The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1978, Volume 24, Number 1
Thomas L. Scharf, Managing Editor

Book Reviews

Douglas H. Strong, Book Review Editor.

Northern Mexico on the Eve of the United States Invasion: Rare Imprints Concerning California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, 1821-1846. Edited by David J. Weber. New York: Arno Press, 1976. Mexicans in California afteer the U.S. Conquest. Introduction by Carlos Cortés. New York: Arno Press, 1976. Aspects of the Mexican American Experience. Introduction by Carlos Cortés. New York: Arno Press, 1976, $37.00. These are three volumes in the Arno Press’ reprint series entitled The Chicano Heritage.

Reviewed by Matt S. Meier, Chairman of the History Department, University of Santa Clara, co-author of The Chicanos and Bibliography For Chicano History.

These anthologies are among the latest publications in the Arno Press’ collection, The Chicano Heritage, which serves to make available to scholars and students materials for the study of Chicano history—materials which are no longer widely available because of age and some of which are quite rare. The three collections bring together a total of twenty-five publications of various lengths and kinds ranging from full-length books like The Vaquero by Arnold Rojas, published in 1964, to Juan Seguín’s brief and fascinating Personal Memoirs, published more than one hundred years earlier in 1858. Some are general accounts, like Juan N. Almonte’s pamphlet, Noticia estadística sobre Tejas (1835); while others describe very specific topics, e.g. John Scotford’s Within These Borders, a description of Protestant missionary work among the Spanish-speaking in the United States at the middle of the twentieth century. Perhaps the most interesting of all is the reproduction of volume 66, number 3 (May 1, 1931) of The Survey Graphic; the entire issue is devoted to “Mexicans in our Midst”. The articles by Paul Taylor, Mary Austin, Manuel Gamio, Ernesto Galarza, J. Frank Dobie, Max Handman, etc. are invaluable for the historian; unfortunately the reduction of The Survey page size to fit the format of The Chicano Heritage makes reading somewhat difficult and eye-straining.

Northern Mexico on the Eve of the United States Invasion contains eleven imprints, all in Spanish except the very rare Personal Memoirs of Juan Seguín. These eleven documents do the valuable service of describing from a Mexican point of view geographically, politically, and economically what is today the United States Southwest in the 1820s and 30s. For example the Zúñiga imprint gives an explanation for independent Mexico’s abandonment of her northern frontier with a resulting decline there in loyalty to the Mexican government and eventual takeover by the United States. The reader will be made aware of conditions in central Mexico (notably political dissension and lack of governmental funds) that negatively affected the frontier and will see how the representative from the two Californias to the Mexican Congress warned that body of the possible loss of his area. Overall the selections give an excellent general picture of the northern frontier. It is unfortunate that a good map showing the places referred to was not included, especially for Zúñiga’s work, and that the condition of the Vallejo document makes it difficult to read in spots.

Mexicans in California after the U. S. Conquest comprises eight reprints that include descriptions of the serious problems of the Californios as seen by two Anglo veterans of the American conquest, John S. Griffin, M.D., and Stephen Clark Foster; the difficulties of Californios in obtaining justice in a biased anti-Mexican society; two modern historical interpretations of the Californio experience in San Diego; a report on a flood of the Santa Ana River; and the life of Bernardo Yorba. Together these serve to illustrate and to provide insight into the many problems faced by Californios as a conquered people—problems of economic, social, political, and cultural survival. However, it is again unfortunate that the two articles on San Diego, from The Journal of San Diego History, were necessarily reduced to a type size that strains the eyesight. The inclusion of Agua Mansa and the Flood of January 22, 1862 is a bit puzzling since it is largely a technical description by the San Bernardino Flood Control District to show the need for flood control on the Santa Ana River and refers to Californios only by implication.

The last of the three works, Aspects of the Mexican American Experience brings together six works from fields as varied as economics, education, and religion in order to cover the Mexican American experience from the end of the last century down to the 1960 census. The May 1, 1931 issue of The Survey Graphic brought together an outstanding collection of articles, paintings and drawings which were done by eminent authorities on Mexico and the Mexican American and which delineate an historical picture of the Chicano as he was viewed by sympathetic Anglos, Mexicans, and Mexican Americans at the beginning of the Great Depression. Equally as interesting is Arnold Rojas’ The Vaquero, filled with vaquero lore and delightful vignettes of old California. More important, it sheds some light on Anglo-Mexican and cowboy-vaquero relations.

Because of the scarcity of materials dealing with Chicano history these three volumes of reprints are especially welcome to students of the Chicano experience and give an indication of the continuing interest in and need for materials that will enable us to better understand the varied aspects of the Mexican experience in the United States.