JESUS F. DE LA TEJA, Editor
Tejano South Texas: A Mexican American Cultural Province. By Daniel D. Arreola.
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002. Pp. 288. Acknowledgments, notes,
references, figure sources, index. ISBN 0-292-70511-5. $22.95, paper.)
As the United States and Mexico become increasingly interconnected, particu-
larly in the realms of trade and migration, scholarly interest in the border zone
is more pronounced than ever. Historians, social scientists, economists, and
planners more often than not treat the 2,ooo-mile-long border zone as a single
entity whose function and character have nonetheless changed dramatically
since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848 officially established the territo-
rial separation of the two countries. Geographer Daniel Arreola sees a need to
alter this singular treatment of the border zone, and argues that in fact there are
multiple border zones, each with its own history and personality.
Using the approach of cultural geography, which examines the spatial expres-
sion of culture and how culture is inscribed in the landscape, Arreola demon-
strates that Mexican South Texas is unique among Hispanic borderland regions.
This distinctiveness, he shows us, entails three centuries of migration and "place
making." He makes his case for this distinctiveness by considering the concepts
of region, place, and landscape, the three primary spatial components of culture
that lie at the core of the cultural geography approach.
The book is arranged logically and effectively to accomplish the goal of por-
traying Mexican South Texas as a unique "Mexican American cultural province."
Chapter One outlines the cultural geography approach. Chapter Two provides
overviews of the physical setting of South Texas and the different treatments of
South Texas as a region by scholars through time. Chapter Three examines the
history of colonization and pre-1900 settlement, and discusses how, unlike other
regions of the Hispanic Borderland, Mexican South Texas was settled overwhelm-
ingly by colonists from nearby localities of present-day northeastern Mexico.
Chapter Four explores twentieth-century migration and demographic patterns
that solidified the character of Tejano South Texas, including the influx of Ang-
los to many parts of the region.
Perhaps Arreola's most compelling account of regional distinction appears in
Chapter Five, a detailed overview of landscape features that typify the region, in-
cluding ranchos, or individual agricultural/livestock compounds, plazas as social
gathering spaces in South Texas towns and cities, and barrios and colonias, the
two primary neighborhood types of the region. Arreola includes descriptive case
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed March 7, 2014.