Heritage, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 1990 Page: 26
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Heartland New Mexico
By Nancy Wood.
Photographs from the Farm Security Administration,
1935-1943. University of New Mexico Press,
Reviewed by Alex Apostolides
Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal and the
social programs it fostered marked a high
point in the arts and anthropology never
matched before or since. One of the highest
points was reached by the photographers
of the Farm Security Administration
(FSA), who fanned out across the land to
capture the faces and places of our land on
The roll call is a long one-Dorothea
Lange and Walker Evans; Ben Shahn,
whose paintings were another landmark in
the culture of North America; Carl Mydans,
who later became one of the world's great
combat photographers. They, along with
Russell Lee, John Collier, Jr., and others
spread across New Mexico, ongof the leastknown
of our states and one of the most
magic-laden-then and now.
They caught the faces of Dust Bowl
refugees from Texas and the Plains, people
fleeing from a land whose richness they
destroyed by overuse to lands a bit farther
west, where they could take up shattered
lives and make them hopefully new.
The new land to which the refugees fled
had been occupied for 300 years by Spanish
settlers who, in their turn, had displaced
and overturned the rhythms of people whose
ancestors had occupied the land since time's
Those ancient people do not appear in
the pages of this book, reflecting the official
views of Washington, which does not
now and never has recognized the Indians,
the Native Americans, as Americans, at
all. If you don't look on them as people, it
makes it easier to rob them of their land.
Sadly, the Anglos came with this same
view toward the onetime Spanish settlers,
and the stories of land-grab and robbery of
land grants is as sad today as it was then.
And yet, with this heavy burden of
history pressing on the landscape, with the
grief, the worry, and the poverty that characterized
New Mexico then as now, the
photographers of the FSA brought back a
literal treasure trove of pictures of human
beings in crisis who, through hard work and
true grit, made a home for themselves in a
land as harsh as it is beautiful.
These are not pretty pictures; they are
starkly beautiful, and they tell a tale of that
time and place that stays with you long
after you have closed the book. You meet
and come to know the families of Pie
Town-the Huttons and their friends and
neighbors, and whiskered old Edd Jones,
who made pies at Harmon Craig's cafe for
more than twenty years. You meet a people
who worked together night and day to
make their new home a place in which a
man could live by the sweat of his brow,
dependent on a far-off government for no
more than necessary.
We jump to places like Las Trampas,
Chamisal, and Pefiasco, where the old traditions
brought up from Mexico and Spain
held true for generations and where a people,
beset by isolation and long winters, held
together their ancient culture to this day.
All of this has been masterfully edited
and pulled together with the singing prose
of Nancy Wood, whose talents, ranging
from novels and poems to photography, are
never better displayed than in this book.
It's a treasure of word and image you will
read from cover to cover and take up time
and time again.
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THE EARLY WEST
Box 9292, Ph. 409-775-6047 AL WEST
College Station, TX 77842 I v
26 HERITAGE * WINTER 1990
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 1990, periodical, Winter 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45426/m1/26/: accessed May 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.