Crossing the Rio Grande
An Immigrant's Life in the 1880s
Mexican American Studies
5.5 x 8.5, 120 pp.
7 b&w photos. Map. Index.
Pub Date: 09/01/2012
Gulf Coast Books, sponsored by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  paper
Price:        $15.95

978-1-60344-808-6
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Crossing the Rio Grande

An Immigrant's Life in the 1880s

By Luis G. Gómez
Translated by Guadalupe Valdez Jr.

Although they are among the most important sources of the history of the American Southwest, the lives of ordinary immigrants from Mexico have rarely been recorded. Educated and hardworking, Luis G. Gómez came to Texas from Mexico as a young man in the mid-1880s. He made his way around much of South Texas, finding work on the railroad and in other businesses, observing the people and ways of the region and committing them to memory for later transcription.
 
Few of the 150,000 immigrants in the last half of the nineteenth century left written records of their experiences, but Gómez wrote his memoir and had it privately published in Spanish in 1935. Crossing the Rio Grande presents an English edition of that memoir, translated by the author’s grandson, Guadalupe Valdez Jr., with assistance from Javier Villarreal, a professor of Spanish at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. An introduction by Thomas H. Kreneck explains the book’s value to scholarship and describes what has been learned of the publication history of the original Spanish-language volume.
 
“Gómez says explicitly in the prologue to his memoirs that the purpose of recording the events of his life is to entertain; however, his memoirs accomplish much more than this as they fill a void in the history of the American Southwest of the late nineteenth century.”—Journal of the American Studies Association for Texas

LUIS GÓMEZ migrated to South Texas in the mid-1880s. He wrote his memoir and privately published it in Spanish in 1935. GUADALUPE VALDEZ JR., who translated the Spanish original, is the grandson of Luis Gómez. THOMAS H. KRENECK is the associate director for special collections and archives at the Mary and Jeff Bell Library and the Joe B. Frantz Lecturer in Public History at Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi. He is also the author of Del Pueblo: A History of Houston’s Hispanic Community and Mexican American Odyssey: Felix Tijerina, Entrepreneur and Civic Leader, 1905—1965, published by Texas A&M University Press.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Luis G. Gómez says explicitly in the prologue to his memoirs that the purpose of recording the events of his life is to entertain; however, his memoirs accomplish much more than this as they fill a void in the history of the American Southwest of the late nineteenth century. Mexican immigrants formed an important part of the Southwest at that time, although few recorded accounts of the lives of immigrants from this era remain.”--Journal of the American Studies Association for Texas

“In 1884 a young man crossed from Matamoros to Brownsville fleeing conflict in Mexico and seeking his fortune in Texas. As a scenario this has no particularly unusual traits. In fact, it’s almost commonplace. What makes the tale engaging in this case is the voice telling it. A distinct personality resonates throughout this delightful book and pulls the read back in time to contemplate many of the same elements that make up the contemporary immigration debate.” --Southwestern Historical Quarterly

" . . . a vital contribution to the growing literature on Mexicans and Mexican Americans. . . . unique because few documents by Mexicans of this period have been found or published."--Journal of Southern History

“…brings an important historical perspective to the current debate swirling over immigration, and in it we hear a voice not often detected: that of an ordinary man, never well known outside his community, who accomplished something beyond the mean in his remarkable life.” --Pleiades

“…this book is a charming diary of a Mexican immigrant who migrated into the southeast Texas in 1884 at age nineteen and carved out careers in the vicinity of Houston and Galveston.” --New Mexico Historical Review

“The memoirs are outstanding for their literary, ethnographic, sociological, and historical quality. They reveal the thought processes and writing style of a person whose background and upbringing was lower class but whose education and occupation permitted him to observe things around him through a middle-class lens.” --Arnoldo De León, Professor

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