Pubols’ family saga wins 2009 Clements Book Prize

Louise PubolsLouise Pubols (right), chief curator of history at the Oakland Museum of California, has won SMU’s William P. Clements Book Prize for the best nonfiction book on the Southwest published in 2009. Pubols’ winning entry is The Father of All: The De La Guerra Family, Power, and Patriarchy in Mexican California, published by the University of California Press and the Huntington Library.

Pubols’ work explores the history of the de la Guerras of Santa Barbara, a powerful California family that adapted to economic and political upheavals that included the U.S.-Mexican War. Pubols traces the de la Guerras’ political, business and family relationships to illustrate how patriarchy functioned from generation to generation in Spanish and Mexican California.

The story of this influential extended family opens vistas onto larger debates about patriarchy, Mexican liberalism, intermarriage, and the economic and social transformations of Mexican California, says Benjamin Johnson, professor in SMU’s William P. Clements Department of History in Dedman College and director of its Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

“Popular understanding and scholarly arguments alike treat the Mexican North – the area that now constitutes the U.S. states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California – as sleepy backwaters in comparison to the dynamic young United States. Pubols’ close study of politics and society in Mexican California really demolishes this view,” Johnson says. “She shows how Mexican liberalism, unleashed by that young nation’s independence, transformed California’s economy, family life and politics. Mexican California’s elites were adaptive and clever.”

Book cover for 'The Father of All' by Louise PubolsJohnson hails the prize-winning book as “gracefully written and deeply researched.” Perhaps most impressively, “Pubols both draws on and contributes to a generation of historical scholarship on the U.S. West and Latin America alike,” he adds.

The quality and number of Clements Book Prize entries prompted the judges to name two finalists for the second year in a row, Johnson adds. Those honors went to Katherine Benton-Cohen of Georgetown University for Borderline Americans: Racial Division and Labor War in the Arizona Borderlands (Harvard University Press) and Patrick Ettinger of California State University-Sacramento for Imaginary Lines: Border Enforcement and the Origins of Undocumented Immigration, 1882-1930 (University of Texas Press).

Past Clements Book Prize winners have also won awards from the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Western History Association, and Southern Historical Association, as well as the Bancroft Prize awarded by Columbia University.

The deadline for submissions for the 2010 prize is Feb. 5, 2011. For more information, visit the Clements Center website.