Customer Reviews: Spain in the Southwest: A Narrative History of Colonial New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and California
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on September 1, 2008
While I appreciate the comment about being frustrated, how can one possibly look at colonial history without talking about conquest and domination and killing Indian people (Sadly, this is almost a definition of colonial history)?

The purpose of a colony, especially a mercantilist colony (which Spain, England, France, and Russia were, incidentally) is that the colony survives for the benefit of the mother country.
But, unlike the English and French regions, Spaniards had to have contracts from the king to settle or explore, as Kessell makes very clear, and had to abide by over 8,000 rules and regulations about the Indies. No other European colony had accountability like the Spanish. This book is far from Black Legend (I have some suggestions for that).

Colonial history is about conquest, domination (how else do you turn something into a colony?), control, exploitation (some worse than others), but they all had to follow the regulations set up in the Recopilacion de las leyes de las Indias==and even Onate was found guilty of using excessive force against the Acoma Pueblos, living immorally, executing two of his own colonists (and more--, even though he eventually got exonerated by King Philip IV).

While this book delves into COLONIAL history from a Spanish perspective, it is about as balanced as one can get. My only complaint is also a compliment--Kessell is an amazing storyteller (the way history should be), but sometimes the storytelling gets the reader off track and it's hard to come back to the flow of the chapter.

Good on ya, Kessell. Great book!
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on February 9, 2010
I first came across this book when I was doing research at my local library for a novel I am currently writing that is set prior to 1848, before the U.S. took possession. I found this book to be truly insightful, easy to understand, and captivating. The huge nuggets of information gave me a different perspective about what really happened in the southwest. I could easily draw parallels with imperial Spain to that of the U.S. because of the author's way of presenting information in a very candid and non-biased point of view. I grow weary of the same "Imperial White America" condemnations found in many history books that many people don't realize that conquest is not partial to white dominance, but rather to man's insatiable quest for power and domination over other cultures most vulnerable to their highly advanced weapons. Overall, this is a book I'm adding to my collection. Worth reading if you want a refreshing perspective from the type of history you learned in school.
JAX, Author, Freelance Writer, Entrepreneur
Author of Heart of the Jaguar
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on December 6, 2002
John Kessell has again provided an insightful and clear overview of Spanish presence in the Southwest. The careful reader will readily notice Kessell's talent for fleshing out the important events and shifting developments during this long period of time. And as always, it is remarkably well written. Contrary to the previous reviewer's comments, Kessell's book does not espouse any semblance of 'Spanish Black Legend.' Not even implicitly. He instead presents conflicts between Spaniards and Native peoples with diplomacy and dignity. One can easily recognize Kessell's deep appreciation for the history of this region. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the history of the Spanish Colonial Southwest.
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on December 13, 2012
It seems that people's reviews of the book reflect their own point of view. As someone with limited knowledge of this hstory, I appreciate that this book captures the flavor and complexity of those times. It's point of view "rings true" with other accounts of how Spanish society worked at that time. Another reviewer said that there were better books out there but didn't bother to mention any. Scholars and poli-sci majors may have criticisms of it, but I'm glad I bought it.
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on June 11, 2015
This is a meticulously researched and highly ambitious accounting of the first European colonization of what is now the US Southwest. Just the Abbreviations, Footnotes, Glossary, Works Cited, and Index go on for 83 pages! Thousands of people, places and events (over hundreds of years) are dutifully noted. And I enjoyed the ancient maps and illustrations of how people lived. This is an academic book.
However, I feel I was misled by the book's subtitle "A Narrative History." I was looking for stories, but all I got was 350 pages that skip from one people/place/event to another. Lots of trees, but I guess I was looking for more forest. Maybe I was expecting too much? I've loved Michener (fiction, I know) and Eckert (true historical narrator). A narrative history, to me, means getting to know the historical characters more on a personal level as you see them move through history. I guess there isn't space for thick description, when the goal is to cover so many years, places and names.
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on July 1, 2013
Loved this book because of the 500 or so years of history the Spanish had in "America," specifically the Southwest. In this class we focused on New Mexico. Awesome read, lots of history, too bad it's not taught generally in K-12. It should be mandatory reading to all college freshmen. Accompanied well with Chavez' New Mexico Past and Future.
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on December 9, 2013
Good for those whose families may have been the first to settle in the Southwest. Too much detail that was repetitious for the rest of us.
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on May 21, 2002
I must say I'm very disappointed. It's the same old Black Legend rhetoric that I've come to expect when I read a book about Southwestern history. I must admit I'm hardly finished but, I have gotten through to the fourth chapter in which he talks specifically about Oñate. I quote:
"By performing them (formal rites) properly, don Juan meant to maintain what he perceived as a right relationship with his universe--his god, worldly lords, subordinates, and environment--and, at the same time, awe non-Christians into embracing the Spanish way. As Colonizers, few Spaniards would ever recognize that the Pueblo Indians, through their equally elaborate and symbolic rites, sought a similar harmony. But invaders always want more. Whatever they called it, conquest or pacification, they willed to dominate."
His chapter on Coronado said nothing of the lands that were mapped for the first time or Coronado and his men paving the way for Lewis and Clark only to get the short end of the stick when it comes to glory. He focused on the negitative parts of Coronados journey.
I'm going to continue reading until I finish this book. I don't know, maybe the theme will change. I doubt it.
One very disgusted Spanish girl.
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on September 9, 2005
The author seems more concerned with cramming as many Spanish names as he can into this book than with telling a coherent, engaging story about the Spanish conquest and settlement of the American Southwest. Tangents galore! One moment this group is settling Santa Fe and the next moment some bozo is inciting a rebellion! Sure, you'll glean some interesting knowledge if you read the whole book, but you're better off looking elsewhere if you're looking for an interesting read. I finished the book just to get my money's worth, nothing more.
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