The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000 Page: 126
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126 Southwestern Historical Quarterly July
Certainly ranchers have made ecological mistakes, but they have also been
forced to contend with unrealistic federal policy. Those who seek to compare
Texas and federal approaches to the leasing and transfer of land will find this
superbly researched work useful.
Southwest Texas State University J. A. WILSON
Gente Decente: A Borderlands Response to the Rhetoric of Dominance. By Leticia M.
Garza-Falc6n. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998. Pp. xxii+3o3.
Illustrations, preface, acknowledgments, introduction, epilogue, appen-
dices, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-292-72807-7. $18.95, paper.)
While scholars long ago advanced the position that the likes of Walter Prescott
Webb wrote for the good of the dominant society at the expense of voiceless
minorities, no one made the argument so thoroughly as Leticia Garza-Falc6n
has now done. Webb's classic study The Great Plains (1931) exemplifies the eth-
nocentrism of a past age, and it is for that reason that Garza-Falc6n singles him
out. Webb's book featured mainly Anglos as actors (and heroes)-, rationalized
the racial posture taken by Anglo society during the 193os, and glamorized the
"shoot-'em-up" version of Western history that turned ethnic and racial minori-
ties into villains and barriers to civilization.
Garza-Falc6n is particularly interested in dispelling Webb's portrayal of Texas
Mexicans, and argues that studying literary sources can produce a more realistic
image of Tejano society. Many of the works she relies upon were either concep-
tualized or published during the same time that Webb's reputation and works
reached their height of popularity. None of the Mexican American works of fic-
tion she uses directly contested Webb, but since they offer a more multi-dimen-
sional interpretation of Mexican culture and society, they serve well in revising
the stock personalities Webb passed on to the reading public.
Two Mexican American authors and their publications are singularly impor-
tant in Garza-Falc6n's dogged critique of Webb's history. The first writer, Jovita
Gonzilez, produced-among several other works on folklore-two novels, one
titled Caballero: A Historical Novel (1996) and the other, Dew on the Thorn (1997).
Both are sans the stereotype that Webb presented of Mexicans in The Great Plains,
instead their plots portray a community of different classes, backgrounds and
upbringing, as well as varying rates of accommodation and economic success.
People in these novels struggle with oppression and life's own vicissitudes; they
are not fatalists or nonentities as Webb portrayed Mexicans. The other author is
famed University of Texas folklorist Americo Paredes, whose career as a writer of
fiction began in the early 1930s. Although having a wide choice of Paredes's
works at her disposal, Garza-Falc6n opts for George Washington G6mez: A
Mexicotexan Novel (completed in 1940; but not published until 199o), for the
manuscript was written during the same decade as The Great Plains. Few of
Paredes's characters match Webb's caricatures; to the contrary, Mexican
Americans in the story line struggle with Anglo racism, land theft, shyster lawyers,
racist Texas Rangers, greedy farmers, and even Mexican American predators.
On first impression, it appears as if Garza-Falc6n's goal is to expose Webb as
an apologist for Anglo imperialism. But her task is actually to cast light on a
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000, periodical, 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/m1/152/?rotate=270: accessed April 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.