Lorena Oropeza, Professor of History at the University of California at Davis, sheds new light on one of Chicano history’s most notorious figures in her new book, The King of Adobe: Reies López Tijerina, Lost Prophet of the Chicano Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2019). Oropeza intervenes in the conventional historical scholarship on protest politics through her biography of Reies López Tijerina, a land grant activist and founder of La Alianza Federal de Mercedes (the Federal Alliance of Land Grants). Tijerina was a living testament to the fact that individuals of Mexican descent were part and parcel of the monumental political changes in the United States during the 1960s and the challenge to the established racial order. But Tijerina was more than just another radical advocate of armed protest, he was also uniquely shaped by his extreme religious beliefs and his particular understanding of justice rooted in the restoration of land rights. As the author argues, Tijerina was the harbinger of an anti-colonial rhetoric that helped reframe Mexican American civil rights. Perhaps most importantly, Oropeza centers the experiences and treatment of women in Tijerina’s life as a lens with which to view his world and activism. Drawing from her experience as a former journalist and now academic historian, Oropeza investigates the lives of Tijerina’s wives and daughters through oral history in order to reveal that “the subordination of women was fundamental to his ideal community.” In the end, Reies López Tijerina was a man of intense conviction who sought to achieve his goals at any cost – often at the expense of those that once loved him most.
Jaime Sánchez, Jr. is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at Princeton University and a scholar of U.S. politics and Latino studies. He is currently writing an institutional history of the Democratic National Committee and partisan coalition politics in the twentieth century. You can follow him on Twitter @Jaime_SanchezJr.