These days everyone has something to say (or declaim!) about the U.S.–Mexico border. Whether it’s immigration, resource management, educational policy, or drugs, the borderlands are either the epicenter or the emblem of a current crisis facing the nation. At a time when the region has been co-opted for every possible rhetorical use, what endures is a resilient and vibrant local culture that resists easy characterization. For an honest picture of life on the border, what remains is to listen to voices that are too often drowned out: the people who actually live and work there, who make their homes and livings amid a confluence of cultures and loyalties. For many of these people, the border is less a hyphenated place than a meeting place, a merging. This aspect of the border is epitomized in the names of two cities that straddle the line: Calexico and Mexicali.
A “sleepy crossroads that exists at a global flashpoint,” Calexico serves as the reference point for veteran journalist Peter Laufer’s chronicle of day-to-day life on the border. This wide-ranging, interview-driven book finds Laufer and travel companion/photographer on a weeklong road trip through the Imperial Valley and other border locales, engaging in earnest and revealing conversations with the people they meet along the way. Laufer talks to secretaries and politicians, restaurateurs and salsa dancers, poets and real estate agents about the issues that matter to them the most.
What draws them to border towns? How do they feel about border security and the fences that may someday run through their backyards? Is “English-only” a realistic policy? Why have some towns flourished and others declined? What does it mean to be Mexican or American in such a place? Waitress Bonnie Peterson banters with customers in Spanish and English. Mayor Lewis Pacheco laments the role that globalization has played in his city’s labor market. Some of their anecdotes are humorous, others grim. Moreover, not everyone agrees. But this very diversity is part of the fabric of the borderlands, and these stories demand to be heard.
The coastal sage and shrublands of California burn. The mountain-encrusting chaparral burns. The conifer forests of the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, and Trinity Alps burn. The rain-shadowed deserts after watering by El Niño cloudbursts and the thick forests of the rumpled Coast Range—all burn according to local rhythms of wetting and drying. Fire season, so the saying goes, lasts 13 months.
In this collection of essays on the region, Stephen J. Pyne colorfully explores the ways the region has approached fire management and what sets it apart from other parts of the country. Pyne writes that what makes California’s fire scene unique is how its dramatically distinctive biomes have been yoked to a common system, ultimately committed to suppression, and how its fires burn with a character and on a scale commensurate with the state’s size and political power. California has not only a ferocity of flame but a cultural intensity that few places can match. California’s fires are instantly and hugely broadcast. They shape national institutions, and they have repeatedly defined the discourse of fire’s history. No other place has so sculpted the American way of fire.
California is part of the multivolume series describing the nation’s fire scene region by region. The volumes in To the Last Smoke also cover Florida, the Northern Rockies, the Great Plains, the Southwest, and several other critical fire regions. The series serves as an important punctuation point to Pyne’s fifty-year career with wildland fire—both as a firefighter and a fire scholar. These unique surveys of regional pyrogeography are Pyne’s way of “keeping with it to the end,” encompassing the directive from his rookie season to stay with every fire “to the last smoke.”
Canto hondo / Deep Song honors the Andalusian deep lyric, or canto hondo, poetry of famed Spanish writer Federico García Lorca through rich and expressive poems. Francisco X. Alarcón deftly places Spanish and English side-by-side in this bilingual collection that is a modern meditation on love, self, loss, and universal truths.
In this new collection, Alarcón creates poetry with roots in Gypsy songs clapped out in the distinctively short rhythms of flamenco music. Each page lifts the heart and stirs the soul by delving deep into the struggle for self and sexual identity.
Canto hondo / Deep Song includes 106 poems divided into four sections that articulate struggle, otherness, and the meaning of the poetic landscape. Like Lorca, Alarcón seeks out the fault lines where the lyric and the political bleed productively and proactively into one another.
An important voice in Chicano and GLBT poetry, Alarcón writes with a complex, emotionally powerful style that is accessible to students and all lovers of poetry and poetic traditions.
With the exception of the Grand Canyon itself, none of the great gorges of the American Southwest is more uniquely beautiful than Canyon de Chelly, with its sheer red cliffs and innumerable prehistoric Indian dwellings. Of all the important centers of prehistoric Anasazi culture, only this magnificent canyon shows an unbroken record of settlement for more than 1,000 years. In this liberally illustrated book, rock art authority Campbell Grant examines four aspects of the spectacular canyon: its physical characteristics, its history of human habitation, its explorers and archaeologists, and its countless rock paintings and petroglyphs. Grant surveys 96 sites in the two main canyons and offers an interpretation of the rock art found there.
In 1844, on the heels of the final wave of the forced removal of thousands of Indians from the southern United States to what is now Oklahoma, the Southern Methodist Church created a separate organization known as the Indian Mission Conference to oversee its missionary efforts among the Native communities of Indian Territory. Initially, the Church conducted missions as part of the era’s push toward assimilation. But what the primarily white missionaries quickly encountered was a population who exerted more autonomy than they expected and who used Christianity to protect their culture, both of which frustrated those eager to bring Indian Territory into what they felt was mainstream American society.
In Capture These Indians for the Lord, Tash Smith traces the trajectory of the Southern Methodist Church in Oklahoma when it was at the frontlines of the relentless push toward western expansion. Although many Native people accepted the missionaries’ religious practices, Smith shows how individuals found ways to reconcile the Methodist force with their traditional cultural practices. When the white population of Indian Territory increased and Native sovereignty came under siege during the allotment era of the 1890s, white communities marginalized Indians within the Church and exploited elements of mission work for their own benefit.
Later, with white indifference toward Indian missions peaking in the early twentieth century, Smith explains that as the remnants of the Methodist power weakened, Indian membership regained control and used the Church to regenerate their culture. Throughout, Smith explores the complex relationships between white and Indian community members and how these phenomena shaped Methodist churches in the twentieth century.
The son of an encomendero, Baltasar Obregón was twenty years old when he joined the 1564 expedition led by the first governor of Nueva Vizcaya, Francisco de Ibarra. The purpose of the expedition was to establish mining settlements in the borderlands of New Spain and to suppress indigenous rebellions in the region.
Although Obregón’s role in the Ibarra expedition was that of soldier-explorer, and despite his lacking an advanced education, he would go on to compose Historia de los descubrimientos de Nueva España twenty years later, expanding his narrative to include the years before and after his own firsthand experiences with Ibarra. Obregón depicts the storied landscape of the northern borderlands with vivid imagery, fusing setting and situation, constructing a new reality of what was, is, and should be, and presenting it as truth.
In Capturing the Landscape of New Spain, Rebecca A. Carte explains how landscape performs a primary role in Obregón’s retelling, emerging at times as protagonist and others as antagonist. Carte argues that Obregón’s textualization offers one of the first renderings of the region through the Occidental cultural lens, offering insight into Spanish cultural perceptions of landscape during a period of important social and political shifts.
By examining mapping and landscape discourse, Carte shows how history and geography, past and present, people and land, come together to fashion the landscape of northern New Spain.
Cell Traffic presents new poems and uncollected prose poetry along with selected work from award-winning poet Heid Erdrich's three previous poetry collections. Erdrich's new work reflects her continuing concerns with the tensions between science and tradition, between spirit and body. She finds surprising common ground while exploring indigenous experience in multifaceted ways: personal, familial, biological, and cultural. The title, Cell Traffic, suggests motion and Erdrich considers multiple movements-cellular transfer, the traffic of DNA through body parts and bones, "migration" through procreation, and the larger "movements" of indigenousness and ancestral inheritance.
Erdrich's wry sensibility, sly wit, and keenly insightful mind have earned her a loyal following. Her point of view is always slightly off center, and this lends a particular freshness to her poetry. The debunking and debating of the science of origins is one of Erdrich's focal subjects. In this collection, she turns her observational eye to the search for a genetic mother of humanity, forensic anthropology's quest for the oldest known bones, and online offers of genetic testing. But her interests are not limited to science. She freely admits popular culture into her purview as well, referencing sci-fi television series and Internet pop-up ads.
Western Ways Films and the Invention of the Postwar Southwest
Jennifer L. Jenkins
The five Cs of Arizona—copper, cattle, cotton, citrus, and climate—formed the basis of the state’s livelihood and a readymade roster of subjects for films. With an eye on the developing national appetite for all things western, Charles and Lucile Herbert founded Western Ways Features in 1936 to document the landscape, regional development, and diverse cultures of Arizona, the U.S. Southwest, and northern Mexico.
Celluloid Pueblo tells the story of Western Ways Features and its role in the invention of the Southwest of the imagination. Active during a thirty-year period of profound growth and transformation, the Herberts created a dynamic visual record of the region, and their archival films now serve as a time capsule of the Sunbelt in the mid-twentieth century. Drawing upon a ten-year career with Fox, Western Ways owner-operator Charles Herbert brought a newshound’s sensibility and acute skill at in-camera editing to his southwestern subjects. The Western Ways films provided counternarratives to Hollywood representations of the West and established the regional identity of Tucson and the borderlands.
Jennifer L. Jenkins’s broad-sweeping book examines the Herberts’ work on some of the first sound films in the Arizona borderlands and their ongoing promotion of the Southwest. The book covers the filmic representation of Native and Mexican lifeways, Anglo ranching and leisure, Mexican missions and tourism, and postwar borderlands prosperity and progressivism. The story of Western Ways closely follows the boom-and-bust arc of the midcentury Southwest and the constantly evolving representations of an exotic—but safe and domesticated—frontier.
"Kelly's identification of a nineteenth-century B. C. ceramic complex has far-reaching implications for the archaeology of western Mexico and its relationship with central Mexico and South America. . . . A well-illustrated monograph that covers much more than the title promises."—The Masterkey
Sequencing the ceramics in Guatemala’s Holmul region has the potential to answer important questions in Maya archaeology. The Holmul region, located in northeastern Guatemala between the central Peten lowlands to the west and the Belize River Valley to the east, encompasses roughly ten square kilometers and contains at least seven major archaeological sites, including two large ceremonial and administrative centers, Holmul and Cival.
The Ceramic Sequence of the Holmul Region, Guatemala illustrates the archaeological ceramics of these prehistoric Maya sites in a study that provides a theoretical starting point for answering questions related to mid- and high-level issues of archaeological method and theory in the Maya area and larger Mesoamerica. The researchers’ ceramic sequence, which uses the method of type:variety-mode classification, spans approximately 1,600 years and encompasses nine ceramic complexes and one sub-complex. The highly illustrated book is formatted as a catalog of the types of ceramics in a chronological framework.
The authors undertook this study with three objectives: to create a temporal-spatial framework for archaeological sites in the politically important Holmul region, to relate this framework to other Maya sites, and to use type:variety-mode data to address specific questions of ancient Maya social practice and process during each ceramic complex.
Specific questions addressed in this volume include, the adoption of pottery as early as 800 BC at the sites of Holmul and Cival during the Middle Preclassic period, the creation of the first orange polychrome pottery, the ideological and political influence from sites in Mexico during the Early Classic period, and the demographic and political collapse of lowland Maya polities between AD 800 and AD 830.
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