Review: The War on the Border

I quite liked Jeff Guinn’s The War on the Border, which is a lively, readable, well researched history of a series of US incursions into Mexico in the 1910’s and the general mayhem that precipitated them. It’s stuff like this that I missed in history class and that explains so much.

There’s a lot of nasty feeling in the Southwest on both sides of the border that was hard for me to internalize until I read this and learned that people on both sides of the US/Mexico border have been committing mayhem on a scale I hadn’t realized. Some of it at the behest of governments and some freelance. Pancho Villa did his best to wipe out a New Mexico town in 1916 and there was a document called la Plan de San Diego that claimed to lay out a terrorist strategy predicated on destroying US towns. On the other side Texas Rangers acted as judge and jury and retaliated with little regard for guilt.

It’s easy to forget that US history is full of border wars with these sort of violent confrontations between families wronged by folks on the other side of the border, who in turn commit mayhem, gangs form that turn into armies and generations of hate bore into the land. Guinn doesn’t go into all of that, but it’s hard not to see it all from these events.

Beyond the lawless land grabbery and revenge battles, there is international intrigue in the forms of Mexican revolutions, counter revolutions, and local warlords that are exacerbated by actual German interference to keep the pot bubbling to keep the US distracted and out of World War I.

Guinn does a great job bringing all those levels into focus as well as highlighting some genuinely dramatic figures – Pancho Villa, “Black Jack” Pershing, Patton. Quite a good read.

Strongly Recommended.

Comments are closed.