A guide to the history and culture of the American Southwest, as told through early encounters with fifteen iconic sites

This unique guide for literate travelers in the American Southwest tells the story of fifteen iconic sites across Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah, and southern Colorado through the eyes of the explorers, missionaries, and travelers who were the first non-natives to describe them. Noted borderlands historians David J. Weber and William deBuys lead readers through centuries of political, cultural, and ecological change.

The sites visited in this volume range from popular destinations within the National Park System—including Carlsbad Caverns, the Grand Canyon, and Mesa Verde—to the Spanish colonial towns of Santa Fe and Taos and the living Indian communities of Acoma, Zuni, and Taos. Lovers of the Southwest, residents and visitors alike, will delight in the authors’ skillful evocation of the region’s sweeping landscapes, its rich Hispanic and Indian heritage, and the sense of discovery that so enchanted its early explorers.

First Impressions was originally conceived by David J. Weber, who began work on the project in early 2005. He worked on the book off and on, in between writing other books, teaching at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and directing the institute he had founded there, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies. First Impressions grew page by page, as time permitted.

Unfortunately, there was not enough time; David died in 2010. The Weber family approached Bill deBuys about picking up where David had left off, and Bill agreed. Bill had been a fellow at the Clements Center in 1999-2000, when he and David formed a friendship that grew as the years passed, with long talks over many dinners and visits to each other’s homes in New Mexico.

Another Clements Center fellowship enabled Bill to complete First Impressions. “The result is a book by two authors, who worked on the project not together but sequentially and who were friends of long standing,” Bill writes in the preface. “For both of us, the Southwest has been a source of lifelong fascination, and through the vehicle of this book we hope to share it.”

Published in Cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.

More on the Weber/deBuys partnership and First Impressions: First Impressions, lasting impact: Literary partnership completes an unfinished journey by Patricia LaSalle-Hopkins

 

  • “From Acoma to Zuni, First Impressions takes us on a journey of mystery, stark beauty, and brutality through the eyes and voices of the first chroniclers of the Southwest. A must‑read if you love our part of the country.” —Tom Udall, U.S. Senator

    “A delightful introduction to the iconic ‘American Southwest,’ expertly written and solidly researched.” —Thomas E. Sheridan, author of Arizona: A History, Revised Edition

    “A first‑rate introduction to the history and culture of the American Southwest, from two of the most important historians and elegant writers of the Southwest Borderlands.” —Marsha Weisiger, University of Oregon

    “I would happily follow Bill deBuys anywhere.” —Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks