Oscar Martínez’ volume joins a number of outstanding texts in Scholarly Resources’ Jaguar series. U.S.-Mexico Borderlands collects previously published but widely scattered articles and monograph chapters, yielding a book that will have great value in the classroom. After using it last winter in my border course, I can give it an enthusiastic endorsement. Students reported that the book not only helped them to understand the chronology of border development but also presented aspects of border history not available from other sources. Unlike many collections of readings, this volume is well organized enough to serve as a basic text; scholars in border studies have long awaited such a collection.
The volume’s seven sections treat a series of key topics: the emergence of the boundary between Mexico and the United States, nineteenth-century conflict in the border region, social consolidation at the turn of the century, the Mexican Revolution, the Prohibition era and the Great Depression, the trend toward postwar interdependence, and late twentieth-century cultural change. Martínez provides a brief introduction to each reading that lays out the historical and historiographical contexts.
All the sections pair scholarly treatments with period documents. Students read not only Richard Griswold del Castillo’s analysis of the Treaty of Guadalupe, for example, but also the Treaty of Guadalupe itself, the Texas Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Velasco, and the Gadsden Treaty. My students were fascinated by the texts of debates over “free trade” dating back to a century before the recent controversy over NAFTA.
Martínez is to be commended for extending the coverage of border topics far beyond the issues (such as migration and maquiladoras) that tend to dominate the field of border studies. The selections expose students to people from a wide variety of life experiences, leaving them with a complex picture of border society. Controversial topics can be appreciated from the inside and from alternative viewpoints. Martínez is particularly well attuned to issues of identity in border life. To critics who may contend that the book does not address all relevant areas of the border experience, I would counter that Martínez’ selections provide a much-needed corrective for past obsessions.
In sum, U.S.-Mexico Borderlands provides an invaluable collection of material for understanding historical trends in border development, one that is engaging and broad in appeal. Both students and teachers will benefit from Martínez’ and the Jaguar series’ effort.