Lost Architecture of the Rio Grande Borderlands
Architecture - Borderlands Studies - Anthropology - Archaeology
7 x 10, 136 pp.
16 color photos., 34 b&w photos., 1 line art., 3 maps.
Pub Date: 06/24/2008
Fronteras Series, sponsored by Texas A&M International University
Price:        $35.00


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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2009 Clotilde P. Garcia Tejano Book Prize, presented by the Tejano Genealogy Society of Austin

Lost Architecture of the Rio Grande Borderlands

By W. Eugene George
Foreword by Ricardo Paz Treviño

Mexican settlers first came to the valley of the Rio Grande to establish their ranchos in the 1750s. Two centuries later the Great River, dammed in an international effort by the U.S. and Mexican governments to provide flood control and a more dependable water supply, inundated twelve settlements that had been built there. Under the waters of the new Falcón Reservoir lay homes, businesses, churches, and cemeteries abandoned by residents on both sides of the river when the floods of 1953 filled the 115,000-acre area two years ahead of schedule.

The Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the University of Texas at Austin conducted an initial survey of the communities lost to the Falcón Reservoir, but these studies were never completed or fully reported. When architect W. Eugene George came to the area in the 1960s, he found a way of life waiting to be preserved in words, photographs, and drawings.

Two subsequent recessions of the reservoir—in 1983–86 and again in 1996–98—gave George new access to one of the settlements, Guerrero Viejo in Mexico. Unfortunately, the receding lake waters also made the village accessible to looters. George’s work, then, was crucial in documenting the indigenous architecture of these villages, both as it existed prior to the flooding and as it remained before it was despoiled by vandals’ hands.

Lost Architecture of the Rio Grande Borderlands combines George’s original 1975 Texas Historical Commission report with the information he gleaned during the two low-water periods. This handsome, extended photographic essay casts new light on the architecture and lives of the people of the Texas-Mexico borderlands.

After a distinguished career in academe and historic preservation, W. EUGENE GEORGE became the inaugural Mary Ann Blocker Castleberry Endowed Professor of Architecture at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He lives in Austin and maintains an active architectural practice.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Gene George is an expert in his field, and a talented and passionate researcher, whose knowledge of the Rio Grande Borderlands is second to none. This new book will bring a previous technical report on the buildings inundated by the Falcon Reservoir to a wider audience, while still providing useful information on building technology and the influence of colonists on building style. The foreword by Ricardo Paz Trevino, a descendent of the original border families, places the analysis of the structures into a social context, addressing the impact of political decisions on human lives.”--David G. Woodcock, Director, Center for Heritage Conservation, Texas A&M University

". . . an important contribution to the anthropology of Hispanic America."

“Eugene George’s knowledge of architectural terminology, his eye for aspects which the untrained eye would not appreciate, his photographic skills, and the accompanying beautiful drawings will convince readers of the importance of historical preservation…The foreword by Ricardo Paz Treviño is very moving, almost poetic. . . . George’s praise for the settler’s ability to adjust to the environment by building energy efficient homes with sustainable materials in a dignified, simple style is seldom mentioned.” --José Roberto (Beto) Juárez

“The author was present to give a rare firsthand account on the flooding of Guerrero Viejo, and conducted the original survey of early Tejano rural buildings and ranches; therefore, his book amounts not only to a unique report on frontier architecture but an outright appeal for acknowledgement of the historic loss of architectural treasures.” --Andrés Tijerina, Austin Community College


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