When Mexicans Could Play Ball
Ignacio M. García
University of Texas Press, $55
In the early 1940s, Coach William Carson “Nemo” Herrera led the Voks of San Antonio’s Sidney Lanier High School to two state championships, but not everyone was congratulating the team, in part because it was dominated by Mexican-Americans.
Historian Ignacio M. García traces hostilities toward the team back to 1939, with the Voks unexpectedly won the city championship against the Brackenridge High School Eagles. At the end of that game, a full-scale riot “brought both sides into a mid-court battle that soon spilled out into the sidewalks and streets, where rocks replaced fists as the weapon of choice.” As García notes, “only when the Mexicans went from perennial runners-up to champs did the emotions boil over.”
In “When Mexicans Could Play Ball,” García focuses on a “group of young men who went beyond the purview allotted to them.” And he makes it clear that the success of the Voks meant more than just a sports title. “For a community awakening to its American reality, sports triumphs provided an important impetus to their integration into the larger society,” he writes. “Victory meant they belonged, but more important, it meant they could belong while maintaining their identity as people of Mexican descent.”
García, a professor of Western and Latino history at Brigham Young University, was a student at Sidney Lanier and provides personal knowledge of the school’s culture, as well as the history of San Antonio’s barrios. He also provides exhaustive footnotes and historic photos of athletes and teachers at the school.
Texas Then and Now
William Dylan Powell
Thunder Bay Press, $19.95
William Dylan Powell, the author of “Austin Then and Now” and “Houston Then and Now,” turns his attention to all of the Lone Star State in this volume that traces, through photographs and text, the dramatic changes to our landscape of the past century.
Powell opens his book with a 1910s skyline view of Austin, looking north from the Congress Avenue Bridge, and pairs it with a modern-day look from the same bridge, with the Austonian towering over the city. He also shows the dramatic changes to the area around the University of Texas Tower, using a 1936 photo and pairing it with a contemporary one.
Other cities that draw Powell’s attention are Amarillo, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Galveston, Houston, San Antonio. and Waco
But conservationists can take heart. Not everything has changed dramatically, as views of historic sites such as the Menger Hotel in San Antonio and Houston’s City Hall show. Most of the current images of cities were taken by Ken Fitzgerald of Dallas-Fort Worth, while various libraries, universities and history centers supplied the photos of the past.
Art Markman, a professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas, follows up 2012’s “Smart Thinking” with this look at five tools to help us change our destructive behaviors and influence the habits of others.
As he showed in “Smart Thinking,” Markman has a knack for writing clearly and sensibly about our thought processes and habits. He realizes, however, that making change is difficult for nearly everyone, mainly because there are so many temptations. So he sets out to show us how our brain works and tries to unlock the mysteries of motivation.
He offers the following five tools:
1. Tame the Go System. This deals with identifying “the triggers of habits,” replacing old behaviors and generating plans to deal with obstacles.
2. Harness the Stop System, which basically focuses on how to deal with stress and other hindrances to developing positive habits.
3. Optimize your goals, by plotting out the course of behavior change.
4. Manage your environment, by changing your surroundings to reduce poor behavior and habits.
5. Engage your neighbors, which helps you understand how a culture can influence behaviors.
Markman follows up these tools with a chapter on how efforts at change evolve, and how you can get through the difficult periods. And in his last chapter, he turns the book on its head and tells you how to use the same techniques to change the behavior of people around you.
The book concludes with what Markman calls a “smart change journal,” which provides a step-by-step guide to tracking your progress.