The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986 Page: 97
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turies. To the Spaniards, he tells us, the Southwest (which he defines as
encompassing the modern states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colo-
rado, and California) was a land of golden promise (the chroniclers
labeled it "Aztln," as the native informants called it) and the mestizo
settlers who claimed it for the Crown during the colonial period came
to consider it as their homeland. Following the Mexican War of 1846-
1848, however, Mexican natives of the region began seeing it as a lost
territory, or put another way, as an outpost of Mexico overrun by the
United States military. The Mexican Revolution of 191o produced a
change of feelings among these long-time inhabitants, for as millions of
Mexicans crossed into the United States proudly asserting their pre-
Columbian heritage, the United States Mexicans denied their Indian
past and proclaimed themselves as Spanish Americans with roots in the
pre-1848 "Spanish days." While the latter group accepted the idea that
they had become aliens in their own land, the offspring of the new im-
migrants growing up in the 193os and 1940s portrayed themselves as
"Mexican Americans" who had entered a foreign land, just as had mil-
lions of other folk from around the world. This idea continued until
the 196os, when Chicanos rediscovered that "Aztlin" was their home.
The presentation in The Lost Land is not without weaknesses. The
subjects do not speak for themselves often enough. While it is true that
diaries, letters, and the like are hard to come by, sources do exist. This
fact is proven by the documentation Richard A. Garcia cites in "The
Making of the Mexican American Mind, San Antonio, Texas, 1929-
1941" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Irvine, 1980), a
work that asks similar questions within a narrower scope. Chavez, ap-
parently, did not find such materials, and so has to make many assump-
tions about his subjects' feelings. This he does by a technique that fol-
lows three steps: first, relying on secondary works to provide a broad
survey of a historical era; second, using whatever primary documents
are available to gauge how Mexican Americans responded to events in
that period; and third, deriving conclusions from those reactions to ex-
plain how Chicanos viewed themselves and their homeland during the
epoch under scrutiny. This approach, unfortunately, retraces old
ground-historians already know about half of what Chavez covers.
Since his documentation of Chicano attitudes is overwhelmed by the
amount of space given to events occurring outside the Mexican com-
munity, his argument about Chicano perceptions of themselves and
their native land at times seems forced and contrived.
Nonetheless, Chavez has dealt with his topic in a way that is stimulat-
ing, provocative, and even controversial. Historians will certainly assess
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 89, July 1985 - April, 1986, periodical, 1985/1986; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117151/m1/123/: accessed October 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.