The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994

Book Reviews

to the educational inequities in the region eventually led him to start his own
short-lived school in Brownsville. The difficulties of this venture are told in "Edu-
cating Juan" and "Devil Student," two of his more graphic accounts. Most of his
stories attempt to work an overall theme: the condition and quality of being
poor in South Texas. Maril sought to document this in another volume, Poorest of
Americans (University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), but his focus here on individ-
uals who daily experience the social and economic inequality of Valley life could
have been a useful method of examining a culture. Maril tells some entertaining
stories about '"The Enchilada Gang," encounters with his neighbor's dogs, and
his Valley students. But this was not the purpose of his book.
This attempt at a loosely defined ethnography does not provide a social sci-
ence analysis of Mexican American culture. Maril was just too close to the expe-
rience as participant/observer. His frame of reference is filled with flagrant bias,
and many of the problems he discusses may be the result of "sour grapes" experi-
ences during his stay in the Valley. It reminds one of William Madsen, another
social scientist who was caught up in his own time and space system. The book
should be read accordingly.
The University of Texas-Pan American ROBERTO MARIO SALMON
They Made Their Own Law: Stories of Bolivar Peninsula. By Melanie Wiggins. (Hous-
ton: Rice University Press, 1990. Pp. xvi+284. Foreword, preface, black-and-
white photographs, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $24.00, cloth;
$12.95, paper.)
This book is an example of local history at its best. The author has combined
solid historical research about the Bolivar Peninsula from the prehistoric inhabi-
tants to the 1980s with a separate section of fascinating interviews with those
who remember events in the early twentieth century.
Bolivar is peculiarly isolated. Its western tip is in Galveston County, while most
of the peninsula is in Chambers County. Bolivar, however, was a great distance
from the seat of Chambers County, at Wallisville until 1908 and then at
Anahuac, which left law enforcement to the locals; hence the title of this book.
When the Gulf and Interstate Railroad reached Point Bolivar from Beaumont in
1896, the residents were more conveniently connected with Jefferson County
than with their own county seat.
Ranches, truck gardens, and orchards provided income for residents; hunters,
fishermen, and beachgoers enjoyed the rambling beach hotels along the railway.
When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began building the north jetty in the
189os to protect and deepen the entrance to Galveston Bay, locals hoped for im-
provements for a port on the peninsula. Finally, in 1907, Congress authorized a
twenty-five-foot-deep channel from Bolivar Roads to the proposed wharf on the
peninsula. Port Bolivar had a boat and barge shipyard, which in 1908 was build-
ing a ferry to carry railroad cars from the peninsula to Galveston Island. The
long dock erected by the Santa Fe Railroad, which had bought out the G&I, re-
ceived its first large vessel in 1908, and townspeople believed that Port Bolivar

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/. Accessed July 24, 2014.