Postcards from the Baja California Border

Portraying Townscape and Place, 1900s–1950s

Hardcover ($50.00), Ebook ($50.00) Buy
Postcards have a magical pull. They allow us to see the past through charming relics that allow us to travel back in time. Daniel D. Arreola’s Postcards from the Baja California Border offers a window into the historical and geographical past of storied Mexican border communities. Once-popular tourist destinations from the 1900s through the 1950s, the border communities explored in Postcards from the Baja California Border used to be filled with revelers, cabarets, curio shops, and more. The postcards in this book show the bright and dynamic past of California’s borderlands while diving deep into the historic and geographic significance of the imagery found on the postcards.

This form of place study calls attention to how we can see a past through a serial view of places, by the nature of repetition, and the photographing of the same place over and over again. Arreola draws our focus to townscapes, or built landscapes, of four border towns—Tijuana, Mexicali, Tecate, and Algodones—during the first half of the twentieth century. With an emphasis on the tourist’s view of these places, this book creates a vivid picture of what life was like for tourists and residents of these towns in the early and mid-twentieth century. Postcards from the Baja California Border is a rich and fascinating experience, one that takes you on a time-travel journey through border town histories and geographies while celebrating the visual intrigue of postcards.

"Arreola is to be congratulated for his meticulous and creative use of postcards and other sources to create a carefully arranged, beautifully illustrated, and insightful study that is absolutely essential for understanding these border towns."—Paul Ganster, Journal of Cultural Geography

“Arreola has given us yet another wonderful gift! This most recent treasury of postcards vividly reveals the rich history and geography of Baja like no other print publication I know.”—Andrew Grant Wood, author of Agustín Lara: A Cultural Biography

“By spotlighting dozens of colorful postcards, Arreola shows what the borderlands look like from the perspective of visitors and provides a time capsule of the many cabarets, curios shops and other popular tourist haunts that have all but disappeared over time.”—“The Ten Best Books About Travel of 2021,” Smithsonian Magazine

“This book is a unique and masterful journey across the Baja border in time and space—through the lens of postcards. From the early 1900s through the 1950s, the reader is treated to a rich and detailed panorama of changing landscapes via a unique collection of postcards of Tijuana, Mexicali, and the smaller Baja border towns. Well written and meticulously researched, this is a tour de force of border scholarship and striking imagery that will appeal to academic as well as popular audiences.”—Lawrence A. Herzog, author of Global Suburbs: Urban Sprawl from the Rio Grande to Rio de Janeiro

“Arreola begins with the claim that ‘Postcards have a magical pull’ and after reading this volume it is hard to disagree. Not only is the book a visual delight, with its beautiful cover and ample illustrations, as befit a volume about postcards, it is also a revelation showing just how much we can learn about places and their past by studying how they are portrayed in postcard images over time.”—Sarah E.L. Bowskill, Bulletin of Latin American Research

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