Book Review:  Forging the Tortilla Curtain: Cultural Drift and Change Along the United States-Mexico Border from the Spanish Era to the Present, by Thomas Torrans

 

Reviewed by Bruce Rhodes

 

February 27, 2003

 

Reasonably Good Treatment of an Interesting Subject

 

There is no question that author Thomas Torrans is an intelligent writer very well-versed in his subject matter. I enjoyed and learned a lot from numerous parts of the book, especially the role of Spain in the early colonial days of Mexico, and the 'filibustering' invasions by various American groups, into northern Mexico. The reader stands to gain a good understanding of the ways in which Spain and the US pursued their own interests in Mexico, often with little or no regard for the Mexican people.

Torrans provides a very vivid picture of life and circumstances, both in the past and currently, of west Texas, the Big Bend, and the border towns that sit astride the Rio Grande. I credit Torrans for educating me on the origins of the ultimately huge and influential cattle industry in Texas, and the interplay between cowboys, cattle rustlers, and native Americans.

I also found Torrans' treatment of the role of the Colorado River as an economic, social and political entity, to be enlightening.

From content to style: the flow of the book was sound until the second last chapter, "Politics and profits of the 'War on Drugs'"; this topic, while an interesting one, and one handled quite knowledgeably by the author, seemed to have only tangential connections to the main theme of the book.

I found the author's writing style at times awkward and, thus, hard to follow. I was not accustomed to his sentence structures; if I were to edit the book, I would insert literally hundreds of additional commas, to make sentences (I would respectfully suggest) more readable and understandable. Notwithstanding these comments, I am glad that I bought and read the book and, for persons interested in Mexican-American relations and history, I recommend the book favorably, although perhaps not exuberantly...