Fugitive Landscapes


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The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

Samuel Truett

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Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Mexicans and Americans joined together to transform the U.S.–Mexico borderlands into a crossroads of modern economic development. This book reveals the forgotten story of their ambitious dreams and their ultimate failure to control this fugitive terrain.
Focusing on a mining region that spilled across the Arizona–Sonora border, this book shows how entrepreneurs, corporations, and statesmen tried to domesticate nature and society within a transnational context. Efforts to tame a “wild” frontier were stymied by labor struggles, social conflict, and revolution. Fugitive Landscapes explores the making and unmaking of the U.S.–Mexico border, telling how ordinary people resisted the domination of empires, nations, and corporations to shape transnational history on their own terms.  By moving beyond traditional national narratives, it offers new lessons for our own border-crossing age.

Samuel Truett is associate professor, Department of History, University of New Mexico.

"Truett has written one of the most compelling borderlands narratives to date. His beautifully written and efficiently organized history details the well-developed lines of economic, industrial, and personal connection that; have long linked the U.S. to its southern neighbor. . . . This book is a fine contribution to the fields of western, environmental, and Chicano/a history as well as the national histories of the U.S. and Mexico. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Truett's book . . . reinforces what fiction by Carlos Fuentes and John Nichols and movies such as John Sayles's Lone Star have said: the regions around borders defy the categorization governments wish to put on them. It's a paradox: the divide both connects and separates."—Oscar Villalon, Virginia Quarterly Review

"Samuel Truett not only recovers the hidden history of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands and their often-shadowy residents but also reinterprets familiar events in a new light. He makes an original and major contribution to borderlands history."—Benjamin Johnson, Southern Methodist University

“Samuel Truett provides a concrete example of what transnational history looks like and what it can reveal.  Fugitive Landscapes puts into practice what many American historians urge, but rarely do themselves.”—Richard White, Stanford University

“When Mexico’s far northern frontera collided with the U.S. Western frontier in the mid nineteenth century, the resulting merged space is both shared and contested—culturally, socially, ideologically, politically.  In remapping this distinct borderland to highlight transnational relationships between ethnic groups (Yaquis, Apaches, Chinese, Mexicans and Americans), individuals (Sonoran strongman Rafael Izábal, American copper industrialist William C. Greene, immigrant statesman cum military commander Emilio Kosterlitzky are just three colorful figures from this binational history’s near-forgotten central casting), and state agencies, Truett demonstrates convincingly how Mexican and U.S. histories intersect and intermingle just as the space they share clash and merge.  This intriguing study also suggests how differently national histories would look and feel when re-centered and viewed from a transnational vantage point.” —Evelyn Hu-DeHart, Brown University

"[A] rich and engaging regional historical narrative. . . .  An important contribution to the borderland scholar's library, but it also has lessons for other geographers who till the borderlands of regional cultural geography. On one hand, Fugitive Landscapes may be one of the best pieces of research and writing about the historical geography of any part of the Mexican borderlands, and on the other, it is a vibrant example, a model in the truest sense, of inspired historical regional geographic scholarship."—Daniel Arreola, Journal of Cultural Geography 

"This is prophetic history at its best. Samuel Truett deftly brings us back to a moment at the end of the nineteenth century when the industrial reorganization of the borderlands was just a 'fragile dream'. In taking us on this journey to a remote part of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands, he reveals a hidden transnational history of industrial development that has been obscured by nation state-centered histories of the region. This portrait . . . serves as a grim warning to the neoliberal architects of NAFTA that market reforms and industrial development 'have rarely turned out as planned'."—Elliott Young, The Americas

"Truett's vignettes are pearls, making the work enjoyable reading."—Rodolfo F. Acuña, Journal of American History

"Truett's writing style is economical and uncomplicated, in a manner expected by historians and welcomed by anthropologists. . . . Truett's effort to move the border from the edge to the center of the historical narrative is a resounding success. It is recommended reading for any anthropologist working on transnational subjects, if only as inspiration to transcend the constraints imposed by political boundaries."—Jeremy Kulisheck, Journal of Anthropological Research

"A rich, vivid, and satisfying book. Scholars of northern Mexico, the American West, the borderlands, and, more broadly, of frontiers, international labor, and the Gilded Age will all find valuable insights in Truett's work. The book's attention to detail and to characters, its length, and the author's lucid, engaging style make Fugitive Landscapes an excellent choice for graduate and undergraduate classes alike."—Brian DeLay,  Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas

"In this richly textured history of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands, Samuel Truett deftly peels off layers of multiethnic, transnational history to reveal what he calls fugitive landscapes. . . . The author presents one of the most significant works on understanding the transnational process. . . . The study will serve as a model, offering new theoretical constructs without forcing the reader to navigate a tortuous treatise on the meaning of this important framework."—F. Arturo Rosales, American Historical Review

"In a book that is as well written as it is meticulously researched, historian Truett takes a revealing look at the late-18th and early 19th century Arizona-Sonora borderlands. . . . Truett's groundbreaking study redefines the way in which we view U.S.-Mexico relations."—Bruce Dinges, Southwest Books of the Year: Best Reading 2007

"This is a book that I admire: drawing on a deep well of research in U.S. and Mexican archives Truett tells a compelling story."—Don Mitchell, Western Historical Quarterly

"Fugitive Landscapes draws upon research from U.S. and Mexican archives and Truett's analysis is interesting and thorough, giving the reader a greater understanding of the transnational process. The book should find a prominent place among students of the borderlands."—Matthew D. Tippens, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Selected as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2007 by Choice Magazine

Samuel Truett has been selected as a "Top Young Historian" by HNN History News Network (April 2008)
ISBN: 9780300143317
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
272 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
27 b/w illus
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