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Southwest Regional Humanities Center unveils encyclopedia

Date of Release: 01/20/2005

SAN MARCOS —The Southwest Regional Humanities Center at Texas State University-San Marcos is pleased to announce the publication of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures: The Southwest, edited by Center Director Mark Busby and published by Greenwood Press. The book is part of an eight volume series that covers cultures from every state in the nation. Besides The Southwest volume, the other books in the series include New England, The Mid-Atlantic Region, The Midwest, The South, The Great Plains Region, The Rocky Mountain Region, and The Pacific Region.

The set was designed in coordination with the National Standards for United States History and the Curriculum Standards for Social Studies and with the feedback of Consulting Editor William Ferris (University of North Carolina), former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Librarian Advisor Paul Piper (Western Washington University).
Like the other books in this regional culture series, The Southwest includes chapters on “Architecture,” “Art,” “Ecology and Environment,” “Ethnicity,” “Fashion,” “Film and Theater,” “Folklore,” “Food,” “Language,” “Literature,” “Music,” “Religion,” and “Sports and Recreation.” Each chapter examines the significant elements of the American Southwest as it has evolved from pre-history through the beginning of the twenty-first century. The book’s purpose is to discuss the themes that emphasize different aspects of regional culture.

Maggie Valentine of the University of Texas-San Antonio evaluates the architecture of the Southwest and considers a wide variety of structures from the pit houses and cliff dwellings of pre-Columbian peoples to the European structures imported after contact, to the cityscapes of the 20th and 21st centuries. Holle Humphries of Austin and Lubbock surveys Southwestern art by defining art broadly, from fine art to folk art: paintings, sculpture, woodwork, weaving, pottery, jewelry, basketry, metalwork, photography, noting the powerful effects of Native American and Mexican American art forms on national visions of the Southwest. Ben Johnson of Southern Methodist University examines the ecology and environment of the Southwest, providing a historical narrative on how humans and nature have interacted or collided within the region over time, from Native American culture to the present.

Ruben G. Mendoza, director of the Institute for Archaeological Science, Technology, and Visualization at California State University-Monterey Bay and David Shaul of Venito García Library and Archive, Tohono O’odam Nation, discuss Southwestern ethnicity, providing an overview of the ethno-demographics of the Southwest, a region often defined by the clash and cooperation of varied cultures. Brenda Brandt, education and community outreach manager at the Arizona Capitol Museum, contributes the chapter on “Fashion,” looking at fashion trends in the Southwest throughout history, dating back to Native American and frontier cultures.

Volume editor Mark Busby traces Southwestern film and theater, noting the importance of the Southwest historically in providing the powerful archetypes that define the broader American experience. Rhett Rushing of the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio considers Southwestern folklore, especially the popular legends, tales, myths, songs, and superstitions that originated in the region. Jay Cox Hayward of Phoenix examines the many different ways in which Southwestern cuisine–tortillas, fajitas, tacos, gorditas, enchiladas, salsa, chili and chile, barbecue, sirloin, Czech kolache and klobasi–define that region.

Carol Clark of the University of Texas-El Paso traces the variety of Southwestern language, focusing on the three distinct Pueblo language families (Keresan, Tanoan, and Zunian), the Athabascan speakers (Navajo and Apache), and the introduction of Spanish, French, English, German, Basque, and Czech. Cory Lock of St. Edward’s University in Austin concludes that much of the literature of the Southwest reflects the overwhelming vastness of the landscape—of territory, sky, possibilities, and diversity.

Richard Holland, founding curator of the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos who now teaches in the honors program at the University of Texas-Austin, notes that Southwestern music offers a rich combination of styles and types over history—blues, country, jazz, western swing, honky tonk, conjunto, Tejano, and rock n’ roll; its singer-songwriters; the Las Vegas influence. Jeremy Bonner of Baltimore demonstrates the importance of religion in the Southwest, tracing the significance and variety of Native American religious beliefs, especially the connection between religious practices and the land. Maggie Dwyer of the University of Texas-Arlington discusses sports and recreation in the region beginning with the prehistoric Hohokam’s use of rubber balls for games, probably imported from the Maya, and she also demonstrates the importance of sports across the Southwest— rodeo, baseball from Little League to professional, football at all levels, basketball, fishing, boating, hunting, wrestling, soccer, camping, hiking, horse racing, auto racing, and skiing.

Besides Busby and Holland, several of these contributors have connections to the Southwest Regional Humanities Center and Texas State: Maggie Valentine participated in a Department of Education grant linking UTSA and Texas State; Ben Johnson and Carol Clark attended an NEH summer institute sponsored by the Center in 2002; Cory Lock interned at the Center while working on her Ph.D. at the University of Texas; Rhett Rushing taught folklore at Texas State as a visiting instructor; and Jay Cox Hayward guest-edited two issues of the Center publication, Southwestern American Literature.

Taken together, these essays demonstrate the power of Southwestern culture. The Southwest has a vibrant, diverse landscape, rich history, varied languages and ethnicity, distinctive art, architecture, folklore, music, film, theater, literature, religious experiences, and sports and recreation. Despite the national fear that corporate forces are tending toward a “McWorld” that destroys regional differences and leaves only a kind of strip shopping center sameness, this collection emphasizes the continuing power of Southwestern regional distinctiveness where mesas, buttes, cacti, cowboys, vaqueros, Indians, and casinos continue to capture the imagination.

For more information, call the Southwest Regional Humanities Center at (512) 245-2232 or visit the website at