As traditional borderland historiography has faded in popularity to be replaced by local and ethnic studies, the history profession has lost older insights but captured new ones. Between Two Rivers is an example of the gains that a change in focus can provide. Dr. Joseph P. Sánchez — editor of Colonial Latin American History, prolific interpreter of New Mexican history, and an employee of the National Park Service — traces the history of a famous Spanish land grant (Atrisco) over five centuries. In the process, he weaves together the complex interaction of land, migratory humans, and competing legal systems.

In the grand sweep of history, few topics loom larger than land ownership. It is critical for human survival and often for the accumulation of wealth. In the case of Atrisco, a large area encompassing much of the modern city of Albuquerque and...

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