Postcards from the Sonora Border

Visualizing Place Through a Popular Lens, 1900s–1950s

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Young men ride horses on a dusty main road through town. Cars and gas stations gradually intrude on the land, and, years later, curiosity shops and cantinas change the face of Mexican border towns south of Arizona. Between 1900 and the late 1950s, Mexican border towns came of age both as centers of commerce and as tourist destinations. Postcards from the Sonora Border reveals how images—in this case the iconic postcard—shape the way we experience and think about place.

Making use of his personal collection of historic images, Daniel D. Arreola captures the evolution of Sonoran border towns, creating a sense of visual “time travel” for the reader. Supported by maps and visual imagery, the author shares the geographical and historical story of five unique border towns—Agua Prieta, Naco, Nogales, Sonoyta, and San Luis Río Colorado.

Postcards from the Sonora Border introduces us to these important towns and provides individual stories about each, using the postcards as markers. No one postcard view tells the complete story—rather, the sense of place emerges image by image as the author pulls readers through the collection as an assembled view. Arreola reveals how often the same locations and landmarks of a town were photographed as postcard images generation after generation, giving a long and dynamic view of the inhabitants through time. Arranged chronologically, Arreola’s postcards allow us to discover the changing perceptions of place in the borderlands of Sonora, Mexico.

“Postcards from the Sonora Border is a must-read for everyone interested in understanding representations of place, regardless of regional interest.”—The AAG Review of Books

“La obra de Arreola busca exponer cómo condiciones globales se entrelazan con los eventos locales, dando forma a la historia de los pueblos que esboza en su libro.”—El Imparcial

“Border historians and postcard aficionados will want to linger over this volume for both its images and its analysis.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“This book is a useful contribution to border studies and cultural geography methodologies, but also an engaging, informative read. Postcards at its core is an erudite but easily-read examination of the urban anatomies and personalities of border towns along the Sonora-Arizona border in the first half of the twentieth Century.”—Journal of Historical Geography
“This carefully researched and well-written book not only covers the work of individual postcard photographers and their business enterprises (which Arreola discusses in considerable detail), but also addresses the lives of residents and visitors who helped develop and sustain these distinctive communities. Ultimately, Postcards from the Sonora Border is a testimonial to how popular culture creates, and thereafter commemorates, places.”—Geographical Review

“A must-read for historians interested in delving into the fascinating and oftentimes tumultuous past of the Sonora-Arizona borderlands during this time period.”—Hispanic American Historical Review

“Arreola's book stands as a valuable visual companion to the growing canon of Arizona-Sonora borderlands history.”—The Journal of Arizona History

“An impressive book by a distinguished borderlands geographer and historian. There is no other book like it.”—Oscar J. Martínez, author of Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848
Postcards from the Sonora Border
296 Pages 7 x 10
Published: February 2017Hardcover ISBN: 9780816534326
Published: February 2017Ebook ISBN: 9780816536191

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