IN THE DAYS OF THE VAQUEROS by Russell Freedman

IN THE DAYS OF THE VAQUEROS

America’s First True Cowboys
Age Range: 9 - 14

KIRKUS REVIEW

Long before there were cowboys, there were vaqueros plying their trade on the grasslands of New Spain. With vivid and economical prose, the ever-capable Freedman (Give Me Liberty!, 2000, etc.) deftly combines political, religious, and social history to celebrate the achievements of the largely unsung men who invented the tools and techniques that sustain an American mythos. Chapters devoted to the evolution of the cattle ranch in Mexico and what was to become the southwestern US take readers back to the early days of European expansion into the New World. Both missionaries and private landowners found that the easiest way to control their burgeoning cattle herds was to conscript into peonage the Indians who lived on their lands, thus creating the poor but proud—and highly skilled—vaquero. Further chapters detail the apparatus and techniques used by the vaqueros (with special attention paid to the way the original Spanish words have worked their way into the language of the American cowboy), and the inevitable decline of the vaquero, brought about by changes both technological and political. If one occasionally gets the sense that the life of a vaquero is being a bit romanticized, it seems only appropriate, given the attention lavished on those Johnny-come-lately cowboys at the expense of their predecessors. Lushly illustrated with archival material (including a spectacular sequence of Remington drawings) this fast-paced text brings to light the contributions of the Indians without whom the cowboys might never have existed. There are no specific citations of sources, either in the text or as footnotes, but a very nicely done bibliographical essay describes the works consulted. (Nonfiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2001
ISBN: 0-395-96788-0
Page count: 76pp
Publisher: Clarion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2001




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