Bowden, Keith 1957-
Bowden, Keith 1957-
Born July 2, 1957; children: daughter (deceased). Education: Attended Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas.
Home—Laredo, TX. E-mail—[email protected]
Laredo Community College, Laredo, TX, English teacher; also writes for the Laredo Morning Times.
The Tecate Journals: Seventy Days on the Rio Grande (memoir), Mountaineers Books (Seattle, WA), 2007.
Keith Bowden, who teaches writing at Laredo Community College in Texas, is a former baseball player in the Mexican baseball league of Texas and a longtime adventurer who has explored many of the canyons of the Rio Grande and traveled extensively throughout Mexico and in South and Central America. In The Tecate Journals: Seventy Days on the Rio Grande, Bowden recounts his trip traversing the length of the Rio Grande as it forms the border between Texas and Mexico. The river begins in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and runs south through New Mexico before turning southeast to form the Texas and Mexico border; it then heads off to end in a delta at the Gulf of Mexico.
"When I first glimpsed the Rio Grande, I mistook it for a sewer drain," the author writes in the book's prologue, noting that he was a teenager at the time hitchhiking out west to visit a friend. A short while later, Bowden's family moved from Pennsylvania to Texas, and Bowden soon became fascinated with the river and especially its canyons. The author writes in his book: "When I decided to take a leave of absence from my teaching job in December 2004 to begin my exploration of the entire 1,260-mile stretch of the Rio Grande from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico …, I hoped to expand the sense of belonging to the entire river as it forms the border." The author continues: "With few exceptions, everyone tried to discourage me from taking the trip. I was accused of everything from having a death wish to being ignorant of border realities."
"The warnings … are not misinformed—news reports from the months leading up to Bowden's journey were filled with violent murders and kidnappings that would make any Sopranos fan shudder," wrote a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Nevertheless, despite the potential dangers and the protests of friends and family, Bowden set out to explore the river and chronicle his adventure. "Like all explorers, Bowden was propelled from without and within," wrote Kate Callen in a review of The Tecate Journals for the San Diego Union Tribune. "The journey seems to have never been attempted, and large sections of the river were uncharted. Border tensions gave the project sociological luster. And Bowden had the physical skills to make the trip and the verbal skills to chronicle it."
Beginning his trip in the winter of 2004, the author, who speaks fluent Spanish, packs up his supplies, which include the normal adventurer's gear and food, as well as a cooler containing Tecate, a beer made in Mexico. His book recounts the journey, which includes exploring the river and its canyons by canoe, raft, mountain bike, and on foot from El Paso, Texas, to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to describing the river's natural environment and the plants and animals he encounters on the way, the author profiles many of the people he meets, from fishermen and border officers to drug dealers. The author also details his battle with hypothermia and exhaustion, his efforts to avoid rapids and drug smugglers, and the time his canoe was almost stolen by a Mexican father who desperately needed it to get to a job to feed his family.
"The story that Keith Bowden relates is pertinent, poignant and rugged," wrote Madeleine Cantu for Sul Ross Skyline Online. "His trip is what many Texans long for, but do not have the intestinal fortitude to attempt, with or without a Tecate or two." Mike Shea, writing in Texas Monthly, noted: "It's a simple and candid adventure story … made complex by twenty-first-century geopolitics."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bowden, Keith, The Tecate Journals: Seventy Days on the Rio Grande, Mountaineers Books (Seattle, WA), 2007.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2007, review of The Tecate Journals.
Reference & Research Book News, February, 2008, review of The Tecate Journals.
San Diego Union Tribune, December 9, 2007, Kate Callen, "Big River," review of The Tecate Journals.
Texas Monthly, October, 2007, Mike Shea, review of The Tecate Journals, p. 62.
GuideLive.com,http://www.guidelive.com/ (November 11, 2007), "The Tecate Journals: Keith Bowden travels the Rio Grande."
Mountaineers Books Web site,http://www.mountaineersbooks.org/ (July 18, 2008), brief biography of author.
Sul Ross Skyline Online,http://www.sulross.edu/ (October 18, 2007), Madeleine Cantu, review of The Tecate Journals.
Tecate Journals Web site,http://thetecatejournals.com/ (July 18, 2008), profile of author and description of book.
Village Books Web site,http://villagebooks.booksense.com/ (July 18, 2008), brief profile of author.