The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000

Book Reviews

in the post-1848 "Borderlands." Regrettably, outside of the academy, the U.S.-
Mexican War is not well known. After reading this book, however, its effects are
shown to be very profound and provide necessary information for anyone who
wants to understand the roots of the present-day "Borderlands."
Iris H. W. Engstrand's considerable ability at synthesizing lots of information
shows in her essay. Richard Griswold del Castillo provides an excellent overview
of one of his areas of expertise, the legal and human rights effects of the 1848
treaty. Despite some questionable descriptions of Mexicans and Mexican
Americans ("little Mexican jumping beans"; "they never get tired"; "they don't
know what injustice means"; "little mariposztas"), and a lack of needed historical
background information, Elena Poniatowaska's essay pointedly and articulately
describes, from the heart, the human side of the problems of illegal immigrants
in the U.S. Southwest. Finally, the illustrations are well chosen and skillfully add
to the points made by the authors.
Angelo State University JAMES F. SIEKMEIER
Juan Alvarado: Governor of California, 1836-1842. By Robert Ryal Miller. (Norman:
University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. Pp. xiii+179. Illustrations, preface, appen-
dices, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN o-8061-3077-6. $29.95, cloth.)
For those of us who have tried to untangle the complex political and social
world of Mexican California prior to 1848, this book is a welcome guide, well
written, clearly told, and full of wonderful stories that are new and interesting.
Too often the Californios, the Mexican landed classes in this period, are viewed
as stereotypes without much personality. Miller's book gives us a flesh-and-bone
political biography of one of the most important figures of this era, Juan
Alvarado.
Alvarado was a native-born Californian who became governor of the territory
and led his compatriots in democratic revolutions and protests against Mexico
City's high handed leaders. He championed legislative initiative, public schools,
government internal improvements, and many other projects to improve the
economy and political health of the province. He presided over the most
momentous economic change in the history of California, the breakup of the
mission lands and the distribution of these lands to the native Californians, for-
eigners, and Indians. The Americans inherited this land tenure situation and
appropriated the land grants, which today are the basis of large industrial-size
farms and sprawling metropolitan complexes.
Alvarado grew up in northern California and was related to another powerful
California figure, Gen. Mariano Vallejo. Together they endured the American
takeover of their country and both authored multi-volume histories that remain
unpublished and untranslated in the Bancroft library. Miller has mined the
Alvarado manuscripts for choice nuggets of information. In 1827, for example,
the diputacion at Monterey voted to change the name of California to
"Moctezuma" in honor of the Aztecs. We learn that as young men Vallejo and
Alvarado secretly purchased books that were on the Catholic Church's Index
and that they were briefly threatened with excommunication. Alvarado, along

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed June 3, 2015.