The Book

eNorth or South? American or Mexican? English or Spanish? Walls above or tunnels below? Friend or foe? Peace or war? These are just a few of the border tensions for which answers are more often ‘both’ than ‘either/or.’ Solitude, Struggle and Violence is a volume at once deeply personal and experiential, as well as scholarly and meticulously researched. Returning to his hometown in Arizona’s Cochise County, John Thomas sheds light on restive borderlands that reverberate well beyond the Río Grande. Saddle up then; get dusty and feel the heat: read on. You are in for a great ride, and can’t do better than using this native son’s book as your guide.

Andrés Martin, Riva Ariella Ritvo Professor, Yale School of Medicine

Well, actually books. This project will culminate in two volumes.

Cover FrontOne Hundred Years of Solitude, Struggle, and Violence along the US/Mexico Border: An Oral History (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017) is currently being typeset and will issue in October 2017. Bordering Madness: Social and Cultural Transformation of the Communities Living along the US/Mexico Border (Edwin Mellon Press, 2018) will arrive in a real or virtual bookstore near you next year.

Both books will feature oral histories, mainly of members of the ranching families who have lived in the Mexican State of Sonora and the corresponding territory in the US that stretches from Tijuana on the California border to Agua Prieta on the Arizona border. The elders in those families recall the tales that their grandparents told, providing a century of perspectives on the revolution in economics, culture, and drug trade that the area has witnessed.

I grew up on the Arizona/Mexico border. In 1927 my Grandmother, Sarah Grace Bakarich, filed the last homestead claim in the Cochise County, the south-central Arizona County that borders Sonora. I was born in 1955; we obtained electricity on the ranch in 1964, when I was nine years old.

During my childhood, there was no border such as we would recognize today. We crossed from Douglas, Arizona, to Agua Prieta, Sonora with little thought and certainly no paperwork. Everyone spoke both languages; we were distinguishable primarily by our preferred language. My family bought building supplies, durable foods, liquor, and, often, medicines in Mexico where prices were cheaper and good restaurants plentiful.

In an attempt to illuminate the Devil’s Highway, this book’s narrative inhabits a multicultural/multilingual canvas that spans an international border and alights in prairies, bluffs, fields, homes, back allies, and alongside the border fence. In the glaring desert sun, on comfy back porches, and under the cover of darkness, we’ll sit at the feet of ranchers, miners, drug smugglers, struggling families, conceptual artists, cowboys, cooks, and anyone along the way who will share with us their stories. Using the voices of older members of the borderlands communities as a prism, we’ll endeavor to peer through the mists of time and cultural transformation to gain an understanding of a century of life and death along the US/Mexico border.

Saddle up.

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