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Rethinking the Texas Revolution
Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall
The topic of the border wall between the United States and Mexico continues to be broadly and hotly debated: on national news media, by local and state governments, and even in coffee shops and over the dinner table. By now, broad segments of the population have heard widely varying opinions about the wall’s effect on illegal immigration, international politics, and the drug war. ?But what about the wall’s effect on the Sonoran pronghorn antelope herds and the kit fox? On the Mexican gray wolf, the ocelot, the jaguar, and the bighorn sheep??In unforgettable images and evocative text, Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall helps readers understand all that is at stake. ?As Krista Schlyer explains, the remoteness of this region from most US citizens’ lives, coupled with the news media’s focus on illegal immigration and drug violence, has left many with an incomplete picture. As she reminds us, this largely isolated natural area, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, hosts a number of rare ecosystems: Arizona’s last free-flowing river, the San Pedro; the grasslands of New Mexico, some of the last undeveloped prairies on the continent; the single most diverse birding area in the US, located along the lower Rio Grande River in Texas; and habitat and migration corridors for some of both nations’ most imperiled species.?In documenting the changes to the ecosystems and human communities along the border while the wall was being built, Schlyer realized that the impacts of immigration policy on wildlife, on landowners, and on border towns were not fully understood by either policy makers or the general public. The wall not only has disrupted the ancestral routes of wildlife; it has also rerouted human traffic through the most pristine and sensitive of wildlands, causing additional destruction, conflict, and death—without solving the original problem.
Coral reefs declined worldwide during the 1980s and 1990s, making them perhaps the most endangered marine ecosystem on Earth. This realization spurred John W. Tunnell Jr. and others to write a comprehensive book that would raise awareness of coral reefs and their plight. Tunnell and coeditors Ernesto A. Chávez and Kim Withers present an integrated and broad-ranging synthesis, while Mexican and U.S. experts assess the current state of these fragile systems and offer a framework for their restoration. Beginning with a history of the research done in this region, Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico covers the geography, geology, oceanography, ecology, and biodiversity of the thirty-eight “emergent” or platform-type coral reefs in the southern Gulf. The editors include chapters on the biota—from algae to fish—followed by a look at environmental impacts, both natural (such as hurricanes and red tides) and human (such as ship groundings and dredging). The book closes with a discussion of conservation issues, which is both descriptive and prescriptive in its assessment of what has been done and what should be done to protect and manage these vital ecosystems.
Defending the Mexican Name in Texas
At a time when the U.S.-Mexican border was still not clearly defined and when the doctrine of Manifest Destiny and land hunger impelled the Anglo presence ever deeper and more intrusively into South Texas, Juan Nepomucino Cortina cut a violent swath across the region in a conflict that came to be known as The Cortina War. Did this border caudillo fight to defend the rights, honor, and legal claims of the Mexicans of South Texas, as he claimed? Or was his a quest for personal vengeance against the newcomers who had married into his family, threatened his mother’s land holdings, and insulted his honor? Historian Jerry Thompson mines the archival record and considers it in light of recent revisionist history of the region. As a result, he produces not only a carefully nuanced work on Cortina—the most comprehensive to date for this pivotal borderlands figure—but also a balanced interpretation of the violence that racked South Texas from the 1840s through the 1860s. Cortina’s influence in the region made him a force to be reckoned with during the American Civil War. He influenced Mexican politics from the 1840s to the 1870s and fought in the Mexican Army for more than forty-five years. His daring cross-border cattle raids, carried out for more than two decades, made his exploits the stuff of sensational journalism in the newspapers of New York, Boston, and other American cities. By the time of his imprisonment in 1877, Cortina and his followers had so roiled South Texas that Anglo reprisals were being taken against Mexicans and Tejanos throughout the region, ironically worsening the racism that had infuriated Cortina in the beginning. The effects of this troubled period continue to resonate in Anglo-Mexican and Anglo-Tejano relations, down to this very day. Students of regional and borderlands history will find this premier biography to be a rich source of new perspectives. Its transnational focus and balanced approach will reward scholarly and general readers alike.
The Story of Ed Blanchard
Ed Blanchard was best known for making spurs that fit a cowboy's boots. Yet Blanchard was known to family and friends as a wild, reckless cowboy long before horsemen of the West recognized him as a master maker of cowboy spurs. It was his years spent herding cattle and cinching his saddle on broncs that taught him his trade as both a cowboy and a spur maker. This lively, illustrated story of the man and his craft relies heavily on the memories of Blanchard's cousin, New Mexico rancher Tom Kelly of Water Canyon, who grew up with Ed and his friends. Co-author Jane Pattie has researched the times and added historical background, and she has also drawn on interviews she did with Blanchard for her earlier book, Cowboy Spurs and Their Makers. But it is from Kelly that she has uncovered Blanchard's work in the cattle business and how he learned from a neighboring rancher the art of hammering hot steel into the shape of spurs. Kelly's ranch life as well as his own spurs are also pictured in this attractive and inviting little volume. Together, Pattie and Kelly tell a dual tale of old times and of change: the story of spur making as experienced by one of its more prolific practitioners and the story of cowboys in the early part of the twentieth century. Through Blanchard's experiences, the authors trace the changes of western life, from horse to pickup truck, from hand-forged spurs to those of commercial manufacture. Ranch life, cowboying, and metalworking in the American West are interwoven through the book, as they were in the real life of Ed Blanchard, who emerges from these pages as a humorous, down-home regional character readers will be glad to get to know.
Travel and Travel Writing in Modern Times
“ . . . travel as an exploration of ‘the other’ which becomes an exploration of the self . . . a confirmation of identity.”—from the Introduction, by Frank Trommler In an age when travel was more difficult but leisure was more available, those who journeyed across the Atlantic from the Old World to America or back created a wonderful literature about the divergent cultures and the fertile interactions among them. In travel diaries, journals, novels, journalistic reports, and guide books, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century writers recorded impressions and ruminations that not only offer opportunities for comparison and contrast but also shed light on the processes of modernization and the future that would emerge on both sides of the Atlantic. This latest offering from the important Walter Prescott Webb Memorial Lectures series explores themes like urbanization, modernization, education, gender, Jewish identity, nationalism and internationalism, political and cultural values, and the experience of travel itself. Volume editors Thomas Adam and Nils Roemer have assembled a collection of varied studies that permit enlightened reflection on the ways in which travelers from the New and Old Worlds have observed, documented, understood, and negotiated their similarities and differences. The freshness and variety of the previously little-heard voices documented in Crossing the Atlantic will serve as an important reminder that an attentive interaction with “foreignness” has been and will continue to be one of the best paths to a more enlightened engagement with the familiar.
An Immigrant's Life in the 1880s
Although they are among the most important sources of the history of the American Southwest, the lives of ordinary immigrants from Mexico have rarely been recorded. Educated and hardworking, Luis G. Gómez came to Texas from Mexico as a young man in the mid-1880s. He made his way around much of South Texas, finding work on the railroad and in other businesses, observing the people and ways of the region and committing them to memory for later transcription. From the moment he crossed the Rio Grande at Matamoros-Brownsville, Gómez sought his fortune in a series of contracting operations that created the infrastructure to help develop the Texas economy—clearing land, cutting wood, building roads, laying track, constructing bridges, and quarrying rock. Gómez describes Mexican customs in the United States, such as courtship and marriage, relations with Anglo employers, religious practices, and the simple home gatherings that sustained those Mexican Texans who settled in urban areas like Houston, isolated from predominantly Mexican South Texas. Few of the 150,000 immigrants in the last half of the nineteenth century left written records of their experiences, but Gómez wrote his memoir and had it privately published in Spanish in 1935. Crossing the Rio Grande presents an English edition of that memoir, translated by the author’s grandson, Guadalupe Valdez Jr., with assistance from Javier Villarreal, a professor of Spanish at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. An introduction by Thomas H. Kreneck explainss the book’s value to scholarship and describes what has been learned of the publication history of the original Spanish-language volume. Valdez’s comments provide a lucid and engaging picture of his grandfather’s later life and his gentlemanly character. This charming little volume provides a valuable account of a relatively undocumented period in Mexican Texans’ history. Almost unknown to those outside his family, this narrative has now been “recovered,” edited by Valdez and Kreneck, and made available to a wider, interested public.
The Earth, the Sky, the People