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

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

improved public education, insisted on keeping records of the financial trans-
actions of county government and the school district, promoted road construc-
tion to alleviate the isolation of the county, and enlisted the support of such
influential politicians as Lyndon Johnson to secure both state and federal assis-
tance for his constituents. In what are the two best chapters of the book,
Quezada discusses the heroic battle that Bravo waged for financial compensa-
tion from the federal government when the building of the Falcon Dam across
the Rio Grande created a vast reservoir and forced the relocation of the county
seat and much of the population of Zapata County. The judge's accomplish-
ments may appear modest, but any evaluation of his record should take into
account the limited resources at his disposal.
For all the strengths of this book, the author's claim that he presents a "revi-
sionist interpretation of bossism" (p. 15) is suspect. His reinterpretation rests on
two assertions: that Bravo was personally honest, and that the poor Mexican
Americans were not the compliant objects of political manipulation. Quezada's
defense of Bravo's integrity is a narrow one. While praising the judge for never
stealing from the public treasury, the author explores recurrent charges of elec-
tion fraud without ever refuting those accusations. Drawing on a growing body
of Chicano political literature, Quezada develops the more ambitious theme that
"rank-and-file folks" (p. 224) understood their interests and acted independent-
ly. His own description of the paternalistic relationship between the political
landowners of Zapata County and their laborers compromises this line or argu-
ment, however:
"As late as the 1950s, poor folks depended on ranch and farm owners not only
for their salaries but for food, homes, security, and other things received for
year-round performance of essential agricultural chores. This mutual reliance
spilled over into politics, as the larger ranchers and farmers, many of whom dou-
bled as political leaders, provided county benefits and perquisites to workers in
return for the vote" (p. 14).
Not even the assertion of "mutual reliance" can mask the enormous power
that the ranchers and farmers exerted over their impoverished Hispanic employ-
ees, and the political implications of that power are all too obvious. Quezada's
book is fair-minded, informative, and often insightful, but it poses no serious
challenge to conventional accounts of boss politics in South Texas.
University of Texas at Arlzngton EVAN ANDERS
Texas Signs On: The Early Days of Rado and Televzsion. By Richard Schroeder.
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1998. Pp. xv+247.
Illustrations, preface, acknowledgments, chapters, notes, bibliography,
index. ISBN 0-89096-813-6. $29.95, cloth.)
An independent historian with a doctorate in education from Texas A&M
University-Commerce, Richard Schroeder chronicles the first fifty years of the
development of broadcasting in Texas in this able adaptation of his disserta-
tion. The author describes Texas Szgns On as "a documentation of historical
facts fortified with personal histories, recollections, and experiences" (p. xiii),
and the numerous colorful stories culled from his seventy-one oral history



Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed July 6, 2015.