Conflict Research Consortium BOOK SUMMARY

Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range

by

William deBuys

Citation:

Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range, William deBuys, (New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 1985), 378 pp.


This book summary written by: T. A. O'Lonergan, Conflict Research Consortium.

Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range is an examination of the historical competition for: water, game, wood, and grazing in northern New Mexico, and the continuing contemporary competition which adds employment to the historical list. The work is also an examination of how the differences in the Anglo and Hispanic cultures affect the choices made by peoples in this region.

Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range will be of interest to those who seek an understanding of the effect that choices made, from the perspective of different cultures, have had on the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northern New Mexico. The work is divided into two books, the first of which is an examination of "... three frontiers". The first book "... examines northern New Mexico's continually changing character as a frontier for its three principal cultures [Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American]". This first book offers the history of human impact on this region of New Mexico. It begins with discussion of the hunter-gatherer culture of the Oshara tradition who summered on the alpine divides. Their descendants, the Pueblo Indians, continued habitation of the mountains and found therein a spirituality which the author asserts to be of greater depth and complexity than any other native population of this region. The author addresses the affect of neighboring Apaches and Comanches on these Pueblo peoples.

Book two continues with an examination of the first European influence in the form of the Spanish Entrada of 1548. The author asserts that the first Spanish settlers to arrive from Mexico, having been tempered and formed by their associations with Mexican Indians, created a new culture which incorporated: Spanish, Mexican Indian and northern New Mexican Native American cultures. deBuys discusses the Comanche wars prefatory to an examination of the clash between the new Hispanic culture and the Anglo-American culture. He chronicles the waves of Anglo-American adventurers from trappers, miners, and ranchers to soldiers, farmers and tourists.

The second book begins with an examination of the change to the area of interest associated with the Wheeler Survey parties' explorations in 1877. At this same time, the exploitation of the area reached a non-sustainable level which resulted in the local extinction of elk, bighorn sheep, grizzly bear, ptarmigan and pine marten. The author examines the not-unfamiliar cycle of overgrazing of native grasslands followed by the burning of forests to create more grasslands, followed by overgrazing, followed by ... . The resultant invasion of non-native species replaced the communities of native, and in some cases, endemic species. deBuys examines the downward spiral of erosion, lowered water tables, alternate droughts and floods. He asserts that out of this environmental decline arose attempts by the area's inhabitants to discover and maintain sustainable levels of exploitation of natural resources.

Enchantment and Exploitation: The Life and Hard Times of a New Mexico Mountain Range is a well written examination of the history of northern New Mexico which highlights the increasing exploitative behaviour of successive waves of settlers. It will serve as a firm foundation from which to pursue solutions to the regions environmental problems.