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Keywords:

  • landscape change;
  • Mexico James J. Parsons;
  • photography;
  • Sierra Madre Occidental;
  • Robert C. West

ABSTRACT. In 1940, Berkeley graduate-student geographers Robert West and James Parsons traveled to Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental to retrace the Topia Road, colonial Mexico's main trans-Sierran trail linking isolated mountain mining hamlets with the Pacific Coast and the world beyond, a journey chronicled in a 1941 Geographical Review article. Almost sixty years later, we document an attempt to retrace West and Parsons's route. Based on field observations, interviews with local informants, replication of Parsons's photographs, and his field notes, we evaluate landscape alteration in what West and Parsons referred to as some of the most isolated settlements in Mexico. We assess changes in the still-remote communities along the route in terms of three influences: mining, migration, and drug trafficking.