The King of Adobe

Reies López Tijerina, Lost Prophet of the Chicano Movement

By Lorena Oropeza

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 19 halftones, 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5329-7
    Published: September 2019
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5330-3
    Published: August 2019
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4827-7
    Published: August 2019

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Awards & distinctions

2020 Norris and Carol Hundley Award, American Historical Association, Pacific Coast Branch

A 2020 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

In 1967, Reies López Tijerina led an armed takeover of a New Mexico courthouse in the name of land rights for disenfranchised Spanish-speaking locals. The small-scale raid surprisingly thrust Tijerina and his cause into the national spotlight, catalyzing an entire generation of activists. The actions of Tijerina and his group, the Alianza Federal de Mercedes (the Federal Alliance of Land Grants), demanded that Americans attend to an overlooked part of the country’s history: the United States was an aggressive empire that had conquered and colonized the Southwest and subsequently wrenched land away from border people—Mexicans and Native Americans alike. To many young Mexican American activists at the time, Tijerina and the Alianza offered a compelling and militant alternative to the nonviolence of Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King Jr. Tijerina's place at the table among the nation’s leading civil rights activists was short-lived, but his analysis of land dispossession and his prophetic zeal for the rights of his people was essential to the creation of the Chicano movement.

This fascinating full biography of Tijerina (1926–2015) offers a fresh and unvarnished look at one of the most controversial, criticized, and misunderstood activists of the civil rights era. Basing her work on painstaking archival research and new interviews with key participants in Tijerina’s life and career, Lorena Oropeza traces the origins of Tijerina's revelatory historical analysis to the years he spent as a Pentecostal preacher and his hidden past as a self-proclaimed prophet of God. Confronting allegations of anti-Semitism and accusations of sexual abuse, as well as evidence of extreme religiosity and possible mental illness, Oropeza's narrative captures the life of a man--alternately mesmerizing and repellant--who changed our understanding of the American West and the place of Latinos in the fabric of American struggles for equality and self-determination.

About the Author

Lorena Oropeza is professor of history at the University of California, Davis, and author of ¡Raza Sí! ¡Guerra No! Chicano Protest and Patriotism during the Viet Nam War Era.
For more information about Lorena Oropeza, visit the Author Page.


"A timely biography written with conscientious depth and detail, covering the full extent of [Tijerina's] life with an objective clarity. A great read for anyone interested in New Mexican history or civil rights."—Taos News

“Oropeza’s work is meticulous in detail, incisive in analysis, and provides another facet of the rich history of Mexican people on the American side of the border. . . . This welcome biography significantly contributes to our understanding of the Chicano movement and of the Mexican American struggle for liberation.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“A book that should be of abiding interest to New Mexicans.”—Albuquerque Journal

“Oropeza’s in-depth research delves into the personal life and motivations behind this civil rights legend to present a portrait of a complicated man with a background of religious separatism. . . . Oropeza’s biography also offers a valuable lesson on what it took to form a resistance that evolved into a national movement during a critical struggle for racial and social justice.”—NBC News

“This scholarship challenges other writings and books on how Tijerina impacted the construction of the Chicano/a movement generation as Oropeza incorporates historical accounts, oral interviews, and primary materials to provide a strong, in-depth review and analysis of the prominent activist's life. . . . Every library should obtain a copy of this book for those studying the Chicano/a movement in particular or social movements more broadly.”—CHOICE

"A long-overdue and much-needed biography. Oropeza captures the complexities of a man central to the Chicano movement and Chicano history."—Matt Garcia, author of From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement