The Christmas holidays offered me an opportunity to do some reading, a luxury I don’t find time for during my regular days. I had the opportunity to read two books on Tejano history, one with direct ties to South Texas and the subject of my book Balo’s War.
The first book on my reading list was Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853–1857. As the title clearly implies, this book was mostly a translated reprint of Navarro’s defense of Tejano history in response to incorrect and biased history written by newly arrived “Texans.” Navarro, along with his uncle Jose Ruiz Francisco, were the only Tejanos to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. They both had lived through the earlier efforts by Tejanos and Mexicans to split from Spain and of course had first hand knowledge of the history of Bexar.
The book is an easy read, just over 100 pages, which includes reprints of the Spanish articles written by Navarro. Its focus is in early 19th century San Antonio and has little to do with South Texas, other than some of the characters-such as Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara-hailed from Revilla on the border south of Laredo.
The second book, which proved more interesting for folks like me who hail from south of the Nueces, was War along the Border: The Mexican Revolution and Tejano Communities. This book, edited by Arnoldo De Leon is a compilation of essays by various historians looking at the impact the Mexican Revolution had on those living along the Mexican-U.S. border.
A number of the essays focus on South Texas and the Plan of San Diego. De Leon’s own essay,The Mexican Revolution’s Impact on Tejano Communities The Historiographic Record, was excellent as were those of Richard Ribb, La Rinchada Revolution, Revenge, and the Rangers, 1910–1920 and Trinidad Gonzales’ The Mexican Revolution, Revolución de Texas, and Matanza de 1915.
I particularly enjoyed Roberto R. Trevino’s Salt of the Earth The Immigrant Experience of Gerónimo Treviño. The subject was Trevino’s grandfather who emigrated to the Nueces, San Patricio and Bee counties. Trevino’s writing style is very engaging and his grandfather’s story is very relatable.
Other essays dealt with other parts of the border, such as El Paso and West Texas, and the role of women and immigrants. All in all an interesting read, which I recommend.
De Leon’s mother hailed from Benavides and he wrote A social history of Mexican Americans in nineteenth century Duval County, which is no longer in print but is available in libraries.