A land where some streams ran with gold. A landscape nearly empty of inhabitants in the wake of Apache raids from the north. And a former desert transformed by irrigation into vast fields of wheat and cotton. This was and is the state of Sonora in northwest Mexico.
In this cultural historical geography, Robert C. West explores the dual geographic "personality" of this part of Mexico's northern frontier. Utilizing the idea of "old" and "new" landscapes, he describes two Sonoras—to the east, a semiarid to subhumid mountainous region that reached its peak of development in the colonial era and still lives largely in its colonial past; and, to the west, a desert region that in the twentieth century has become a major agricultural producer and the modern center of economic and cultural activity.
After a description of the physical and biotic aspects of Sonora, West describes the aboriginal farming cultures that inhabited eastern Sonora before the Spanish conquest. Following the conquest, he traces the spread of Jesuit missions and Spanish mining and ranching communities into this land where gold, silver, and copper ores were easily extracted by surface mining. He charts the decline of eastern Sonora with the coming of Apache and Seri raids during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And he shows how western Sonora has become one of Mexico's most powerful political and economic entities in the twentieth century.
For geographers, historians, anthropologists, and economists, as well as travelers to Sonora and its coastal resorts, this lively and interesting book will be important reading.
"A book that should be read, and then reread, by anyone interested in Mexico, Latin American and Southwestern culture, history, landscapes, regions, regional geography, and the personalities of places. . . . West has masterfully extracted from documentary sources the complex geography of a region, and he presents it lucidly with an economy of words."
—Annals of the Association of American Geographers