Academic journal article Western Folklore

The Multicultural Southwest: A Reader

Academic journal article Western Folklore

The Multicultural Southwest: A Reader

Article excerpt

The Multicultural Southwest: A Reader. Edited by Gabriel Melendez, M. Jane Young, Patricia Moore, and Patrick Pynes. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001. Pp. xii + 294, introduction. $45.00 cloth, $24.95 paper)

Shaped by the cultures of many distinct peoples, the American Southwest has much to teach the world about multiculturalism. This region, where many cultural traditions continue to be actively practiced today, demonstrates how diverse cultures can not only flourish but also enrich each other even as they retain their own distinctive cultural identities.

One of the most culturally diverse regions of the United States, the Southwest has a history of intercultural relationships that spans centuries. Increasing an awareness of the complex social, cultural, and ecological dynamics that have formed the Southwest is one of the stated goals of The Multicultural Southwest, a goal that this anthology definitely meets.

In this book, poets, fiction writers, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, and geographers portray the cultural and ecological diversity that has shaped a region that the editors describe as always having "existed on the extremities of power and empires" without ever having been "the locus of that power" (137). Organized around seven topics, this anthology provides multiple and overlapping perspectives, beginning with essays that contribute to definitions of the Southwest. Geographer D. W. Meinig reminds the reader that the term "Southwest" is ethnocentric because this region is north-rather than south and west-to Hispano-Americans (3). Writing in the late 1920s, essayist Charles Lummis urges Americans to see this "wonderland . . . with insight and understanding" (9) on the Santa Fe Railway as guests of the Fred Harvey Company, whose lectures about the Pueblo Indians and the history and geography of the Southwest Lummis calls "the most vital sociologic and educational enterprise ever launched in this country" (8-9). In the next essay, Professor John Chavez stresses that while Anglo-Americans perceive the Southwest as a frontier that has drawn Americans westward, Chicanos view the Southwest as a "lost homeland[11] . . . the conquered northern half of the Mexican nation" (11). Accounts of Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo origin stories and a poem by Acoma poet Simon Ortiz represent Native American perspectives of the Southwest as a sacred world. …

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