Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 2000 Page: 30
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O U I D E EI L
JOHN PETERSON, BOOK REVIEW EDITOR
By Elena Poniatowska and Richard Payne,
Anchorage Press, 1998
Reviewed by W. Andrew
York, a computer manager for
the State of Texas.
What is the essence of a
town? Is it the buildings,
the people, the history, or
is it something more?
haunting narrative snapshots
and Richard Payne's
tales of Guerrero Viejo
delve into this question.
In doing so, they record
the story of Guerrero
Viejo - a town overtaken, but not
eclipsed, by progress.
In the '50s, a U.S.-Mexican water control
project (Falcon Dam on the Rio
Grande) inundated the area of Guerrero
Viejo. Most inhabitants were relocated to
a new town, but in doing so they left behind
their family homesteads, a communal
history stretching back to the earliest
Spanish settlers, their ancestors' remains
in the cemetery and, in many cases, their
way of life. Poniatowska and Payne return
to the drought-exposed town to find what
Guerrero Viejo was and has become.
This is not a particularly long book, especially
considering that it is printed both
in English and Spanish. However, it is not
a book to be taken in one reading.Each vignette
should be savored, each photograph
pondered to find the essence of Guerrero
Viejo and to discover the resonance of that
town in ourselves, our towns, and our lives.
The lessons that can be drawn reach deep
into the concept of community and how
neighbors relate to one another.
Each poignant part of the book strikes
a cord, a cord that in some cases is repeated.
The reminisces of Dr. Flores returning to
his former house and stating "How could I
have imagined that a tree this size would
sprout up in my consulting
room?" is echoed in
the photograph of a tree
in the midst of a broken
building. The portraiture
of Dofia Julia Zamora
Villarreal is reflective of
her story and her determination
to continue living
in the remains of Guerrero
Viejo. She expresses this in
her desire, in the end, to be
"le(ft) on this land, next to
the river, put me in my coffin
and don't forget that I
want a black cross."
"Guerrero Viejo" is well worth seeking
out, if only for just one reading. For others,
this book will be one that will be kept
handy on a bookshelf, to reread in those
moments of reflection or to lose oneself in
another place and another time. The journey
to this town is something that one will
not soon forget, and it should be well remembered
as the reader travels through
their own town.
After the Dinosaurs: A
Tropical Paradise Recovered
at Lake Casa Blanca
By James W. Westgate, Texas Parks &
Wildlife Press, Austin, 1999
Reviewed by Roy B. Brown
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Press has
just published James Westgate's latest book,
"After the Dinosaurs..."; it will be of great
interest to anyone wishing to learn more
about the natural history of southeastern
Texas and the development of the state's
coast. It succinctly summarizes the results
of research undertaken since 1984 at Casa
Blanca State Park, just east of Laredo.
The Casa Blanca fossil site is important
because it is the only North American fossil
locality with coastal deposits that date
to 42 million years ago. Westgate used the
presence ofTurritella cortezi, a marine snail
previously known from the Cook Mountain
Formation on the Trinity River, to
establish the age of the site.
The Casas Blanca locality contains
macrofossils and pollen of a unique Nypharelated
mangrove as well as the partial remains
snakes, crabs, a
turtles, and even
rhino. The full
list includes 75
taxa of plants
and animals, 29
that are extinct.
the ecology of
the living relatives
of these plants and animals, Westgate
argues that the climate of the lower Rio
Grande was much wetter 42 million years
ago. He believes it was similar to Cancun,
Mexico, or Darwin, Australia: a tidal estuary
dominated by a mangrove swamp
that was inhabited by bony fishes, snakes,
reptiles, and invertebrates. The terrestrial
animals included a number of artiodactyls,
rodents, tarsier-like primates, opossums,
and the aforementioned horse and rhino.
HERITAGE * 30 * SUMMER 2000
Here’s what’s next.
Citing and Sharing
Reference the current page of this Periodical.
Texas Historical Foundation. Texas Heritage, Volume 18, Number 3, Summer 2000, periodical, Summer 2000; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45389/m1/30/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.