The Book

John ThomasWell, actually books. This project will culminate in two volumes, Solitude, Struggle, and Violence: A One Hundred Year Oral History of the Communities on Both Sides of the US/Mexico Border (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017) and Borderland Lives: Social and Cultural Transformation of the Communities Living along the US/Mexico Border (Edwin Mellon Press, 2018).

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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