The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998

Book Reviews

One can quarrel with some of the author's interpretations, but the documen-
tary evidence is clearly laid out.
Texas A&M International University Jose ROBERTOJUAREZ
Speaking for Themselves: Neomexicano Cultural Identity and the Spanish-Language Press,
1880-192o. By Doris Meyer. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press, 1996. Pp. xiii+279. Editor's note, preface, introduction, illustrations,
notes, bibliography, index. ISBN o-82631-749-9. $29.95, paper.)
The United States has a literature and history that is unknown to most
American scholars as well as the general public-the hundreds of Spanish-lan-
guage periodicals and books published in the United States before our contem-
porary era. The first printed historical account describing an area of what would
become the United States was Cabeza de Vaca's Relaci6n (1542), and the first
piece of published literature was Gaspar Villagrd's epic poem entitled La Historia
de Nuevo Mexico (161o). Doris Meyer is part of a small group of scholars who
have been trying to recover the Hispanic literary and historical heritage of the
United States by finding, translating, and interpreting a huge body of writings
that have been ignored or devalued. This book is a study of the Spanish-lan-
guage press in New Mexico during the territorial period, with a focus on how
the Hispanic New Mexicans (called Neomexicanos by Meyer) shaped their cul-
tural identity by using language.
Meyer's study of the primary documents, scores of Hispano newspapers, is
exhaustive. She interprets as well as explains the main themes that have been
developed in this press: the resistance against the growing Anglo-English hege-
mony in New Mexico; the expressions of love of homeland and family; the devel-
opment of historical consciousness; the affirmation of ethnic unity and cultural
loyalty. Using contemporary literary and sociological theory, Meyer approaches
the documents with a postmodern sensibility, tending to see the poetry and edi-
torials as inscribing a collective identity of multiple layers.
A great deal of detective work went into writing this book. Meyer tracks down
the identities of many obscure and long-forgotten writers and newspaper pub-
lishers. "X.X.X." was, in reality, Lus Tafoya, and Meyer meticulously has assem-
bled representative samples of his work, poetry and prose, that appealed to
Neomexicanos' loyalty to their homeland. Other writers have been rescued from
oblivion, such as Felipe Maximiliano Chacon, a prolific poet, and Jose Escobar,
"Zig Zag," a poet and essayist who developed a cultural nationalist perspective.
Of particular value is the chapter analyzing the Spanish-language press's edito-
rial views of women. Here Meyer finds multiple images and mixed messages.
The press reinforced the traditional male patriarchy by emphasizing subordina-
tion as an ideal. The newspaper reported incidents of divorce, abandonment,
murder, rape, and abuse affecting women even while idealizing women as moth-
ers and virginal objects of love. There was not a single newspaper edited by a
women during this period (unlike in Mexico).

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/. Accessed July 12, 2014.