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Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 1-4
Título: 1997
Sección: Artículos / Articles

Spanish Borderlands

In contrast to Canadian and South American scholars, most historians of the Spanish Borderlands ignored Turner. This indifference came despite the exhortation of Herbert Eugene Bolton, dean and founder of Borderlands studies, to use a Turnerian lens. “For him,” wrote Bolton in 1917, “who interprets, with Turner’s insight, the methods and the significance of the Spanish-American frontier, there awaits a recognition not less marked or less deserved.” Bolton did not practice what he preached. In The Spanish Borderlands, which appeared four years later, he emphasized the persistence of Hispanic culture on the frontier.25

Only in Alta California did Bolton see a marked alteration of Spanish imports by the frontier environment. The region’s mild climate, fertile soil, ample Indian labor, and great distance from markets, said Bolton, combined to produce atypically “idle” Hispanic frontiersmen. Idle they may have been, but, Bolton suggested, the Californios were superior to other Mexicans. Their isolation gave them “the greater degree of independence, social at least if not political.” Bolton thought that he detected a “mellower spirit” in California.26

Neither did Bolton’s legion of students apply the Turner thesis. Some works, however, shared Turnerian assumptions. In Los Paisanos (1979), an examination of northern New Spain, Oakah L. Jones used a Turnerian perspective without mentioning Turner. He concluded that conditions on New Spain’s far northern frontier changed Spanish society dramatically. Hispanic frontiersmen over time “became more self-reliant, more individualistic, less class conscious, and more conservative in their political outlook than the people of central New Spain.”27

After reviewing Turner’s impact on Borderlands scholars, David Weber concluded that the Turner thesis “seems even less likely to gain their interest in the future. The thesis has been modified to the point that historians have difficulty either embracing it as an explanatory device or using it as a foil.”28