TAMIU Professor’s New Book Receives Award

TAMIU Professor’s New Book receives Award

If you’re interested in a good biography filled with untold facts about a very difficult man, you will want to check out Dr. Jerry Thompson’s latest biography, “Cortina: Defending the Mexican Name in Texas.”  The biography, over 20 years in the making, was released late this summer.

It was just awarded the 2007 Cleotilde P. Garcia Tejano Book Prize, which will be presented at the 2007 Texas State Hispanic Genealogical Conference, “Celebrating Tejano Heritage,” on Sept. 15 in Austin, Texas.

According to Dr. Thompson, Regents Professor of History at Texas A&M International University, this book was one of the most complicated to write and was meticulously researched. 

“It is certainly one of the most difficult books that I have ever written,” explained Dr. Thompson, “Cortina is just a hard guy to get a handle on. Records on him are scattered all the way from Mexico City to Washington, Austin, Monterrey, Matamoros, Ciudad Victoria, New York City, the Beinecke Library at Yale University… all over, it was very difficult to put it all together and make sense out of it.”

“I’m very proud of this book,” said Thompson, “A lot of work and research went into this book, including reviewing and transcribing of microfilm, researching, and writing.”

Thompson also pored through roles of microfilm at the National Archives and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

Since its debut the book has been nominated for several awards.

Thompson said biographers run the risk of a special occupation hazard.

“The trouble is biographers get so immersed in their subject that they come away loving their subjects… and that’s a real danger.  With Cortina, I ended up not really liking him, but very much respecting him.  He could be a ruthless individual that would cut your throat in 30 seconds, but he was the kind of guy that if he liked you or felt that you were on his side, he would do anything for you.”

Juan Cortina, a reflection of difficult times in the 19th century, was born in Camargo, Tamaulipas, but later moved to Matamoros after his mother inherited land in the Brownsville area. He spent the majority of his life in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and is best remembered for leading the first and second Cortina Wars against the United States including the State of Texas and its Texas Rangers.  Cortina is one of the few men who defeated the Rangers and who has a war named after him.

Several book signings have been scheduled throughout Texas: Edinburgh- Sept. 16 and Brownsville, Nov. 18.

Corpus Christi and San Antonio are still pending dates.

A book signing already took place July 27 in Sarita, Texas.

In the spring, Thompson will be one of the speakers for the 2007/2008 A.R. Sánchez Sr. Distinguished Lecture Series.  He will be discussing the life of Cortina.

Thompson, a past president of the Texas State Historical Association, holds a doctorate from Carnegie-Mellon University. He has received numerous awards from the Texas Historical Commission, Western Writers of America, Texas State Historical Association, Historical Society of New Mexico and the Arizona Historical Society.  He is at work on yet another book that will be released next fall.

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