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Ringside Seat to a Revolution

Taos Daily Horse Fly Review

Books: ¡Viva la Revolucion!

Women and journalism played an integral role in fomenting revolution at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to David Dorado Romo’s Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juárez 1893-1923. Romo documents Mexican insurgency from the first rebellion launched in El Paso to the assassination of Pancho Villa.

The author calls his work micro-history because it dwells not on the powerful figures and milestones perennially taught in history classes but on little known but pivotal events and people. Teresita Urrea, for instance, a striking and renowned 22-year-old Mexican healer, arrived in El Paso in 1896. Trained by a Yacqui curandera, Urrea’s fame followed her across the border, and thousands of pilgrims camped outside her new home.

Although she insisted on her commitment to peace and healing, Romo suggests that the once pacifist Urrea was radicalized…like many of her compatriots…by the slaughter of Tomóchic villagers in 1892, at the direction of Mexican president Porfirio Diaz. She became affiliated with Mexican intellectual and journalist Lauro Aguirre, who published several incendiary newspapers in El Paso. (More than 40 Spanish-language newspapers flourished in the city during the book’s 30-year timeframe.) Photos and letters signed by Urrea were found on rebels killed in Mexican revolts, or “Teresista” attacks.

Romo weaves together biographical, historical, and at-first-glance inconsequential facts, from the comical to the tragic, to convey a heady cultural and political intensity among the Mexican population along the border at the time…and shatters stereotypes along the way. The big, soft-cover book also has a jazzy graphic design and brims with compelling photographs.

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