Milagro Beanfld War

Mass Market Paperback

English language

Published Jan. 12, 1986 by Ballantine Books.

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5 stars (1 review)

Joe Mondragon, thirty-six with not much to show for it, a feisty hustler with a talent for trouble, slammed his battered pickup to a stop, tugged on his gumboots, and marched into the arid patch of ground. Carefully, if impulsively (and also illegally), he tapped into the main irrigation channel. And so began -- though few knew it at the time -- the Milagro beanfield war. But like everything else in the dirt-poor town of Milagro, it would be a patchwork war, fought more by tactical retreats than by battlefield victories. Gradually, ever so awkwardly, the small farmers and sheepmen begin to rally to Joe's beanfield as the symbol of their lost rights and their lost lands. The tale of Milagro's rising is wildly comic and lovingly tender, a vivid portrayal of a town that, half-stumbling and partly prodded, groped its way toward its own stubborn salvation.

1 edition

A war of ideas, via beans

5 stars

A wildly entertaining and enthralling story of a small New Mexico town (Milagro) and the effects of money, power, history, and perception, on the lives of both its residents, both poor and wealthy. The author spares no paragraphs in telling the sometimes tragic, sometimes ridiculous, history of the towns residents, many of whose families date back to original Spanish settlers.

What I've really been left thinking about is the statement it makes about the outsized importance that the perception of power plays in determining the towns fate. While the richest person in town (referred to via nicknames and translation from Spanish as "Vulture" Devine ) has accumulated most of the land and power in town, seizing on the times of weakness of the poor, what doomed the residents, and their ancestors, to dispossession was their perception that they were powerless. The crux of the novel is about taking power, even …


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  • Fiction
  • Fiction - General