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Reviews 75 Mexicano Resistance in the Southwest: “The Sacred Right of Self-Preserva­ tion.” By Robert J. Rosenbaum. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.) 241 pages. Based on the author’s Ph.D. thesis for the Department of History at The University of Texas, this book retains its scholarly origins in substance, but transcends them in interest. In a carefully documented review of the process of annexation to the United States of vast territories once belonging to Mexico and Spain, Rosenbaum traces those acts of resistance which refute the all-too-prevalent image of the passive and somnolent Mexican-American. Drawing from richly varied sources which include archival materials, oral history, corridos, Spanish-language newspapers, local records, and leyendos, the author traces three types of resistance to Anglo-American domination in Texas, New Mexico, and California during the period from 1848 to 1916. In the first three chapters, the underlying reasons for the inevitability of the clashes between Anglo and Mexicano are explored. Contrasted are the roles of government, individual and community loyalties, and even the basic concepts of land use and land ownership. “The history of mexicanoamericano coexistence in the southwestern United States is a history of the confrontation between cultures.” The artificiality of borders imposed through treaty and force is emphasized in this area where even now, after 145 years, the division is still an uneasy one. For despite the guarantees of full citizen­ ship and property rights in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, economic opportunity and social integration could not be so easily legislated. The confrontation between the Anglo encroachment and Mexican agrarian values resulted in conflict, sometimes sublimated, but often enough erupting into violence. In Chapter Three, “The Border,” the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Mexico showcases the three types of violent resistance from the mexicanos-, social banditry, community upheaval, and long-term skirmishing. Classifying such violence, Rosenbaum defines “socal bandits” as Robin Hood types whose individual violence is condoned and supported by their own communities as a gesture of resistance against the oppressor. The stories of Juan N. Cortina and Gregorio Cortez in Texas, of Juan de Dios Ortega and Elfrego Baca in New Mexico, and of Tiburcio Vasquez and Joaquin Murieta in California demonstrate that daring but doomed bravery which the people immortalized in song and legend. The second form of violence, community upheavals, is characterized by a period of tension and anger which finally erupts after some “last straw” incident or provocation. Although less common than individual outbursts since there must be a fairly large group who concurrently or spontaneously agree upon violence, such upheavals and race wars occurred in Los Angeles and southern California in the mid-1850s. But these were short-lived, as the Anglo response was swift and brutal, and the californios were not sufficiently united nor strong enough to maintain concerted rebellion. 76 Western American Literature In New Mexico, however, the ethnic balance was more nearly equal, and the conflicts often evolved into long term skirmishing, as demonstrated by a lengthy account of the struggle for control of the Maxwell Land Grant. Rosenbaum condones the violence as acts of self-preservation from a conquered people, chosen from among culturally-acceptable options. He does not, however, provide much substantiating background for the role of violence in mexicano culture. He comes down hard on the Texas Rangers and the “myth of the Alamo” for what he sees as almost congenital racism on the part of Anglo Texans. One wonders whether the Anglos, recognized intruders in an often hostile territory, might not have used similar claims of self-preservation for some of their violent actions. In the final section, the beginnings of political action by mexicanos are traced, and the author holds out the hope that in the future, the people will yet overcome the “regional and class orientations” which divide them and emerge as the “political movement of the future” in numbers and strength capable of claiming the right to cultural diversity which they seem­ ingly lost in the last century, despite those acts of resistance recorded in this provocative book. DOROTHY SCHMIDT, Pan American University 40 Years’ Gatherin’s. By Spike Van Cleve. (Kansas City: The Lowell Press...


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pp. 75-76
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