The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 470
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
premature death in 1958 at a relatively young age deprived him of the full
public recognition that he rightfully deserves. Had he lived into the more tol-
erant 1970s or 198os, he most likely would have been recognized as an elder
statesman who was a harbinger in Texas of the civil rights era. Instead, after his
death, credit for what he did sometimes went to others or, in most cases, to no
one at all. Even the eventual dual naming of the Perry-Castafieda Library at
the University of Texas, a distinction shared with the first African American
faculty member to work on the Forty Acres, fails to accord him proper credit
for his trailblazing career and distinguished scholarship.
Hopefully, Professor Felix D. Almariz Jr.'s monumental biography will bring
proper recognition to this under-appreciated historical pioneer. Castafieda's
rich life would give any able biographer much to work with in telling a com-
pelling story. Professor Almariz takes full advantage of this vibrancy in crafting
this notable book. Born in Mexico across the border from Brownsville in 1896,
Castafieda spent his youth living on the Texas side of the river in the bi-national,
Spanish-speaking culture of the lower Rio Grande Valley. His intellect and hard
work marked him for distinction at an early age. He eventually matriculated at
the University of Texas, where he exchanged room and board for janitorial
duties at nearby St. Austin's Catholic Church. Ardently religious, Castafieda
quickly made the Newman Club his campus home as he developed a passion for
the church and its work that would never waver for the rest of his life. He
received a B.A. in 1921 and stayed on campus to pursue graduate studies, earn-
ing an M.A. in 1923 and-eventually--a Ph.D. in history in 1932.
It was during the 192os that he embarked on his noteworthy career as a librar-
ian at the University of Texas after a sojourn on the faculty of William and Mary.
As a native speaker of Spanish, Castafieda became the curator of the Garcfa
Collection, the foundation of the modern Latin American Collection. He also
started publishing a wide array of historical articles and edited documents deal-
ing with Spanish Texas. By the 193os, he had become one of the most prolific
scholars living in Austin and embarked on his most important publication, Our
Catholic Hertage. The seven volumes of this project, published between 1936 and
1958, remain classics in the historical literature of the Southwest.
Professor Almariz's superb biography places Castafieda squarely within the
context of his times. Almariz devoted years of hard effort to researching
Castafieda's life. Not only did he currycomb numerous archival collections and
libraries; he conducted dozens of interviews with family members, colleagues, stu-
dents, and others whose lives Castafieda touched. Some of these interviews took
place as early as the 1970s when contemporaries still had relatively fresh memo-
ries. The result is this book, which exists as a remarkably nimble, fast-moving nar-
rative and rigorously full portrait of Carlos E. Castafieda that presents him both
as a very human person and as a groundbreaking scholar. Any person who reads
this book will quickly realize the tremendous debt that the historical profession in
Texas owes to Carlos E. Castafieda and the credit that Felix D. Almariz has done
in bringing this story to the reading public in such a pleasing biography.
LIGHT TOWNSEND CUMMINS
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/538/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.