conferences

Continuing the Conversation from the UTEP Borderlands History Conference 

This month The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) hosted the second annual Borderlands History Conference. The conference brings together scholars focusing on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. This years theme Shifting Borders: Gender, Family, and Community provided a broad definition of borders resulting in panels that ranged in topic, time period, and expanded the geographic scope of the borderlands.

I attended the two-day event which included an oral history workshop, a keynote by Sonia Hernandez, and a line up of interesting panels that provided a myriad of perspective on this years theme. The conference also provided ample time to network with visiting scholars and included a closing dinner at a local restaurant and cultural center, Café Mayapan.

At the end of the conference Dr. Larissa Veloz wrapped up the concurrence by providing four questions for borderlands scholars to consider. I have to say that I am still thinking about these questions in regard to my own research and my work as a public historian.

1. How does it feel to be a “borderlander”? How do people make sense of their own lives?

2. What are the creative adaptations people living on the border make? Who are the new cultural brokers that emerge?

3. How does a focus on gender, family, and community reshape our understanding of the borderland and vice versa?

4. How are images and histories of the borderland transmitted outward and what is our role as historians and scholars?

Dr. Veloz also made another comment saying, “the field of borderlands continues to inform various historiographies.” That was certainly clear from this conference; it is also important to acknowledge the breadth of the field which is still growing. I know it is easy to get caught up in one’s own area of specialization, topic, and time period. However, these questions (especially number four) help me remember that my work is connected to the image of the Borderlands that is transmitted to other parts of the world where borders look different. I wonder how fellow historians, scholars, and even people living on a broder today, feel about these questions? I hope that this platform provides a space to continue the discussion about the different ways our scholarship engages with borderlands and concepts of borders. Please add your ideas to the comments section below!

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“Why is There No Ida B. Wells of the Borderlands?”

Notes from “Linking U.S. and Mexican Histories of Violence: Extralegal Justice on Both Sides of the Border,” a panel presented at the 131st Annual American Historical Association Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Since the publication in 2013 of William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb’s The Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence Against Mexicans in the United States, 1848-1928, the question of extralegal violence against Mexicans has gained significant attention in borderlands studies.[1] In the introduction to The Forgotten Dead, authors Carrigan and Webb ask a simple but profound question: why were the lynching deaths of Mexicans forgotten? The answer to this question is not that the lynching of Mexicans was few and far between. In fact, the opposite is true, as Carrigan and Webb point out:

“From the California Gold Rush to the last recorded instance of a Mexican lynched in public in 1928, vigilantes hanged, burned, and shot thousands of persons of Mexican descent in the United States. The scale of mob violence against Mexicans is staggering, far exceeding the violence exacted on any other immigrant group and comparable, at least on a per capita basis, to the mob violence suffered by African Americans. Yet despite its importance and pervasiveness, mob violence against Mexicans has never been fully studied.”[2]

This panel, chaired by Michael J. Pfeifer from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York and featuring comments by William Carrigan, presents new research on the topic of mob violence against Mexicans that contributes to filling this lacuna in borderlands historiography as well as the history of violence more broadly.

Michael Pfeifer opened the panel by posing a series of questions:

  • How can we think in comparative terms about violence in Mexico and the U.S.?
  • How did the history of conflict in the borderlands, including racism against Mexicans, shape extralegal violence in the border?
  • How do these histories of violence influence the larger history of the U.S.-Mexico border and the larger histories of these two nations?

The first paper, (Bi)national Border Rebellions, Linchamientos, and the (Bi)centennials of the Mexican Revolution by José Angel Hernández from the University of Houston, addressed Pfeifer’s questions through an examination of linchamientos (lynching) of Mexicans at the border.

Hernández asked how the use of the Spanish term linchameinto, an importation of the American word lynching, complicates understandings of extralegal violence in the borderlands. He explained that in Mexico linchameinto does not exclusively refer to a public hanging, but could be used to describe a public burning, beating, or killing. Linchameinto could also refer to a revolt or other kinds of extra-legal violence. To demonstrate the elasticity and instability of this term, Hernández described instances of extra-legal violence that took place in the connected borderlands communities of La Mesilla, New Mexico and La Ascención, Chihuahua. He described two different and distinct instances of extra-legal violence – a fight between Republicans and Democrats that took place in the 1870s in La Mesilla where nine people died and 100 subsequently fled to Chihuahua, and an instance of narco violence in 2010 that occurred in the same region – both labeled linchameintos.

Next, Hernández posed two very interesting questions:

  1. What makes a lynching a hate crime?
  2. Why is there no Ida B. Wells of the borderlands?

In response to these questions, William Carrigan offered some ways to clarify terminology. Carrigan argues that the following three things must be present in order to call an event a lynching:

  • Community support for the event
  • Premeditation (this distinguishes between rioting and lynching)
  • How the violent act is justified: is it done “for the greater good”?

Hernández added to this list, suggesting that another important characteristic of lynching is the ritualized nature of the violence committed. Further, he stated that because the meaning of lynching has changed over time, a researcher must look for patterns of ritualized violence specific to time and place to understand what lynching looked like and what it meant in specific historical contexts.

Continuing with this discussion of terminology, Carrigan spoke about how Republicans did not want the word lynching used to refer to anti-black violence in the South during the post-Reconstruction era because at that time its meaning was not strong enough to describe the violence that African Americans were being subjected to. Carrigan explained that during the nineteenth century, lynching was associated with the Gold Rush in somewhat of a positive way– it was men taking care of law and order when there was none. Republicans wanted a stronger term to describe the awful things happening to blacks in the South. However, it was the crusading journalist Ida B. Wells who took the word lynching to describe the “Southern Horrors” committed against African Americans in the South. Wells gave the word lynching the meaning it still has today.[3]

The second paper, Out of the Ashes: How the Burning of Antonio Rodriguez Led to an Increase in Anti-Mexican Mob Violence during the 1910s by Nicholas Villanueva Jr. from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, examined how the Mexican Revolution influenced cross-border violence, particularly in Texas.[4]

Villanueva described two cases of extra-legal violence against ethnic Mexicans that occurred in Texas during the Mexican Revolution. Villanueva began with the story of the lynching of Antonio Rodriguez. Rodriguez was a 20-year-old Mexican looking for work as a farmhand in Texas. While in Texas, he was accused of murder. A mob broke into the jail cell where he was being held, forcibly removed him, tied him to a tree, and burned him alive. Rodriquez had no trial, and no one in the mob who brutally killed him was charged with a crime. This enraged Mexicans. Throughout Mexico there ensued a series of anti-U.S. boycotts, riots, and the use of rhetoric such as “Death to Yankees” and “Death to Americans.” Consequently, these rhetorical “attacks on Americans” caused anti-Mexican feeling in the U.S.

Villanueva then described the lynching of 14-yr-old Antonio Gomez. Gomez was harassed and beaten by the owner of a saloon because he was lingering outside the business. While the saloon owner was beating him, Gomez took his knife out and stabbed him. A mob formed around Gomez and lynched him. The mob was not punished. Villanueva made the point that violence against ethnic Mexicans during the Mexican Revolution escalated yet was not punished. Villanueva also compared this to events today, when hate crimes against Mexicans – especially those crossing the border or deemed here ‘illegally’ – often go unpunished. However, Villanueva argues that the lynchings of Rodriguez and Gomez were not products of the Mexican Revolution, but rather, signs of the increased racist sentiments and accompanying violence against Mexicans in Texas. To demonstrate how the State, in the form of the Texas Rangers, also took part in this violence against Mexicans, Villanueva invoked the work of South Texas attorney J.T. Canales, who wrote about the corruption of the Texas Rangers and their techniques of “Mexican Evaporation,” how they “disappeared” Mexican men who were on the Ranger’s “black list.” (To answer José Angel Hernández’s question, maybe J.T. Canales was the Ida B. Wells of the Borderlands?)

The third paper, Savage Yanquis and Enraged Mexicans: Extralegal Justice and Its Representations in Mexico and the U.S., by Gema Karina Santamaría Balmaceda from the Instituto Technológico Autónomo de Mexico, connects the history of lynching to nineteenth and early-twentieth century discourse about savagery and civilization. Through an examination of this discourse in Mexican and U.S. newspapers, this paper demonstrates how lynching served as a measure of civilization in each country. In particular, Santamaría Balmaceda shows how this discourse was deployed as justification for state violence.

Santamaría Balmaceda’s paper (she was not able to be there in person, so her paper was read by a colleague) describes how in many newspapers, the Mexican Revolution represented lawlessness, and a regression from civilization into savagery. For example, the Mexican newspaper El Universal published articles about how post-revolutionary Mexico, absent the “law and order” of Porfirio Díaz, had devolved into a place of savagery. However, in the pages of Regeneracion, a Mexican anarchist paper published in the United States, editor Ricardo Flores-Magón criticized Americans with the same language the U.S. press often used to describe Mexicans and Indians. Responding to the lynching of Antonio Rodriguez, for example, Flores-Magón chastised Americans for their “backwardness,” “ignorance,” and called them “barbarians of the U.S.” because of the lynchings that took place there. He also called these Americans religious fanatics and savages – words often used by the Mexican press to describe Indians and Mexicans in rural communities believed to be under the influence of the church.

The major point that Santamaría Balmaceda’s paper makes is that representations of lynching were used by different groups on both sides of the border to make points about “savagery and civilization” in order to defend various positions. Like the other presenters, Santamaría Balmaceda argues that the conception of lynching as only American is problematic, that there needs to be a comparative dimension in lynching historiography.

There were many excellent questions for the panelists, including questions about lower levels of mob violence, or even the threat of mob violence and how that fits into the history of racialized violence at the border. One audience member asked about the chronology of lynching: when does it begin? In 1848, as Carrigan and Webb’s book has it, or might it be placed earlier than that? These questions provoked deeper discussion of the importance and difficulty of defining terms when discussing lynching and extralegal violence.

As a borderlands historian and an instructor of U.S. History, I found this panel immensely interesting. I teach Ida B. Well’s Southern Horrors in my “Multicultural America” course, where many of my students are of Mexican descent. The challenge of teaching “Multicultural America” is to shed light upon those people and events that have for too long been on the margins of history. What I learned from this panel will, I hope, help me do that with my students when I ask them, “Why is there no Ida B. Wells of the Borderlands?”

[1] William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, The Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence Against Mexicans in the United States, 1848-1928 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). See also the public history project: Refusing to Forget https://refusingtoforget.org

[2] Carrigan and Webb, 1.

[3] Jacqueline Jones Royster, ed., Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 (Boston and New York: Bedford Books, 1997).

[4] Nicholas Villanueva Jr., The Lynching of Mexicans in the Texas Borderlands (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2017).

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Utopian Visions: A Panel on Exiles and Identity at the AHA

We’re back from the American Historical Association and had a wonderful time! This essay is the first installment in a series covering panels we wanted to share with you, our dear readers. -ed

After my first day at the AHA, I met up with Brandon Morgan, one of our colleagues at the blog, who was presenting on a panel with the intriguing title, “Utopian Visionaries, Exiles, and Other Stateless Peoples in the Americas.” Over dinner at the Sheraton with a group of friends, I talked with Brandon and two of the other panelists, Travis E. Ross and Julian Dodson, about their work. I decided to attend their panel the next day.

Following an introduction of the panelists by Colin Snider (University of Texas at Tyler), Travis Ross, who recently defended his dissertation at the University of Utah, discussed his work on the identity of the nation-state in the context of historical memory, studying nineteenth-century interviews of residents of Alta California. One of the points that struck me most was that although ethnic Mexicans and Anglos disagreed on many things about society and politics in the state, they shared common ground with the regional identity of Alta California.

Travis´s research uncovered how people who had lived in Alta California before its transfer to the United States worked hard to maintain their community identity as revolutions and other political unrest threatened this reality. Irrespective of which government was in charge, locals wanted to protect the distinct identity of Alta California. Nevertheless, as new waves of gold rushers and other Anglos flooded into this space, this fight was unsuccessful as most of the Californios, Spanish-language residents who had lived in Alta California under Spanish and Mexican rule, lost everything after California gained U.S. statehood.

Brandon Morgan, who works at Central New Mexico Community College, continued the panel discussing his work on Mormon exiles in Mexico during the late nineteenth century. He described the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 and its aggressive prosecution of Mormons in the nineteenth century over polygamy. Mormons believed the legal proceedings to be a miscarriage of justice and felt that the government not only wanted to punish polygamy, but also eliminate their religion.

In response, some coreligionists decided to relocate to Mexico, establishing settler communities they called “colonies” to continue to practice their religious beliefs without interference from the U.S. government. Brandon argues that by crossing the border Mormons gained the status and economic power that had eluded them in the United States. In doing so, they also reasserted their claim to whiteness, and largely remained separate from the local community even as they benefited from policies of the national government under Porfirio Díaz, which permitted them not to pay certain duties.

Finally, Julian Dodson (Washington State University) studies the social networks that Mexican exiles formed across the U.S. southwest in the early twentieth century. He finds that in exile the political enmities that divided these groups against one another in Mexico largely evaporated once they relocated north of the border. Julian identified the exiles as the “revolution’s losers,” highlighting how they were reviled in Mexico as members of a defeated elite that had benefited from Díaz’s long rule (1876-1911). Across the border, the exile community was sustained on a healthy diet of rumors and conspiracies about the new revolutionary government as it asserted its power. Moreover, the exile community took on a diverse characteristics as members of different failed rebellions and counter-revolutions also headed north to escape their enemies.

Julian described the formation of these exile groups, noting that militant Catholic activists played an important role. They cultivated contacts with military figures who supported the exiles during times of political unrest. Members of the Catholic contingent also operated as intelligence brokers between Mexican officials and the exile community. Later, as the revolution transitioned into its state-building period after 1920, opposition to the political strongman and president, Plutarco Elías Calles, who was a committed anti-Catholic leader, helped to unify aspects of the exile community.

Afterwards, Colin read the observations written by José Angel Hernández (University of Houston) who served as commenter, but was unable to attend. José Angel provided excellent constructive critiques of the work presented, urging the panelists to more clearly identify how the subjects were stateless or to consider using a different concept to identify them. In the audience discussion, someone asked whether location reflected exiles’ loyalties. Julian responded affirmatively, explaining that Catholic exiles tended to go to San Antonio and El Paso, whereas Callistas went to San Diego and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Huertistsas went to Tucson and also had ties with Los Angeles.

As the discussion continued, Travis posed a question for his other panelists. He acknowledged the difficulty in defining the people in their work as stateless, and wondered about other ways to conceptualize these subjects. Julian said that, perhaps, the idea of “statefulness exiles” rather than stateless exiles was more applicable, emphasizing that the networks these groups formed attempted to take advantage of state ties at different times and in different contexts. Moreover, a point that Brandon and Julian agreed on was that while these exiles lived in states freely, they were to a certain extent out of reach, defying law enforcement in their home countries.

Brandon concluded, saying that Mormon colonies in the late nineteenth century were trying to use policies in Mexico to their benefit, while maintaining ties with the United States. This strategy gave them some choice about identity. For instance, Mormons who naturalized has Mexicans had begun to take up the role of jefe politico in their locality. Many Mormons viewed their time in Mexico as sojourners, ready to return to the United States once the problems had been resolved politically.

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BHB at AHA 2017

We’ll be at the American Historical Association meeting in Denver this week and we’d like to invite you to our panel if you’re in town. Lina, Mike, Kris, and Jenny will be talking about their experience working with the blog and the role that digital humanities can play in thinking and teaching about the U.S.-Mexico border. Their roundtable will be held in room 401 of the Colorado Convention Center (Meeting Room Level) on Thursday, January 5th from 3:30-5pm. Continue reading

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Notes on the 2016 UHA Annual Meeting at Chicago

Greetings from Chicago, Illinois!  From the 13 to the 16 of October, 2016, urban historians, city planners, biographers, architects, and public policy specialists convened at the Philip Corboy Law Center of Loyola University Chicago for the Urban History Association’s Eighth Biennial Conference.  David-James (DJ) Gonzales and I had the opportunity to attend and present at this year’s meeting.

We arrived on Friday, October 14 and were able to visit some amazing panels that interrogated the themes of carcerality and the state, urban history before the “city,” settler colonialism, and the lack of scholarship on urban Latinx history.  It is exciting to see over the years how each urban history conference features more and more panels on Latinx neighborhoods, community activism, and radical political thought.  Some of the panels that were scheduled for the weekend included: “The Fight for Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles, Post-1965,” “Latino Studies and the New Urban History,” “Urban Latinos: Ethnic Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Transnational Communities, and Cities in the Postwar United States,” “Latinos and the Changing World of Urban Work,” and “Rethinking the Boston ‘Bussing Crisis’”

Moreover, there were some great sessions on the connections between ethnicity, immigration, and urban space, as with a plenary on “A City of Immigrants: Immigration Reform since 1965 and its Urban Consequences.”  The panel sought to present post-1965 as a defining point not just for civil rights, but for new groups of Latinx immigrants to the country.  There was also a roundtable titled, “Settler Colonialism in American History?”  This panel was absolutely terrific, especially because of the open conversations the panelists had with the audience.  An individual from the audience posed the question, “Can only native scholars utilize settler colonialism in their research and can settler colonialism only be used to understand native pasts?”  Nathan Connolly, a Black historian of property rights and land in Florida, responded that the moment we start to put restrictions on who can write certain pasts or operate specific optics is the moment white supremacy succeeds.  Llana Barber, a specialist in immigration and Latinx history, concurred and suggested that settler colonialism helps attenuate the differences between different historically-marginalized ethnic groups.  She compared Puerto Rican and Native American pasts, referring to land sovereignty and citizenship rights through the guise of a friendly state.  The roundtable concluded that settler colonialism can and is helpful in thinking through ethnic histories like the Latinx past. Continue reading

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Gender and Intimacy Across the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Conference

web_bannerCheck out the schedule for this fantastic conference presented by the University of California Santa Barbara!

September 30-October 1, 2016

For more information contact:

Miroslava Chávez-Garcia, Ph.D.

Email: mchavezgarcia@history.ucsb.edu

Tel: 530-219-3933

September 30, 2016
5:00-5:15 pm: Welcome & Introduction, Sharon Farmer, Chair & Professor, History
5:15-6:00 pm: Keynote Speaker, Dr. Alexandra M. Stern, Professor of American Culture, Women’s Studies, History, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Michigan.
6:00-8:00 pm: Catered Dinner & Informal Discussion
October 1, 2016
8:00-8:45 am: Coffee, Tea, and Light Refreshments
8:45-9:00 am: Welcome & Introductions, Miroslava Chávez-Garcia & Verónica Castillo-Muñoz

Session I
9:00-10:30 am: Cultural Studies, Media, & Personal Narratives in Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
Laura Barraclough, Assistant Professor, American Studies, Yale University, “Charro Masculinity in Motion: Gender, Sexuality, and the Family on Hulu’s Los Cowboys”
Juan Llamas-Rodríguez, Ph.D. Candidate, Film & Media, UCSB, “The Familial Ties of the Female NarcoTrafficker”
Jennifer Tyburczy, Assistant Professor, Feminist Studies, UCSB, “Sex Toys after NAFTA: Transnational Class Politics, Erotic Consumerism, and the Economy of Female Pleasure in Mexico City”
Deborah Boehm, Associate Professor, Anthropology and Women’s Studies/Gender, Race, and Identity, University of Nevada Reno, “Divided by Citizenship and/or Geography: Partnerships in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands”
Commentators: D. Inés Casillas, Associate Professor, Chicana/o Studies, UCSB, & Leisy Abrego, Associate Professor, Chicana/o Studies, UCLA
Audience: Comment

Session II
10:45 am-12:15 pm: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Gender, Marriage, and Intimacy in 20th-Century U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
Celeste Menchaca, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, History, Texas Christian University, “Staging Crossings: Policing and Performing Difference at the U.S.-Mexico Border, 1906-1917”
Marla A. Ramírez, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Sociology and Sexuality Studies, SFSU, “Transnational Gender Formations: A Banished U.S. Citizen Woman Negotiates Motherhood & Marriage Across the U.S.-Mexico Border”
Jane Lily López, Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology, UCSD, “Together and Apart: Mixed-Citizenship Couples in the Mexican Border Region”
Commentators: Denise Segura, Professor, Sociology, UCSB, & Verónica Castillo-Muñoz, Assistant Professor, History, UCSB
Audience: Comment
Lunch Break: 12:15 pm – 1:15 pm

Session III
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm: Contesting Gender, Family, and Marriage in the 19th-Century U.S.-Borderlands
Margie Brown-Coronel, Assistant Professor, History, CSU, Fullerton, “History Makers in the Borderlands: Josefa Del Valle and Legacy Building in California, 1880 to 1940”
Amy Langford, Ph.D. Candidate, History, American University, “Saints on the Border: Plural Marriage and the Contest for Authority in the Mormon Colonies of Mexico, 1885 to 1915”
Erika Pérez, Assistant Professor, History, University of Arizona, “The Zamorano-Daltons and the Unevenness of U.S. Conquest in California: A Borderland Family at the Turn of the 20th Century”
Commentators: James Brooks, Professor, History & Anthropology, UCSB, & Miroslava Chávez-García, Professor, History, UCSB
Audience: Comment
3:00-3:15 pm: Concluding Remarks & Publishing Timeline
Miroslava Chávez-García, Verónica Castillo-Muñoz, & Marc Rodríguez, Editor, Pacific Historical Review

 

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CFP: Native American and Indigenous Studies Association Annual Meeting

The Native American and Indigenous Studies Association has launched a call for paper for it’s ninth annual meeting, which will occur in Vancouver, British Columbia, from June 22-24, 2017. The organizers are accepting proposals for individual papers, panels, roundtables, and film screenings. Submissions of a broad range of diverse and interdisciplinary scholarly topics are encouraged.  More from the announcement:

All persons working in Native American and Indigenous Studies are invited and encouraged to apply. Proposals are welcome from faculty and students in colleges, universities, and tribal colleges; from community-based scholars and elders; and from professionals working in the field. We especially encourage proposals relating to Indigenous community-driven scholarship.

Visit NAISA’s conference website for additional information, including how to apply.

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Conference Notes: LASA 2016

At the end of the spring semester, I had the opportunity to attend and present my work at this year’s Conference of the Latin American Studies Association in New York City. The meeting brought thousands of specialists of Latin America to the Big Apple’s Midtown Hilton and Sheraton Times Square hotels. I landed in JFK on Thursday late afternoon and took an Uber into the city. Checking into my hotel in the West Village that evening, I made it to the conference site at the start of the next day. Already the Hilton lobby was packed with attendees for a full schedule of panels and other events over Memorial Day Weekend. In total, more than six thousand people participated in this year’s LASA with over 1,400 panels listed in the program. The conference’s film festival also screened dozens of works.

Bustling Times Square, photo by author.

For historians of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, there were a handful of interesting bilingual panels presenting papers on mobility, immigration policy, cultural and social analysis, drug policy, and historical memory of the region. On Friday morning, Amelia A. Hall of the University of Alberta was scheduled to give her paper, “The Badasses of Bad Movies: Border Hybridity, Women’s Models, and Gendered National Identity in Cine Fronterizo.” Unfortunately, it was difficult make it to everything given that a lot of related panels were occurring at the same time. Down the hall, Marta M. Caminero-Santangelo, of the University of Kansas, had organized a panel on literary depictions of border crossings, which looked at the DREAMers, as well as the Caribbean context of the border (Marisel C Moreno, University of Notre Dame), and Latinx literary aesthetics (Ylce Irizarry).

Of course, being New York City in springtime, there were countless things to do outside the hotel’s walls. Walking through midtown Manhattan, people wearing their attendee badges could be seen enjoying all that the area had to offer. Although the heat was sweltering, I joined friends for walks in Central Park, strolled Fifth Avenue, and later had dinner nearby the conference at the tasty and affordable, Topaz Thai.

The next day, I was excited to attend an early evening panel organized by Stanford University’s Mateo J. Carillo, and chaired by Julia G. Young of the Catholic University of America, on transnational migrant mobilities. Being an historian of transport mobility in northern Mexico, myself, this session was right up my alley (pun intended). The first presenter, Laura D. Gutierrez from the University of California-San Diego, spoke on the history of the Bracero program and punitive deportations. One aspect of the work that really captivated my interest was Gutierrez’s analysis of the power and limits of the U.S. and Mexican bureaucracies that exerted power over transnational workers. Following Gutierrez, Carillo spoke about the history of road building in the Bajío, a northwest-central region of Mexico, and its impact on the mobilization of agricultural workers who traveled for jobs in the United States. Carillo rightly emphasized that new roads played a crucial role in this labor history from the 1940s to the 1960s. Lastly, Yuridia Ramirez of Duke University, presented her work on the links that form between Mexican migrant communities in North Carolina and their families and friends remaining in the Bajío. She analyzed themes of identity production and cultural heritage, and the role that education played. The discussion that followed was lively. Afterwards, I joined colleagues for dinner at the aptly named House of Brews.

My panel, organized by my friend and colleague Catherine Vézina of the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE), was scheduled for Monday morning in the Times Square Sheraton. It began with José Alberto Moreno Chávez of El Colegio de México (Colmex) who spoke about cosmopolitan culture and modernization in Mexico City through a fascinating analysis of how elites wrote and thought about popular terms, including “Snob” and “Fresa,” which invariably included historical context of U.S. cultural influence. I followed with a presentation on rural road-building campaigns in Mexico, including the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León, where transportation companies pressed the government for more highways in support of domestic and U.S. tourism along the border. Catherine continued, giving a paper on the implications of the bracero program to bilateral policy initiatives and questioning the impact on modernization schemes in Mexico. After her, Valeria Sánchez Michel, also of CIDE, discussed the history of modernization related to Mexican higher education in the 1950s, exploring the cultural representations that planners hoped to impose as well as how this ideal contrasted with students’ everyday life and demand for reforms. Finally, Colmex’s Vanni Pettina concluded the panel with a lively discussion of his work on bilateral relations between the Soviet Union and Mexico during the late 1950s and early 1960s as Mexican President Adolfo Lopéz Mateos navigated the diplomatic currents of the Cold War.

Following the panel, it was time to grab a coffee, check into some other sessions, meet more friends and colleagues, and later explore more of the city. The weekend was packed and like any LASA conference, it’s hard to make it to every panel and event that piques your interest. Nevertheless, it was a great experience that brought together a wide gathering of the academic community on Latin America in a diverse, multicultural and multidisciplinary atmosphere. If you were at LASA this year, share your experiences about the panels (especially borderlands-themed sessions) in the comments below!

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Seminar Notes: Developing Transboundary Institutions

Last month, the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, where I work, hosted Dr. Debora VanNijnatten, an Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science and North American Studies department at Wilfrid Laurier University. She specializes in issues of bilateral governance across North America, and is working with a research group examining how institutions coordinate across borders to tackle environmental challenges, including climate change. Although she has also studied the U.S.-Mexico border, currently her work is focused on the Great Lakes region to understand how the United States and Canada handle shipping, resource management, and other activities. It is a region with a long history of treaties and binational agreements, which has forged a highly institutionalized space to address concerns of land and water use.

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Dr. Debora VanNijnatten. Photo credit: Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega.

During the seminar, Dr. VanNijnatten noted that although there are a number of binational institutions in place, significant environmental problems that are difficult to resolve continue to face the region. Organizations have successfully addressed targeted problems, but larger, and more complex issues, such as dealing with cross-sector challenges that affect numerous communities and public/private interests, are a much harder task. Many scientists who study the Great Lakes area are concerned that this border region is at an ecological tipping point.

As a historian of the US-Mexico borderlands, what struck me most about Dr. VanNijnatten’s work is the importance of thinking about the history of institutions and transboundary governance. Certainly, issues of water and land use have deeply marked the U.S.-Mexico border region as well; from the impact of building of the Hoover Dam for the Colorado River Basin to modern-day disputes over water management in times of severe drought. A multidisciplinary approach that incorporates an understanding of policymaking and quantitative/qualitative methods, within an historical context, can be useful to chart the longue durée of local, state, and federal decision-making in everyday life along the border. The industrial and transport infrastructure built between nations affects economic access for regional communities (benefitting some places more than others) and also leaves a lasting mark on the natural environment. An historical understanding of the institutions that were formed to determine and enforce bilateral agreements is critical to developing a clearer view of how people cope with the challenges of managing borderlands resources.

Returning to Dr. VanNijnatten’s work, her group is developing a model to understand transboundary governance. They’re looking at a wide range of topics that affect communities and institutions, including degrees of compliance, info-sharing, and legal and political legitimacy. She notes that an important aspect of transboundary governance is how networks (people and communities) interact with institutions (government agencies, etc.) to understand and respond to regional problems. Her team finds that even in borderland areas, like the Great Lakes, with a long history of bilateral agreements, there still occurs considerable amounts of fragmentation and lack of coordination between nation-states. Thinking about how these themes address the history of the U.S.-Mexico border can inform our own work on the institutionalization of political and economic priorities in this region.

For more of Dr. VanNijnatten’s work, click here. My colleague, Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega, has also written about this seminar, here.

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Call for Papers: UTEP Borderlands History Conference 2017

DEADLINE EXTENDED to Sept. 23!

The UTEP History Department is excited to announce The Annual University of Texas at El Paso Borderlands History Conference, February 10-11, 2017 here in El Paso.  This year’s theme is Shifting Borders: Gender, Family, and Community, and UTEP will welcome keynote speaker Sonia Hernández (Texas A&M).   Paper and panel proposals are accepted until September 23, 2016.

CONVOCATORIA EXTENDIDA hasta el 23 de septiembre!

El Departamento de Historia de la Universidad de Texas, El Paso anuncia la Conferencia Anual de Historia Fronteriza de UTEP, 10-11 de febrero de 2017 en El Paso, Texas. El tema es “Fronteras movedizas: género, familia y comunidad” y le darán la bienvenida a la presentadora principal, Sonia Hernández (Texas A&M).  Se aceptan ponencias (individuales o de mesas) hasta el 23 de septiembre de 2016.

historyconference@utep.edu

borderhistoryconf.utep.edu

Call for Papers (ENGLISH)

Convocatoria de Ponencias (ESPAÑOL)

Categories: Calls for Papers, conferences, News and Announcements | Leave a comment

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