The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1978, Volume 24, Number 4
Thomas L. Scharf, Managing Editor

Book Review

Douglas H. Strong, Book Review Editor

Views across the Border: The United States and Mexico. Edited by Stanley R. Ross. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1978. 456 pages. $5.95.
Reviewed by Oscar J. Martínez, Department of History, University of Texas at El Paso.

In the 1970’s the U.S. – Mexico border has emerged as a major area of concern both north and south of the international boundary. Reacting to public awareness and sometimes alarm over emotional border issues such as undocumented Mexican migration, numerous scholars in both countries have turned their attention to this binational trouble spot. Government agencies and foundations have also discovered the border, presenting new funding possibilities for researchers and new forums to present findings.

This volume is the product of a week-long conference focusing on border issues sponsored by The Weatherhead Foundation in April, 1975 in San Antonio. An impressive number of scholars and others from the United States and Mexico gathered to examine a variety of topics with the hope of deriving a more integrated view of the border. Among the essayists were such prominent Mexicans as Ignacio Bernal, Carlos Monsivais, Víctor Urquidi, Jorge A. Bustamante, and Rogelio Díaz-Guerrero, and North Americans Joe B. Frantz, Américo Paredes, Antonio Ugalde, F. Ray Marshall, Vernon M. Briggs Jr., and Tad Szulc, as well as many other well-known authors who served as commentators and discussants.

The conference addressed seven specific problem areas which provided the format for the book: (1) Culture, (2) Politics, (3) Economics, (4) Migration, (5) Health, (6) Psychology, and (7) Ecology. Editor Ross added an introduction and an appendix. The latter summarizes the discussion of the papers and formal commentaries. The foreword is by Richard W. Weatherhead, president of the foundation that carries his name and underwriter of the conference. An extensive bibliography and an index are also included.

Ross has succeeded in giving a logical structure to a collection of articles treating disparate issues. He has also skillfully edited the stimulating commentary at the end of the book. The result is a useful volume that provides needed perspectives by contributors from diverse disciplines and backgrounds. Of course the basic problem characteristic of any anthology, unevenness, is evident here. Some articles present new and substantive in-formation, while others contribute little that is not already known; some are interpretive while others are descriptive; some focus clearly on the border phenomenon while others, reflecting the non-specialist’s lack of first-hand knowledge about the border, delve into broader areas having limited relevance to the international frontier.

From the viewpoint of the border studies practitioner, the essays by Américo Paredes, Antonio Ugalde, F. Ray Marshall, and Arthur W. Busch might be singled out as particularly welcome additions to the literature on the border. New data is provided and fresh interpretations offered by these authors. Paredes discusses fascinating aspects of border cultural interaction which add significantly to this important subject. Ugalde offers some provocative interpretations regarding the motives of the Mexican government in initiating border development programs. Marshall presents a conceptual model for analyzing the process of international migration and adjustment to the host society. Busch synthesizes useful ecological information about the border. Several of the other essays also contain valuable data and new insights useful to the specialist as well as to the general reader.

On the negative side, one might question Weatherhead’s assertion in the foreword that the U.S. – Mexico border has been a peaceful region for more than one hundred years. Also, the lack of a clear definition of what the conference participants considered to be the border leaves the volume with a vague geographic framework.

In its totality, however, the book succeeds very well in enlarging the relatively limited picture we currently have about border life and culture.