The Milagro Beanfield War: A Novel

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Macmillan, Feb 15, 2000 - Fiction - 456 pages
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Joe Mondragon, 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 (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, the small farmers and sheepmen begin to rally to Joe's beanfield as the symbol of their lost rights and their lost lands. And downstate in the capital, the Anglo water barons and power brokers huddle in urgent conference, intent on destroying that symbol before it destroys their multimillion-dollar land-development schemes. The tale of Milagro's rising is wildly comic and lovingly tender, a vivid portrayal of a town that, half-stumbling and partly prodded, gropes its way toward its own stubborn salvation.

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Trust Your Instincts!
The Milagro Beanfield War is a funny, heartbreaking, entertaining story about how one man inspired his community to rise against those who has stolen, oppressed and abused
them – legally, of course – for decades.
Joe Mondragon is my hero! A down on his luck jack-of-all-trades who is struggling to stay one step ahead of his creditors, feed his family and survive this life with all parts in tact. For most of his life, Joe has been pissed off – a rebel without a clue – always acting out, raising hell and punching the wrong people in the face. The rage that Jos felt in his gut was felt by all of the people in his community – a low-level, burning sensation that they were getting screwed – royally – but unable to identify by who, when, where, why or how.
Sound familiar?
Things seems like they are going off the rails and most of us are holding on with white knuckles, praying to God that we survive the dive over the cliff. We know things are screwed up but we really don’t know whom to blame. This is where is get tricky. The corporate media culture in which we are immersed feeds us many possible “bad guys” – Republicans, Democrats, Terrorists, Saddam Hussein, Al-Qaeda – all of whom are not the source of our trouble. Remember, the corporate monstrosity that owns your very life profits from the status quo – it is highly unlikely that they would provide you with any information that would be of any benefit in creating real change.
Real change will occur outside of the established methods of action. I don’t know what that is or what it looks like, but I do know that voting in our latest election is not a step toward change, as Emma Goldman wisely stated:
If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal.
Politics is merely show business for ugly people. It is a farce, designed to keep us busily arguing with each other while the machine churns. What’s interesting in politics is that the two sides never tell us about what they agree on – which is far more than they disagree. We argue about the same issues of difference, while they work hand in hand to consolidate our entire economy into a monolithic, global money machine that burns people for its fuel.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
H. L. Mencken
So if you are hoping that the answer will arrive in November, please think again. This is the nature of EVERY election – angry voters tired of the ineffectiveness of Government turn out their elected officials – the “clean house” and “throw the bums out” – only to get more of the same and do it all over again in the next election. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again expecting a different result.
Politics is not the answer! Sadly, I believe, as Gertrude Stein so aptly put it:
There ain't no answer. There ain't gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer.
The political process, in its current form, is not designed to serve you. It exists to serve Capital and those who have the Capital – the lobbyists, big donors, think tanks and foundations – they have the money and money makes Washington (and every other capital city tick). You have no money and you NO skin in the game. Sorry!
This was the exact scenario in Milagro, a city (and County) composed of poor, Latino farmers and laborers, who had, over the course of 100 years had all of their rights to their land and its resources slowly stolen from them (legally) through taxes, eminent domain seizure, re-zoning, and usage laws. All of these things were tossed in as part of complex legislation that the people had no way of understanding or fighting. Why did this happen?
Because there was money to be made, and these foolish natives did not have the “wisdom” to develop these resources – they were using them to live rather than profit. This continues today

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About the author (2000)

John Nichols's New Mexico Trilogy, inaugurated in 1974 with the publication of The Milagro Beanfield War, has grown from regional stature to national appeal, from literary radicals to cult classics. Beloved for his compassionate, richly comic vision and admired for his insight into the cancer that accompanies unbridled progress, Nichols is the author of nine novels and six works of nonfiction. He lives in northern New Mexico.

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