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Mexican Brick Culture in the Building of Texas, 1800s-1980s

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Although brickmaking was one of the first nonagricultural manufacturing industries in the lower Rio Grande region, this is the first ethnographic study of the industry. The important connections between brickmaking in Mexico and Texas lead author Scott Cook to consider many core issues in the interdisciplinary field of border cultural studies, even as he gives a clear picture of the development and decline of this binational industry.

Drawing largely on oral testimonies from ...

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Overview

Although brickmaking was one of the first nonagricultural manufacturing industries in the lower Rio Grande region, this is the first ethnographic study of the industry. The important connections between brickmaking in Mexico and Texas lead author Scott Cook to consider many core issues in the interdisciplinary field of border cultural studies, even as he gives a clear picture of the development and decline of this binational industry.

Drawing largely on oral testimonies from living informants and from ten years of fieldwork in surviving brickyards, Cook explores the organization, development, and techniques of the border brick industry, cataloging the range of organizational forms of brick manufacturing from household-based petty commodity units to wage-labor-based petty capitalist units. He also highlights a series of linkages between production, labor markets, and commodity markets. Finally, he focuses on how and why handmade brick production disappeared in Texas just as it grew explosively in Mexico, roughly in the period from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Cook necessarily deals with both sides of the border. Historically, the circular flow of people, materials, and culture in the brick industry has defied the River as any sort of formidable barrier to movement. Yet this study documents that, especially in this century, the "Border" cannot be romantically dismissed as a fiction which has no commonplace effect on the movement of people, commodities, and culture.

Major themes include the development of Mexican brick culture in Texas, the Mexican brick export industry and the role of joint capital, the impact of intercultural relations on cross-border business, and issues of citizenshipand identity in the histories of border brickmaking families.

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Meet the Author

Scott Cook is professor emeritus of anthropology and interim director of the Puerto Rican and Latino Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut. His Ph.D. in anthropology is from the University of Pittsburgh.

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