Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Sancho's Journal: Exploring the Political Edge with the Brown Berets

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Sancho's Journal: Exploring the Political Edge with the Brown Berets

Article excerpt

Sancho's Journal: Exploring the Political Edge with the Brown Berets. By David Montejano. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012. Pp. [xii], 207. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-292-74384-7; cloth, $55.00, ISBN 978-0-29274239-0.) In 1974-1975, David Montejano conducted a participant-observer ethnography of a San Antonio, Texas, chapter of the Brown Berets. Joining the young activists as they met, partied, and provided security at protests and conferences, Montejano sought to answer two fundamental questions of historical inquiry: how do people acquire political consciousness, and how does that consciousness change their behavior? Montejano now revisits the journal he kept during that time to create not just a rich study of the Brown Berets but also an insightful meditation on how to capture human complexity without destroying it.

Expecting a singular moment of "conversion" in which each member was transformed from apolitical gangster into disciplined activist, Montejano instead found a more ambiguous reality that defied the ideal typologies of his social science background (p. 8). Public action and political protest existed alongside drug use and petty crime as Berets remained attached to the underground economy of the barrio, while "ideological contradictions were papered over by an assertion of heroic masculinity and cultural nationalism" (p. …

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