John Shary, Charles Pease, and contested irrigation landscapes in early-twentieth-century South Texas Academic Article uri icon


  • The paper contributes to notions of 'hybrid' historical geographies of irrigation by focusing on contested visions for irrigation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Adding to geographical work using biography, notions of performance, and racialized landscapes, the paper analyzes debates between John Shary and Charles Pease. Shary and Pease were protagonists, respectively, of pumping water from the Rio Grande and a gravity scheme reliant on action by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The pumping system survived; the gravity system was never constructed. However, the debate between Shary and Pease illustrates tensions within the Anglo elite. The analysis focuses on three early-twentieth-century moments. The first is a 1918 crisis in Shary's irrigation company, followed by a 1927 debate between Shary and Pease over the flaws of the pumping system and benefits of gravity irrigation. Finally, the paper focuses on Shary and Pease's constructions of racialized landscapes that subordinated Hispanics as voters to be utilized for Shary's accumulation strategy, or as 'non-water users' that should be excluded from water politics. The paper argues that Shary and Pease projected similarly exclusionary social visions onto the irrigated landscape in spite of their differences on irrigation systems. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

author list (cited authors)

  • Brannstrom, C.

citation count

  • 1

publication date

  • July 2012