Form and Content

Jacqueline Bernard’s Voices from the Southwest comprises both a capsule history of the colonization of the American Southwest and biographies of Antonio José Martínez, Elfego Baca, and Reies López Tijerina. Although much historical context is woven into the biographies themselves, an introductory chapter is devoted to historical background. It treats Spanish colonization of Mexico and what is now Texas and New Mexico, the later expulsion of the Spanish from Mexico, and the Anglo-American settlements that ultimately led to the Texas Revolution (1836), war between Mexico and the United States (18461848), and the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848). Then follow, in chronological order, the three biographies. The book concludes with a guide to pronunciation of Spanish names, words, and phrases. No index is provided, but the table of contents breaks each biography down into several chapters that are rich in historical background and that follow a roughly chronological order.

Spanish colonization of North America followed two patterns. Early military expeditions, accompanied by priests who started schools and converted the natives, established a Spanish foothold in North America starting in 1521 with the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés. Later, Spain gave land grants to groups of families. Each individual would own only a small parcel of farmland and a plot for a house in the village; most of the land—pastures for grazing cattle or sheep, farmland, forests, streams, and roads—would be owned in common by the entire group of families. When Anglo-American and French explorers and settlers came into the territory, their tradition of private ownership of land came...

(The entire section is 689 words.)