Voices from the Southwest Critical Essays

Jacqueline Bernard


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The three biographies address many difficulties the three men had in dealing with English-speaking Americans. Each life story reflects its subject’s feeling that his people have been deeply wronged by English-speaking Americans. In that way, the book meets an important criterion for evaluating a collective biography: that the book has a unifying theme or focus. A characteristic that all three had in common is also revealed: They were willing to fight and even risk death for the ideas in which they believed—that church contributions should be voluntary, that the law should be enforced equally for all people, and that the provisions of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo should be honored, including the provision that property belonging to Mexicans would be respected.

Bernard’s favorable attitude toward the three Hispanic Americans is evident; Martínez, Baca, and Tijerina are portrayed positively. Yet general approval does not mean that these are one-sided biographies. Occasional mention of the subjects’ negative qualities shows the three men to be real human beings.

A notable flaw, however, is that the book presents as facts some legends, tall tales, and unverified reports about the three characters. For example, by Tijerina’s own account, he was born on a stack of cotton sacks in a field where his mother was a migrant worker. The story may well be true, but it has not been verified as fact. Yet Bernard writes: “He was born on a cotton...

(The entire section is 448 words.)