activists gradually came together to empower the state's marginalized minorities. At the ballot box and in the streets, these diverse activists demanded not only integration but economic justice, labor rights, and real political power for all. Their efforts gave rise to the Democratic Coalition of the 1960s, a militant, multiracial alliance that would take on and eventually overthrow both Jim Crow and Juan Crow.

Using rare archival sources and original oral history interviews, Krochmal reveals the often-overlooked democratic foundations and liberal tradition of one of our nation's most conservative states. Blue Texas remembers the many forgotten activists who, by crossing racial lines and building coalitions, democratized their cities and state to a degree that would have been unimaginable just a decade earlier--and it shows why their story still matters today.

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