As economies and populations on both sides of the United States-Mexico border burgeoned after World War II, the attendant problems of the region became the subject of numerous scholarly studies. Building on this literature, Oscar Martínez has written the most comprehensive and satisfying overview of the Troublesome Border.
In concise, well-organized chapters, Martínez explores six broad issues: the formation of the political boundary and its continued modification into our time; the efforts of individual Americans to take more of Mexico, from the early nineteenth century to the 1910s; the impact of the border on Native Americans and how they (especially Kickapoos and Yaquis) have utilized it for cultural survival; the impact of the border on Mexican-Americans and Chicanos; the impact of the border on northern Mexico; and contemporary border problems, particularly those resulting from environmental degradation and migration. Conflict is the motif throughout his consideration of these questions, but Martínez also sees transborder cooperation at the local and regional levels as a powerful force in bonding people on both sides of the border. This local cooperation often takes illegal forms, providing further evidence of chaos along a “troublesome” border. But what appears from the heartlands of the two nations to be a breakdown of structures and systems along the border is, Martínez argues, “in many respects . . . normal functioning” (p. 2).
With remarkable economy of expression, Martínez manages to analyze border problems from three perspectives—those of Mexico, the United States, and the border peoples themselves—and to add comparative and multidisciplinary dimensions as well. Troublesome Border is the best single-volume introduction to the subject for fellow scholars, and it should be a palatable introduction to the border for captive student readers, who will appreciate its breadth, clarity, organization, and brevity.