The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Book Reviews

general readers as well as scholars interested in the many aspects of Texas's so-
cial and cultural history, architectural historians, and preservationists.
Southern Methodist Universzty SAM RATCLIFFE
Folklore and Culture on the Texas-Mexzcan Border. By Americo Paredes. Edited by
Richard Bauman. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993. Pp. xxiii+287. In-
troduction, bibliographical references, index. ISBN 0-29272-472-1.
$32.50.)
Richard Bauman notes in his introduction to this volume that Americo Pare-
des's reputation as the foremost scholar of Greater Mexican folklore rests on his
consummate knowledge of the complex sociohistorical forces that generate it.
Guided by an unswerving fidelity to ethnographic detail, Paredes's work pro-
vides as rich and complex a portrait of Mexicans as will be found anywhere. His
focus is the folklore and culture of the Lower Border-the region on both sides
of the lower Rio Grande-but his analytical lens is wide enough that this focus
"never descends to provincial narrowness," as Bauman reminds us (p. xi). Pare-
des avoids such narrowness by linking his studies of border culture to the broad-
er geographic and historical panorama of the Greater Mexican experience.
The present collection affords an excellent cross-section of Paredes's scholarly
output. Part I, "The Social Base and Negotiation of Identity," includes such land-
mark essays as "The Problem of Identity in a Changing Culture" (1978), "Folk
Medicine and the Intercultural Jest" (1968), and "On Ethnographic Work
among Minority Groups" (1977). The first of these is important for its emphasis
on intercultural conflict between Anglos and Mexicans as the catalyst that acti-
vates border culture, especially Mexican culture. As well, the essay summarizes
many of the issues Paredes had raised previously, such as the tension between
conflict and accommodation, the role of ethnic slurs, and, for Mexicans, the
problem of identity in the face of change.
"Folk Medicine and the Intercultural Jest," the now-classic study of the impact
of intercultural conflict on the processes of acculturation and resistance, is im-
portant not only for its incisive analysis of the role of folklore in mediating con-
flict among race, class, and identity, but equally for its seminal status in what is
now known as the performance-centered approach to folkloristics. By situating
his analysis within a performance context (a beer-bust among acculturated mid-
dle-class Mexican Americans), Paredes successfully explicates the relationship
between middle-class jests and the working-class belief-tale known as the caso that
these jests ridicule. More importantly, his folklore-as-performance approach
yields pathbreaking insights into how folklore mediates the contradictions that
visit middle-class life between two antagonistic cultures.
"On Ethnographic Work among Minorities," possibly the finest essay in Pare-
des's distinguished corpus, brings to bear all his knowledge of folkloric perfor-
mance to craft a devastating critique of a positivistic Anglo-American
ethnography that at times has done more to perpetuate negative stereotypes
about Mexicans than to explain their troubled relationship with the dominant

1994

155

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed April 26, 2015.