166 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Release Date:01 Jan 2016
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A Frontier Documentary

Sonora and Tucson, 1821–1848

Edited by Kieran McCarty
The University of Arizona Press
When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, citizens and missionaries in the northwestern reaches of the new nation were without the protection of Spanish military forces for the first time. Beset by hostile Apaches and the uncertainties of life in a desert wilderness, these early Mexican families forged a way of life that continues into the present day. This era in the history of southern Arizona and northern Sonora is now recalled in a series of historical documents that offer eyewitness accounts of daily life in the missions and towns of the region.

These documents give a sense of immediacy to the military operations, Indian activities, and missionary work going on in Tucson and the surrounding areas. They also demonstrate that Hispanic families maintained continuity in military and political control on the frontier, and clearly show that the frontier was not beset by anarchy in spite of the change in national government. In the forty chapters of translated documents in this collection, the voices of those who lived in what is now the Arizona-Sonora border region provide firsthand accounts of the people and events that shaped their era. These documents record such events as the arrival of the first Americans, the reconstruction of Tucson’s presidio wall, and conflict between Tohono O’odham villagers and Mexicans. All are set against the backdrop of an unrelenting Apache offensive that heightened after the departure of the Spanish military but that was held in check by civilian militias. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction in which historian Kieran McCarty provides background on the documents’ context and authorship. Taken together, they offer a fascinating look at this little-known period and provide a unique panorama of southwestern history.
Forty primary documents that give the era of Mexican rule in Arizona a vitality and humanity rarely found in historical writing. . . . From the first instance, in which we witness a complaint about a rigged footrace, to the last entry, detailing the pathetic appeals of the widows of mine soldiers killed by Apaches, we are given extraordinary insight into a society dominated by violence and uncertainty.”—Journal of Arizona History

“The selections, the scholarship, and the translations are first class. This book, although thin, is like gold—a weighty contribution to regional history.”—New Mexico Historical Review

“The documents are vivid snapshots linked together by Kieran’s succinct introductions and annotation. What’s more, they are wonderfully readable, Kieran is a superb translator who makes them come alive.”—SMRC Newsletter

“This slim volume is a gem. In clear chronology, each chapter presents a telling document, superbly translated, with context established by the editor’s tersely informative introduction and annotation.”—Journal of the Texas Catholic Historical Society

 “A weighty contribution to regional history.”—New Mexico Historical Review

“Valuable to scholars and general readers alike.”—Journal of Arizona History
“In this worthy companion to his landmark 1976 Desert Documentary, Kieran McCarty has assembled a veritable treasure trove of documents from Sonoran archives that illuminate the very heart and soul of Mexican Tucson. Whether commenting on athletic contests, water allocation, the reconstruction of the presidio wall, the condition of Mission San Xavier del Bac, or the first trickle of newcomers, the progenitors of some of today’s venerable families remind us of the strong links between past and present, while reports of Indian campaigns and political uncertainty highlight the dangers and hardships of pioneer life. Borderlands scholars and general readers alike will relish this entertaining and enlightening self-portrait of frontier Tucson under Mexican rule.”—Bruce J. Dinges, Arizona Historical Society
Kieran McCarty is an archivist and historian at the University of Arizona Mexican American Studies and Research Center. He also compiled the volume Desert Documentary: The Spanish Years, 17671821, to which A Frontier Documentary is a sequel.
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