The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 49, July 1945 - April, 1946

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Man and Resources in the Middle Rio Grande Valley. By Allan
G. Harper, Andrew R. Cordova, and Kalervo Oberg. Albu-
querque (The University of New Mexico Press), 1943. Pp.
viii+156. Bibliographical note, index, and illustrations.
$2.25.
The Middle Rio Grande Valley extends from the Elephant
Butte Reservoir to the Colorado-New Mexico state line. It is
the oldest continuously farmed area in the United States. The
authors analyze the origins and trace the development of present-
day social, economic, and physical resource problems of the area.
With our country engaged in an effective inter-American program
this book has wide significance. Its publication is sponsored by
the School of Inter-American Affairs of the University of New
Mexico. It is the second of a series of studies edited by J. Ortega.
As it leaves its watershed in Colorado, the water of the Rio
Grande is clear. When the river reaches the southern end of
the Middle Valley, it carries in flood stage ten times as much
silt as an equal volume of flood water of the Mississippi. The
dramatic proportions of the silt load are the end result of deep-
seated disturbances in the valley's watershed, and, in turn, a
leading cause of the acutely difficult economic and resource prob-
lems with which man is confronted in the valley. The region
under consideration is an area of almost thirteen million acres
containing a population of 189,000, essentially rural, predom-
inantly organized in small towns and villages, and distinctly
tri-cultural: Indian, Spanish-American, and Anglo-American.
The Spanish settlers developed a highly self-sufficient agri-
cultural society. The change from the rule of Spain to that of
Mexico effected little transformation in their way of life, and,
except for localized over-grazing, no serious deterioration in
the valley's resources took place. When the Americans came in,
they came with the determination to exploit the new territory;
and a sharp decline in the valley's resources dates from the
arrival of the "Anglos." Timber cutting, dry-farming, and irriga-
tion farming on the upper reaches have brought soil erosion
and floods - prodigal waste of land and water - along with
their marching companions: gutted valleys, yawning gullies and
arroyos, abandoned farms, and vanishing wildlife. Between
1846 and 1942, the development of social and economic conditions
brought about a vastly changed population and a wholly dif-
ferent economy. In 1846 almost the entire population was

186

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 49, July 1945 - April, 1946. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146056/. Accessed July 13, 2014.