Job Alert: Latinx Studies, American University

Dear readers, the College of Arts and Sciences at American University in Washington, DC has launched a search for candidates to fill position in Latinx studies at the rank of associate or full professor. The successful candidate will be attached to the Critical Race, Gender and Cultural Studies Collaborative, as well as a department that corresponds to her/his field. From the announcement:

Candidates should have a demonstrated record of excellence in scholarly research as well as teaching. They should also demonstrate a vision for building an interdisciplinary Latinx studies program, and have relevant leadership experience. In addition to scholarship, teaching, and program building, responsibilities will include service to department, college, and the university.

The position begins August 1st, 2019.

To apply, submit your materials via Interfolio. For more information about the Critical Race, Gender, and Cultural Studies Collaborative, follow this link.

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Upcoming Event: Panel to Discuss Issues Impacting El Paso and Juárez

From the press release for tonight’s event in El Paso:

Panel to Discuss Issues Impacting El Paso and Juárez

What: El Paso Times Live

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, June 7

Where:  Union Cinema, Union Building East, first floor

Three El Pasoans with a unique perspective on the border region will provide their insights during El Paso Times Live, 6 p.m. Thursday, June 7 at the Union Cinema, Union Building East, first floor.

Alfredo Corchado, the Mexico border correspondent for the Dallas Morning News; Kerry Doyle, director of the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts; and Benjamin Alire Saenz, a celebrated author and former professor of creative writing at UTEP, will speak on several issues impacting El Paso and Juárez.

Free parking will be available in the Sun Bowl Garage.

El Paso Times Live is an ongoing series in partnership with The University of Texas at El Paso that examines the relationship between El Paso and Juárez including education, politics, government and growth.

The discussion will be moderated by El Paso Times Editor Zahira Torres.

The free event is open to the public.

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Teaching Multicultural America From the Borderlands Perspective

Ricardo Romero, co-founder of Crusade for Justice, Escuela Tlatelolco, Mexican National Liberation Movement and Al Frente de Lucha, lecturing to students in a Multicultural America history course at Metropolitan State University of Denver

Chicana borderlands theorist Gloria Anzaldúa described the U.S.-Mexico borderlands as “una herida abierta,” an “open wound” created when two nations rub against each other and the less powerful one bleeds.[1] In Anzaldúa’s seminal work, Borderlands/La Frontera, she spoke not only of a specific geographic place – the U.S.-Mexico border – but she conceived of the borderlands broadly, as a space that is “physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy.”[2] Anzaldúa’s borderlands theory has inspired, and continues to inspire, many borderlands historians who are trained to see history from the edges rather than the center, to illuminate the perspectives of those who live on the periphery of nations and tell their stories.

Gloria Anzaldúa’s borderlands theory deeply informs my own research, focused on two curanderos (Mexican faith healers) active in the borderlands over the turn of the twentieth century. Writing history from this perspective, I focus on the intersections of Don Pedro Jaramillo and Santa Teresa Urrea, as they sit geographically at the edges of nations in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. These healers found themselves on the edges of dominant institutions — the church, professional medicine, and Anglo culture –– while they provided culturally resonant healing and sustenance to ethnic Mexicans, indigenous peoples, Tejanos and others in the borderlands who faced increasingly oppressive forms of state power deployed by both nations.[3] Through their curanderismo practices, they also helped shape national ideologies as well as spiritual and medical practices by helping to create and maintain transnational ethnic Mexican communities and identities in the U.S-Mexico borderlands. In this way, my research attempts to show how the oft-marginalized stories that exist in the “open wound” of the borderlands are important to tell not only in order to offer a more complete, rich, and complex version of our national history, but also because they are integral to the on-going construction of Multicultural America.

I have learned firsthand in the past year that it is not only scholarship that borderlands methodology and perspective inspires, but also teaching.[4] Over the last three semesters, I have taught several sections of the course “Multicultural America” for Metropolitan State University of Denver. This course is a broad survey of United States history with a focus on race and ethnicity, especially on the experiences of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and first generation European immigrants. In other words, it offers a non-traditional view of U.S. history – a history told from the margins, from the borders of nation, institutions, and marginalized identities. Thus, the course lends itself beautifully to a borderlands perspective. “Multicultural America” is a one thousand level history course created to fulfill a multicultural requirement for students at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and so it attracts students from every major and walk of life. As I reflect on my teaching of this course over the last three semesters, I have come to see that Anzaldúa’s description of the borderlands as “physically present wherever two or more cultures edge each other, where people of different races occupy the same territory, where under, lower, middle and upper classes touch, where the space between two individuals shrinks with intimacy,” applies not only to the history I am writing and teaching, but also to the classroom.[5] What I have experienced in my classrooms is that while I am teaching Multicultural America, the students I am teaching are Multicultural America.

For example, last semester, in one of my classes a student who is a member of the Northern Cheyenne, a professional boxer who grew up between the reservation and the city, shared with the class what the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 means to him, a gruesome event that took place not far from Denver in southeastern Colorado, when a U.S. Army-led militia attacked a peaceful village of Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho, killing and mutilating hundreds, including women and children.[6] In a different section of Multicultural America, one student brought his grandfather, Ricardo Romero, a Chicano activist active since the 1960s, to speak to our class about the radicalism of the Chicano movement in Denver. Mr. Romero co-founded Crusade for Justice (with his brother-in-law Rudolfo “Corky” Gonzales), Escuela Tlatelolco, Mexican National Liberation Movement and his current non-profit Al Frente de Lucha.[7] Mr. Romero’s admonishment to the class that “if you do not fight racism you condone it” was inspiring for many students in the class who knew of the radical Chicano movement, but not how it manifested in Denver, and also for those that were not at all familiar with El Movimiento but recognized the importance of his message for our world today. Finally, actress and immigration activist Diane Guerrero came to Metropolitan State University of Denver to speak about her book, In the Country We Love.[8] She told her story as a daughter of undocumented parents who were deported, leaving her to grow up without them in the United States. Guerrero also spoke about her activism and advocacy for undocumented peoples in the United States.[9] Her book was assigned reading for my Multicultural America students last semester and the writing assignment connected to reading her book was to write an essay about what the “American Dream” means to Guerrero, her family, and immigrants in America. The opportunity that students had to see her presentation – as well as some DREAMer students getting to personally meet her – produced inspired and moving “American Dream” essays revealing the power and promise of the American Dream as well as its limitations.

The Last Conquistador

“The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”[10]

Borderlands professor Ben Johnson introduced me to this Faulkner quote during my first year in graduate school at Southern Methodist University and it has been lodged in my subconscious ever since – I use it to introduce every class I teach.[11] On the first day of class I ask students: What is history? Why does it matter? After some discussion where I write students responses on the blackboard, I suggest that history is alive; it is a living thing, not something that exists only in textbooks. Then, I present the Faulkner quote. I ask my students to think about what Faulkner is saying, and how that can apply to the history we are studying. Students inevitably bring up the current debates over public commemoration of historical figures, and depending on the class, debates about why commemoration and public monuments matter if we cannot change the past.

I use Faulkner’s quote and the class discussion it prompts to introduce the film The Last Conquistador (2008). This documentary film addresses the controversy that took place in northern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas in the early 2000’s surrounding the building and funding of a large-scale statue of Don Juan de Oñate, the Spanish Conquistador that settled New Mexico in 1598.[12] The film provides historical background on the founding of New Mexico detailing the journey Juan de Oñate and his group of colonizers made north from Mexico in 1598 wherein they briefly stopped at what later became El Paso, Texas and read the Requerimiento, proclaiming Spanish dominion over the “new” land and all its inhabitants then moved up the Rio Grande into Pueblo Indian land.

Oñate and his crew eventually set up headquarters at Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, renamed it “San Juan Pueblo,” declared it a Spanish town, and kicked the people out of their homes that lived there yet kept them near for their food, labor, and clothing. This was the beginning of New Mexico colony. After a year, the indigenous residents of nearby Acoma Pueblo refused to give the Spaniards the requisitions of food and clothing they demanded and killed eleven Spanish soldiers in a surprise attack. Oñate retaliated immediately nearly destroying all of Acoma Pueblo, killing some five hundred men and three hundred women and children in the process and taking perhaps eighty men and five hundred women captive. Many captives were sold into slavery and male captives over 25 years of age that were found guilty had one foot severed.[13]

The filmmakers document the reaction of indigenous peoples in New Mexico to the Oñate statue. The focal point of this reaction is the friction between the Acoma Pueblo peoples who are opposed to the statue they feel celebrates the near-genocide of their ancestors and Hispanics from New Mexico who celebrate Oñate for the Hispanic culture he brought to the Southwest. The debate that rages between these opposing groups shows just how alive and contested history is, that it is certainly not dead.[14] What I have learned after screening and discussing The Last Conquistador is that it demonstrates the overarching point that “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past” and offers a threefold pedagogical value.

First, The Last Conquistador introduces students to the early history of America through the borderlands perspective. That is, by starting our class with the colonial encounter between Spanish and indigenous peoples, the traditional perspective of American history featuring English colonization that most students are familiar with is challenged. Shifting the gaze from the Anglo-centric east to west progression of Frederick Jackson Turner’s “frontier” to the Spanish-American frontiers pushing out of the south into the north is one of the major interventions that the first borderlands historians made in the 1920’s.[15] However, the main text I use to teach Multicultural America, the otherwise excellent Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, starts with the English colonization of the New World and makes no mention of the Spanish colonial world.[16] Thus, using The Last Conquistador at the beginning of the course allows me to introduce this borderlands perspective and establish how the history of Spanish America is very much a part of “Multicultural America.”

The Last Conquistador also allows many students to see themselves in the American history they are learning. Teaching at an institution where over twenty percent of the students claim Hispanic heritage, it is important for them to see that the foundations of our nation are not only English or Anglo, but indigenous and Spanish.[17] This is especially true at a time when the discourse of illegality dominates discussions at the highest office of the nation regarding our southern border and immigration. Students with Mexican heritage need to see that they and their ancestors are foundational to this nation, that the history of this nation does not begin with the Thirteen English Colonies, but first as a continent made up of many indigenous nations and then with Spanish colonization in the 16th century.

Finally, this film reveals the complexity and pain of the colonial encounter. Students engage with a concrete example of Anzaldúa’s “open wound,” the process of two cultures rubbing against one another – in this case the Acoma and Spanish invaders – and the less powerful bleeding. Students see that historical pain continues for generations and the wound is opened with the production of a statue that seems to erase or silence their history.[18]

In response to the film, students are asked to imagine they are members of the El Paso City Council, and they must cast a vote: should the city move forward with the statue, or dismantle the project completely? This city council debate is something the film covers, showing the difficult decision council members made about a publicly funded piece of art meant to draw tourism to the city. Students write a short paper defending their position and then we have small group and class discussions. In passionate discourse, students have asked why certain history is silenced or erased, contemplated the value of public art to teach history, and suggested that history might be made more inclusive if more perspectives are sought in the creation of public monuments and historical texts. And it is this last point that reveals the value of a borderlands approach: it illuminates the voices of those at the margins of nation and power.

The students in my “Multicultural America” class are Mexican American, African American, Native American, Asian American, Anglo American, first generation college students, veterans, DREAMers, and European nationals. In a time when the very of idea of multiculturalism is under attack, this classroom is a kind of borderlands and what I hope is a safe space of refuge and learning where students from different positions of identity – race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality – meet one another and learn from one another as we confront the history of Multicultural America together. My training and experience as a borderlands historian has shaped my teaching, and my hope is that other borderlands historians – or any instructors interested in a borderlands approach to U.S. history – might share teaching ideas, classroom experiences, and find support in one another as we teach U.S. history in the highly-charged political climate today. The task of teaching history from the borders, from Anzaldúa’s “open wound” perspective of non-white people is imperative. Teaching this history at this particular time affirms my conviction that history is important; that it matters, affirming Faulkner’s famous phrase: “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past.”[19]

 

[1] Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, second edition (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999), 25.

[2] Anzaldúa, 19.

[3] Jennifer Koshatka Seman, “The Politics of Curanderismo: Santa Teresa Urrea, Don Pedrito Jaramillo, and Faith Healing in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands at the Turn of the Twentieth Century” (PhD diss., Southern Methodist University, 2015). I am currently working on turning my dissertation into a book for University Texas Press.

[4] See BHIP #6: A Conversation with Dr. Maria Montoya, published on Dec. 15, 2015 on the Borderlands History Blog, in which Lina-Maria Murillo conducts an interview with Dr. Montoya about how the borderlands perspective has influenced her scholarship and teaching.

[5] Anzaldúa, 19.

[6] For the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, see Ari Kelman, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek (Harvard University Press, 2015) and the PBS documentary, Colorado Experience: Sand Creek Massacre, streaming here: https://www.pbs.org/video/colorado-experience-sand-creek-massacre/

[7] Ricardo Romero and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Falcon, also run a 7-day cultural institute on the liberated parcel of the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant in northern New Mexico. For more information about Mr. Romero’s work, please visit this website: http://www.alfrentedelucha.org/

[8]Diane Guerrero, In the Country We Love: My Family Divided (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016).

[9] Diane Guerrero advocates for Immigrant Legal Resource Center (www.ilrc.org) and Mi Familia Vota (www.mifamiliavota.org).

[10] William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (New York: Random House, 1951).

[11] Ben Johnson is now an Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago. He is the author of Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003) and the recent Escaping the Dark, Gray City: Fear and Hope in Progressive-Era Conservation (Yale University Press, 2017).

[12] John J. Valadez and Christina Ibarra, The Last Conquistador (Public Broadcasting Service, 2008).

[13] This background on Oñate and the Acoma Massacre comes from David Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1992), 77-87. For a complete biography on Oñate, see also Marc Simmons, The Last Conquistador: Juan de Oñate and the Settling of the Far Southwest (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991).

[14] The PBS website for The Last Conquistador provides an excellent study guide with a variety of ways to approach discussion after watching the film. http://www.pbs.org/pov/lastconquistador/discussion-guide/

[15] Herbert Eugene Bolton, The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1921).

[16] Ronald Takaki, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (New York, Boston, and London: Back Bay Books, Little Brown and Company, 1993).

[17] Metropolitan State University of Denver Website accessed June 2, 2018. https://msudenver.edu/hsi/presidentscharge/

[18] I assign two optional readings to compliment the viewing and discussion of The Last Conquistador: Parul Sehgal, “Fighting Erasure” (The New York Times Magazine, Feb. 2, 2016) and Bob Corbett, review of Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/43a/364.html.

[19] William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (New York: Random House, 1951).

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Course Alert: Reproductive Justice and Immigration Politics

Dear readers, we’re launching our newest series today: course alerts, where we post information about upcoming classes being offered by early-career professors and graduate students in the coming semester to raise awareness in our scholarly community and reach out to students.

The first course alert is from Dr. Heather Sinclair, who is offering Babies and Border Walls: Linking Reproductive Justice to Immigration Politics in the Past and Present for enrollment at the University of Texas at El Paso this summer.

Junior-Senior HIST/WS/ANTHO/SOC Seminar

Babies and Border Walls:

Linking Reproductive Justice to Immigration Politics in the Past and Present

border

Artwork of French artist JR’s on the US-Mexico border wall.

The Republican Party’s recent proposal to fund the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border by taking federal monies from Planned Parenthood makes us ponder the connections between population and its control.   From the Page Act of 1875 to mass deportations of Mexicans and Mexican Americans during the Great Depression to more current debates surrounding birthright citizenship and DACA, we can see that discussions of immigration have long centered on struggles over population, reproduction, race, and fitness for citizenship. Using a Reproductive Justice framework, we will explore in this course links between reproductive rights and immigration that stand at the forefront of US culture and politics today, particularly here in Texas and the border region. We will think critically and historically about struggles over reproduction, population and immigration policy, employing race, gender, class, citizenship and sexuality as central categories of analysis. There will be readings, films, and guest lectures on topics that include the sterilization of immigrant mothers, abortion, midwifery and childbirth on the border, eugenics and immigration policy, racial disparities in infant and maternal mortality, LGBTQ issues, transnational adoption and surrogacy, and more.

To submit your own class for a course alert write the blog coordinators.

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CFP: Global Environmental Borderlands in the Age of Empire

The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University and Stanford University are sponsoring a joint symposium in 2019-2020 to examine environmental and borderlands history from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries CE. The first meeting will occur at SMU’s Taos, New Mexico campus in late 2019 with a second gathering hosted by Stanford in the spring. A university press will be attached to the symposium to publish the papers presented. The events are being organized by SMU’s Johan Elverskog and Stanford’s Ali Yaycioglu. More from the call for papers:

We welcome papers focusing on mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, swamps, steppes, deserts, seas and oceans, under-seas, subterranean and aerial spaces as environmental borderlands and frontiers of different large-scale (imperial) human organizations. In these undertakings, however, we are particularly interested in contributions with holistic conceptualizations of eco-orders of humans and non-humans, which can challenge established anthropocentric approaches. We do not have any geographical priority. Our concerns are truly global. To this end we plan on bringing together scholars working on the environmental history of borderland regions around the world. We also welcome digital history projects.

The deadline to submit a proposal is 1 October 2018. A 1-page CV and 500-800 proposal abstract should be sent to the organizers. For more information, download the full text of the call by clicking this link (PDF).

CCSW-2019-20-1

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Job Alert: Native American & Indigenous Studies, UC Santa Cruz

Dear readers, the Department of Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz has launched a search to fill a visiting assistant professor position for the 2018/19 academic year with the possibility of extending the appointment for a second year.

The specialization is open, but the department is particularly interested in scholars who work on “the histories, cultures, artistic and cultural production, sovereignty, political and social realities, and feminist approaches to knowledge systems and epistemologies of Indigenous people.

More from the job posting:

The Visiting Assistant Professor will pursue a program of independent scholarship under the guidance of a faculty mentor, and is expected to provide intellectual expertise to the campus in his or her area of focus, as well as to engage with faculty colleagues and students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The candidate is also expected to participate in the broader Native American and Indigenous Studies community at UCSC while in residence. We especially welcome applicants with a demonstrated commitment to working collaboratively with Indigenous communities. This position carries a three to four-course workload over three quarters.

For those interested, all materials must be submitted online via UC dossier service; a PhD or equivalent should be completed at the time of application. Teaching experience is not required, but if available, a maximum of three evaluations will be accepted.

The call will remain open until it’s filled, but the deadline to receive full consideration is May 21.

The position begins in the fall. For more information, or to apply, follow the link. The reference number is JPF00525-18T, which should be used in Al correspondence.

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Job Alert: Latin@ History, Connecticut College

Dear readers, we wanted to let you know that the Department of History at Connecticut College, in New Haven, CT, has launched a search to fill an adjunct position for Assistant Professor of Latinx History. The job announcement was short on specifics, but did mention that the review of applications begins immediately (April 26) and will continue until the position is filled.

For more information on how to apply, you can write the department chair, Dr. Lisa Wilson, via this link.

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Job Alert: College of Charleston, Latin American History

Dear readers, the Department of History at the College of Charleston has recently launched a search for applicants to fill a visiting position in Latin American History. The one-year appointment begins in the fall 2018 semester. Although preference is given to specialists in Latin America, all fields are welcome to apply. The successful applicants will be expected to teach undergraduate courses, including general surveys as well as classes based on the successful candidates research interests.

For more information, or to apply, follow this link.

The deadline is May 14th.

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BHIP13: The Dr. Laura Gómez Interview

IMG_8271

Dr. Laura Gómez. Photo credit: Dr. Ernesto Chávez

I interviewed Laura Gómez for the Borderlands History Interview Project late last year, but had been waiting for just the right moment to release the interview. In celebration of Women’s History Month and within weeks of the 170th year anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, March was just the month.  In fact, with my co-contributors, we decided we would dedicate this week to celebrating Dr. Gómez and her scholarship.  With the recent political focus on Trump’s border wall and his venomous rhetoric against undocumented immigrants—the racially bound “Mexican menace”—Dr. Gómez’s landmark book Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race is more important now than ever.  Recently, she spoke at the University of Texas at El Paso to commemorate the second edition of her groundbreaking book and to talk with students, faculty, and community members about its significance. Last Monday, Blanca Garcia-Barron reported back about her experience at the talk for the Borderlands History Blog.  It is in the spirit of understanding the legacy of Mexican-American racialization and in celebrating the women scholars who have worked tirelessly for decades to recuperate and expose this history that I would like to present my interview with Dr. Gómez.  Her insights on race, racism, Mexican-Americans and law reveal the power of her research in the era of Trump.

Currently, Laura Gómez is Professor of Law at the University of California, Los Angeles where she teaches Civil Procedure and Criminal Law in the first-year UCLA School of Law curriculum and has taught courses in law and society and the Critical Race Studies Program in the law school’s upper-year curriculum. She received her A.B. at Harvard College in 1986, and then went on to earn a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University, in 1988 and 1994 respectively. As she worked toward her Ph.D., Gómez obtained a J.D. from Stanford University’s School of Law in 1992. She has written and edited several books including:  Misconceiving Mothers: Legislators, Prosecutors and the Politics of Prenatal Drug Exposure, published in 1997 by Temple University Press; Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race, first published in 2007, New York University Press. (Celebrating its 10th Anniversary NYU Press is ready to release the second Edition of the book in 2017), and Mapping “Race”: Critical Approaches to Health Disparities Research, Co- Edited (with Nancy López), published in 2013 by Rutgers University Press.  She has written numerous articles for scholarly as well as general readership about race and the law. Professor Gómez has had extensive experience outside of academia as well. As a law clerk for Judge Dorothy W. Nelson on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (1992-93) and later as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico (1996-97), Gómez’s portfolio included Central American policy, South African policy, and Armed Services (for the latter, she held a top-secret government clearance).

While Laura Gómez is the first “non-historian” I interview for the BHIP, her research has done so much to advance the work of Chicanx and Latinx historians and scholars across fields in understanding the racialization of Mexicans in the United States. Indeed, her work has been foundational in complicating the black-white racial paradigm in the U.S. and providing the history of the legal framework used to racialize Mexicans and Mexican Americans.  Her book outlined the genesis of Mexican-American racial formation beginning in the nineteenth century and has allowed for relational discussions for other Latina/o history in this country.

With her diverse academic background in law and sociology, I asked Professor Gómez how she approached her research for this book.  She explained that as she worked on her Ph.D. in sociology and her law degree concurrently, she was very much thinking about the ways in which critical race theory and the law could be applied to understanding the history of Mexican-Americans in a state like New Mexico. Gómez stressed that the questions she asked drove her to search for answers in different fields and with the support of thoughtful advisors she was able to weave together methods and theories from sociology, anthropology, law and, of course, history in order to address the overarching political scope of her study.

In many ways Manifest Destinies is about contesting and complicating established historical narratives in the United States. Describing the North-South/black-white paradigm that has characterized nineteenth century racialization, Dr. Gómez stated that in her book she sought to complicate this narrative by foregrounding the connections between the U.S. war with Mexico that started in 1846 and the tensions that led to the Civil War fifteen years later.  Gómez wanted to reorient the story of race-making in the United States to include the invasion of Mexico and the “uneven incorporation” of Mexico’s territories and its people into the United States after 1848.  Moreover, she underscored the manipulation of the narrative of westward expansion—powerfully enshrined in the ideology of Manifest Destiny—that she explained shrouds this historical moment in invisibility. One, westward expansion is depopulated, but for the white settlers coming from the east, Native communities and Mexicans are erased. Second, the violence of the war and the expropriation of land is also unceremoniously removed from history books, making westward expansion seem inevitable and ordained for white Americans.

From this historical position, Professor Gómez explained that she unraveled the thread of race-making for Mexicans in New Mexico. As conquered people, Mexicans, under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, were considered legally white. While Mexicans attempted through the courts systems to assert their legal whiteness and their federal citizenship, socially they were treated as a racial minority.  Many Mexicans sought to align themselves with whiteness—as a Spanish-speaking ethnic group— in order to contest Anglo-American claims that Mexicans were a “mongrel race.” According to Gómez, however, from a sociological vantage point, race and not ethnicity could best explain Mexican and later Mexican Americans “inequality that became rooted in the Southwest” in the years after the war.  “To describe it as ethnic is a misnomer…and that doesn’t capture the dimensions of racism and racial segregation that Mexican Americans had and continue to experience,” she said. “My project was to try to make this a conversation about racial inequality and have an open and blunt conversation about race.”

Our conversation continued from there to discuss the current situation in the United States and why the second edition of her book will be flying off the shelves.  Laura Gómez is thrilled that her book continues to be salient today—especially in the Trump era. We must “seize this moment of reactionary politics” she said, because the numbers are in our favor. Latinx are a young and growing population and we must be ready to expand our educational horizons in order to push back against this president’s agenda and the conservative forces feeding it. Her current project will certainly help with this as she is writing about the racialization of Latinx in the twenty-first century United States.

It was a fantastic conversation with Dr. Laura Gómez and I encourage our Borderlands History Interview Project audience to enjoy the entire interview via this link. Thank you again for joining us and we look forward to a new episode of BHIP soon.

Special thanks to Marko Morales for the great work with audio editing and to Mike Bess for some additional technical support.

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Laura Gómez’s Manifest Destinies: Ten Years Later

By Blanca Garcia-Barron, Doctoral student, Department of History, University of Texas at El Paso

This week at Borderlands History Blog we’re excited to be featuring posts celebrating the career and scholarship of Dr. Laura Gómez whose book, Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race celebrates ten years. We asked Blanca Garcia-Barron to write about Dr. Gómez’s recent talk at UTEP’s Department of History. Later this week, on Thursday, we’ll be publishing Lina’s interview with Dr. Gómez as the next episode of the Borderlands History Interview Project!

Reading to a packed classroom of students, faculty, and community members at the University of Texas at El Paso, Dr. Laura Gómez focused on the overarching themes of Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race. She spoke of traditional interpretations of New Mexico history as exceptional, much like U.S. history, and her book pushes back against this idea. New Mexico serves as a microcosm of the trajectory of the history of race in the U.S. Its racial dynamics established much of the legal trajectory of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the United States later in the twentieth century. She also discussed how occupying multiple spaces is embodied in the idea of “double colonization.” Indigenous and native Mexicans first experienced colonization by the Spanish and then a second colonial experience in what became “the Southwest” by white colonial settlers. Dr. Gómez asked us to reconsider American racial ideology of the nineteenth century. She went on to say that the extensive racism in the American Southwest intersects with that of the racist ideology of the North and South. These ideologies should not be treated separately, but rather as converging ideas working together that continue to shape racism in the U.S.

Another point that Dr. Gómez emphasized is that Manifest Destinies reached audiences beyond academia. She spoke about federal judge Jack B. Weinstein citing her book in a case where a Latina mother sued on behalf of her son over lead poisoning, where he ruled that her son’s constitutional rights were violated. She credits the success of her book in part to Albuquerque’s high schools adding it to their reading lists. She believes that this is much a cause to the expanding audiences that are demanding Latino/Hispanic histories. Due to the shifting demographics of Latinos, where Mexicans account for the majority, demand for books like Manifest Destinies is not only part of her success, but accounts for the growing number of programs dedicated to Critical Race Theory and Chicana/Latina Studies. Dr. Gómez credits the younger generation of Latina/o and Mexican American students for putting pressure on universities for the inclusion of these programs.

Ten years ago, she wrote this book at a seminal point in Modern U.S. History. Her work highlighted the history of nineteenth century Mexicans in New Mexico as simultaneously occupying the legal designation of white while socially treated as non-white. Mexicans after 1848 engaged and negotiated between two different spaces. At the time, in 2008, the election of Barack Obama coupled with the growing political power of Latino-Americans gave credence to the idea that the U.S. inched towards a post-racial society. This ideal of a truly diverse society moving forward from hundreds of years of social and political oppression towards racial minorities seemed to culminate in that election cycle. However, Obama’s banner of progressive “Hope” slowly emboldened those that yearned for an American past where non-whites did not threaten white homogeneity so explicitly as today.

Now that Manifest Destinies is out in its second edition this year, Dr. Gómez’s work comes at another critical time in US history with the Trump presidency. Specifically, the transition of power to the Trump administration asks us to reconsider what the construction and history of race in the U.S. means in today’s society. These themes were precisely on Dr. Gómez’s mind as she gave her talk on campus this month. She emphasized how younger generations of activists, students and scholars of color are changing the face of academia and this point was not lost to those of us who joined her for coffee before her talk. It was incredibly clear that she values the experiences of struggling graduate students. She took the time to listen to our various projects and research interests that were very different from one another, but that she still ultimately connected between race and law. Both the coffee talk and her lecture were a testament to the strong force that Dr. Gómez represents as a Latina scholar working to disrupt not just exceptional narratives of U.S. history, but also to remind Latina/o and Chicana/o graduate students that we belong in academia.

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Dr. Gómez speaking at UTEP.

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