How do people acquire political consciousness, and how does that consciousness transform their behavior? This question launched the scholarly career of David Montejano, whose masterful explorations of the Mexican American experience produced the award-winning books Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986, a sweeping outline of the changing relations between the two peoples, and Quixote's Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement, 1966–1981, a concentrated look at how a social movement "from below" began to sweep away the last vestiges of the segregated social-political order in San Antonio and South Texas. Now in Sancho's Journal, Montejano revisits the experience that set him on his scholarly quest—"hanging out" as a participant-observer with the South Side Berets of San Antonio as the chapter formed in 1974.
Sancho's Journal presents a rich ethnography of daily life among the "batos locos" (crazy guys) as they joined the Brown Berets and became associated with the greater Chicano movement. Montejano describes the motivations that brought young men into the group and shows how they learned to link their individual troubles with the larger issues of social inequality and discrimination that the movement sought to redress. He also recounts his own journey as a scholar who came to realize that, before he could tell this street-level story, he had to understand the larger history of Mexican Americans and their struggle for a place in U.S. society. Sancho's Journal completes that epic story.
"David Montejano’s Sancho’s Journal is a tour de force. I employ this overused phrase because it is the only one that appropriately captures this amazing and beautifully written creative journey that is, in fact, ‘a feat requiring great virtuosity or strength, often deliberately undertaken for its difficulty.’ Montejano is Sancho the chronicler who, after a thirty-year separation from his original fieldwork, returns to try to understand a small cultural and social space that is duplicated thousands of times worldwide and that consists of those most oppressed by economic and racialist ideologies and actions. These cultural and social spaces are made up of thousands, if not millions, seeking through their agencies to struggle against the forces of negation and reduction by which their basic humanity has been limited, constrained, and defined. Yet, like Don Quixote, they arise, as did the Brown Berets of the southwestern United States, from circumstances that undeniably would test the humanity of us all. Montejano gives us an unvarnished narrative of hope, struggle, and failure—the very marks of being human. But the work is also a revelatory ethnography that diligently marks the changes and shifts of the author in relation to the persons with whom he worked. This narrative is a personal history of the manner in which a social science has had to amend its reductionist premises to an engaged, unromantic, and grounded approach in which human beings, with all of their warts and failings, still strive for recognition and a place as part of the larger processes of political action. This work is one of virtuosity, in which the difficulty and complexity of the material could have drowned Montejano in romanticism or reductionist parody. This did not happen. Sancho’s Journal will be known for its singular attention to truth and to understanding ourselves and those with whom we interact, whether as social scientists or as human beings."
Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez, Regents’ Professor and Director of the School of Transborder Studies, Arizona State University
"David Montejano’s sweepingly fascinating book reconfigures the Brown Berets’ place in U.S. history. Its transdisciplinary strategies disassociate his work from the mainline culture of poverty studies of subaltern youth and connects the Brown Berets in Texas with other spaces and temporalities. Sancho’s Journal strives to reinvigorate our understanding of the interplay between the Brown Berets’ dreams and reality, their social structures and structures of feeling, and the de-linking of their various social worlds. Living a lower-class life in Texas’s barrios is not what made the Brown Berets ‘quixotic’; rather, Montejano argues, it was the Brown Berets’ attempts to move beyond the habitus of their underclass positionality that transformed them. Some four hundred years after the publication of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, Montejano and the Brown Berets—like Sancho Panza and Don Quixote—ride again. In Montejano’s hands, Quixote can help us undo the epistemic trap of the hegemonic social and human sciences, where we are, like Quixote, only able to discern giants—while those who hold power and knowledge over us control the windmills. Sancho’s Journal is an extremely imaginative book."
Jose David Saldívar, author of Trans-Americanity: Subaltern: Modernities, Global Coloniality, and the Cultures of Greater Mexico
"Montejano’s splendid narrative ethnography chronicles his experience, some thirty years ago, as a participant-observer of San Antonio’s Westside Brown Berets. He hypothesized a transformation among the Berets from barrio youth to political subjects. Instead he found the group’s activities more often improvised than planned. Indeed the Southside Berets maintained their former street gang activities and forms of organization. This remarkable book provides a surprising and intimate portrait of how militant Chicanos lived a period of intense political change."
Renato I. Rosaldo, Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences; Professor of Anthropology, Social and Cultural Analysis; Director of Latino Studies, Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University