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Ranging from the founding of New Mexico in 1598 to the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, Crucible of Struggle: A History of Mexican Americans from Colonial Times to the Present Era vividly outlines and explores the totality of the 500-year Mexican American experience that is woven into the greater context of American history. It maps out current debates in Mexican American history while also incorporating new scholarship from the last thirty years. Taking a regional approach that carefully avoids sweeping generalizations about Mexican Americans' experiences--and including and acknowledging the presence and contributions of women--the book covers such diverse topics as gender, Mexican/Native American interactions, and Mexican migration. The book begins with a discussion of the formative stages of Mexican life and society in the Southwest, including Spanish colonialism and the themes of settlement, Indian and colonial intercultural trade, and Indian resistance; the rise of capitalist agriculture in the 1870s and 1880s; agrarian protest and populism; race relations; and the effect of late-nineteenth-century railroad building on the economics of northern Mexico and on the U.S. and Mexican migration. It goes on to cover a variety of topics, for example, the first wave of Mexican immigration to the U.S., from the 1910 Mexican Revolution to the early Great Depression, reflecting on the challenges that Mexicans faced in the initial years and their adaptation to their new homeland. The text also details such key topics as repatriation; the surge of union activism among mine, cannery, and agricultural workers in the 1930s; the appeal of communism and the struggle against fascism; the domestic and overseas warfront experiences of Mexican Americans during World War II; the postwar struggles for economic and social justice; 1960s and 1970s Chicano movement radicalism, including the self-emancipation of Mexican American women; the 1980s multicultural wars spawned by America's rightward turn, and the ongoing process of globalization and its increasing inequalities as embodied in the North American Free Trade Agreement. The final chapter is an epilogue that considers the post-9/11 anti-immigrant fervor and the implications of the dramatic growth of the Latino population in the early twenty-first century. Because of its scope of coverage, insight, and readability, Crucible of Struggle: A History of Mexican Americans from Colonial Times to the Present Era is a very valuable asset in college and university undergraduate courses on the history of Mexican Americans.
Zaragosa Vargas is William R. Kenan Distinguished Professor of Latino Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He received his Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan and is the author of Proletarians of the North: A History of Mexicans in Industrial Detroit and the Midwest (1998) and Labor Rights Are Civil Rights: Mexican American Workers in Twentieth-Century America (2007). His articles and essays have appeared in several academic journals, including Labor History, American Quarterly, Science & Society, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He is currently writing a history of the early Mexican American civil rights movement.