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

Book Reviews

man/environment interaction that produced three cattle raising regions West of
the Mississippi River. It is perhaps as good an example that has appeared to date
for blending the "New Western History" with Turner's more traditional model.
Billington would be proud.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock C. FRED WILLIAMS
Spain and the Plains: Myths and Realities of Spanish Exploration and Settlement on the
Great Plains. Edited by Ralph H. Vigil, Frances W. Kaye, and John R. Wun-
der. (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1994. Pp. xiii+179. Preface, ac-
knowledgments, index. ISBN 0-87081-352-8. $24.95.)
This short volume seeks to elucidate from a variety of perspectives the story of
Spanish exploration and settlement on the Great Plains, a topic that the editors
believe "has been ignored in the histories" (p. 3). After a short introduction and
a sketchy timeline by Ralph Vigil and John Wunder, essays by historian Vigil and
archeologist Waldo Wedel examine the role of myth as both an impetus to Span-
ish exploration and a problem for modern scholarship. The emphasis then shifts
to the reality of Spanish settlement of the Plains. Historian Felix D. Almariz Jr.
focuses on a specific subregion, the Llano Estacado, an uninviting land that
stymied Spanish efforts at occupation; Thomas Chivez, historian and director of
the Palace of the Governors of the Museum of New Mexico, describes the
Segesser hide paintings, rare eighteenth-century artifacts that depict a key rever-
sal in Spain's attempt to establish political hegemony on the Plains; and anthro-
pologist Russell Magnaghi looks at the genizaros, Indians usually of Plains origin
who became important components of New Mexico society. In the epilogue, Vig-
il argues that the Spanish colonial experience forms the basis for a larger His-
panic identity that recently has reasserted itself in the Plains.
Although the essays themselves are generally good, several deficiencies detract
from the conceptual integrity of the book. First, most of the articles appeared
previously in one source: the Spring 1990 issue of the Great Plains Quarterly. Sec-
ond, little in this collection changes our understanding of Spain's relationship
to the Great Plains. Many of the essays rely on secondary sources and offer con-
ventional interpretations. Finally, despite its title, the book appears to bolster the
very notion that it seeks to combat: that the Spanish presence on the Great
Plains was sporadic and ephemeral. The essays make it clear that geography-
physical and human-proved an insurmountable obstacle to Spanish settlement.
(Significantly, New Mexico serves as the focal point in nearly every discussion of
colonial frontier society.) The editors might better have emphasized Spain's
long-term and more consequential impact on the Great Plains by casting a wider
net. Vigil's epilogue is a step in this direction, but an essay on environmental
changes, for example, might have underscored Spain's crucial role in the cre-
ation of a new ecosystem or in revolutionizing Plains Indian culture. Spain and
the Plains will not satisfy specialists, though it may provide the interested general
reader with a way to think about Spain's legacy in the region.

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Purdue University

CHARLES R. CUTTER

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 July 23, 2014.