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. 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.” 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. 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. Continue reading →
Dr. Grace Peña Delgado. Photo credit: Dr. Ernesto Chávez.
It was a lovely morning drive to Santa Cruz, California to meet with and interview Dr. Grace Peña Delgado. Dr. Delgado is currently Associate Professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Exclusion, and Localism in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (Stanford University Press: 2012) which was distinguished as a CHOICE Academic title. Additionally, she co-authored Latino Immigrants in the United States (Polity, 2012) with Ronald Mize.
Delgado has penned several noteworthy articles including her latest piece, “Border Control and Sexual Policing: White Slavery and Prostitution along the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, 1903-1910,” in the Western Historical Quarterly which garnered several awards including the Judith Lee Ridge Award for best article in history published by a member of the Western Association of Women Historians and the Bolton-Cutter Award for best article on Spanish Borderlands history. We had a wonderful conversation about her past projects and her current and future research. Delgado discussed the significance of migration, immigration, race, gender, and sexuality in the borderlands, and about the ways in which the state as a focus of study is becoming more important as we understand the history of the making of the Mexico-U.S. and the Canada-U.S. boundary.
Delgado explained how she discovered the topic for her first book Making the Chinese Mexican. Listening to her grandparents recall the expulsion of the Chinese community out of Sonora, Mexico, Delgado realized she had no historical knowledge of this event. She saw promise in this little known topic and this transnational story became the focus of her dissertation and then her book. In the end Delgado believes her manuscript is a critique of nationalism on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. While there is a strong historical understanding of the dangers of American nativism at the turn of the twentieth century, her book shows the ways in which Mexican nationalism/nativism pushed back and forged a distinct border culture along the border of Arizona and Sonora, specifically as it related to the racialization of Chinese and Mexican communities in the region.
Her current project emerged alongside her research for her first book; as she dug through archival material that discussed the exclusion of Chinese from the United States and Mexico, she discovered documents that related to white slavery and the policing of women’s bodies along the border. While her first book revealed the layers of racial justifications for national exclusion, her current research unpacks the gendered and sexualized modes of exclusion, particularly for women. Delgado believes that a deeper and more nuanced analysis of state bureaucracy will reveal the ways in which sexuality lay at the foundation of state control along the border. She contends that the state and state formation mechanisms have been absent from the ways in which we analyze identity formation and the creation of communities along the border.
We also talked about the influence of Chicano/a and Latino/a historiography and methods in her research. Delgado made clear that her next book will reclaim borderlands history as Chicano/a history and vice versa. As borderlands scholars begin to address different questions, Delgado suggests this work has not been attributed to Chicano and Chicana historiography. She explains that as scholars we have “lost track of the contributions of Chicano historiography of 40 years past and we’ve also lost track of the way in which they’ve talked about the state and state formation on the border…” Dr. Delgado explains that her next book, focusing on prostitution, white slavery, and state formation will bring Chicano/a scholarship back in conversation with borderlands historiography and firmly place Chicano/a history back in the borderlands.
I asked Delgado about how she approaches teaching U.S. history, given her research and analysis of borderlands history. “I teach histories of American empire-building through critiques of citizenship and nationalism that also include the Mexican side of the equation,” Delgado explained. She places Chicano/a history, specifically, within a hemispheric framework and teaching through a postcolonial lens. Delgado believes that these ideas as well as her tenure in Pennsylvania inspired her to write her book Latino Immigrants in the United States in order to show linkages between Chicano/a and Latino/a scholarship and experiences in the United States. Delgado states that bridging this scholarship and translating this historical knowledge for students can help them to understand the roots of collective activism against American nativism in this country.
There is so much more we discussed, specifically in regards to state building and the management and control of bodies along the border. I recommend listening to the entirety of the interview in order to truly appreciate the scope of Delgado’s work and knowledge. I could have asked Dr. Delgado a million more questions about nativism, bureaucracies, immigration and the power of the state in the borderlands. It was a pleasure to interview her and yet again confirm the importance of borderlands history in our research and teaching.
I would like to thank Dr. Delgado for inviting me to the University of California, Santa Cruz and all the Borderlands History blog audience for tuning in to this exciting interview.
Special thanks to Marko Morales for his audio editing skills and to Mike Bess for his tech support.
Embracing Transnationalism and Rethinking Fundamentalisms
A Review of Frontiers of Borderlands History: Gender, Nation, and Empire – The Borderlands and Frontiers Studies Committee Meeting at the 130th AHA Annual Conference, Friday, January 6th in Atlanta, Georgia.
Participants: Elliot Young, Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez, Sonia Hernández, Julia Maria Schiavone Camacho, and Ramón A. Gutiérrez
Borderlands history is the study of a particular region – the U.S.-Mexico borderlands (for most of those attending this panel) – but it also might be more broadly conceived as the study of transnational processes that transcend borders. The chair of the Borderlands and Frontiers Studies Committee Meeting, Elliot Young (Lewis and Clark College) has demonstrated in his first monograph, Caterino Garza’s Revolution on the Texas-Mexico Border (2004), that borderlands history is at once tied to a specific region, but can also transcend it, as his recent monograph, Alien Nation: Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era Through WWII (2014) shows. Unfortunately, I missed Elliot Young’s opening remarks due to the trouble I had navigating the vertical maze of the Marriott – one of the three enormous hotels claimed by the AHA last weekend.
I arrived while Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez (University of Texas at San Antonio) was talking about both the necessity and difficulty for borderlands historians to complete research in archives on both sides of the border, something he experienced while researching his monograph, River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands (2012). This theme, the importance of transnational archival research, came up in each paper. In fact, two overarching and overlapping questions emerged from this panel discussion. First, how is borderlands history “transnational” and what does “transnational” mean? Second, does borderlands history challenge cultural and national “fundamentalisms” and binaries or reinforce them? Continue reading →
The U.S.-Mexico border is much more than just a line on a map. It is an open wound, a line in the sand, a political construct, a paradoxical place of division and connection, a marker of imagined projections of territorial power, a place that eludes state control.* Over the course of the past two hundred years, the border has transformed from a shifting line on maps, to a “line in the sand,” to an increasingly marked, built, and “fixed” border. Today’s border dissects so many things, yet it remains porous. People, animals, pathogens, drugs, money, ideas, religion, food, goods, water, and countless other things cross the border daily and nothing suggests that this movement will cease—no matter how big a wall we build. And yet, many who study the U.S.-Mexico border treat the border as if there is something absolute about it: many U.S. historians who study the U.S.-Mexico borderlands never research south of the borderline.
In Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, Samuel Truett writes that, “Most Americans have forgotten transnational histories not only because they have trusted maps of the nation, but also because they have succumbed to the siren-song of the state (p.5).” Many historians of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands fit this description, but we don’t have to, nor should we.
This was originally posted at www.bwrensink.org as a part of an ongoing book review series, “From the Bookshelf.” The content is not explicitly borderlands but seems relevant to the field.
Back when I was working on my dissertation, I was put in contact with a scholar in Australia – Claudia B. Haake – as her recent monograph was relevant to my research in its content and methodology. Her book, The State, Removal and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and Mexico, 1620-2000, is a comparative treatment of the forced removals of Lenapes (Delawares) by the United States, and Yaquis by Mexico. As 1/2 of my dissertation dealt with Yaquis crossing the U.S.-Mexican border into the United States, the related scholarship on Porfirian forced removal (enslavement, actually) of Yaquis to the Yucatan was an important backdrop for explaining the flight of Yaqui refugees to Arizona and other points north. The content of her book highlighted some very useful sources that I had yet to uncover. Continue reading →
On January 26, 2012, Borderlands History Blog went live. We look forward to more and better content in this next year. Thank you for reading and for your support. If you have news, announcements, or might be interested in guest blogging with us, please drop us an email at email@example.com. Though our focus is on North American borderlands history, we’d love to present more from other geographic and methodological perspectives, so if you have some ideas, please drop us a line.
William Deverell’s 2005 Whitewashed Adobe illuminates the chronicle of Anglo American perceptions to Mexicans from the 1850s to the 1930s, a period where the development of Los Angeles saw an increase in racial discrimination. Deverell argues that due to the barrioization of Mexican neighborhoods forced upon from gentrification processes, as well as a sudden outbreak of Black Death (Bubonic plague) in these areas, Anglo Americans formed a distasteful disposition toward their Mexican Angeleno counterparts. Continue reading →
In my current position at the University of Nebraska at Kearney I have the opportunity to direct graduate reading seminars. One of the best parts of directing these seminars is drawing up the required reading lists. In past seminars on the American West, 20th Century West, Native American History and other topics I am always careful to insert a book or two with borderlands or transnational foci.
Thus, when I was given the option to direct a couple seminars over the summer on whatever topics I wanted – I immediately proposed a full seminar on “American Borderlands.” I had a great group of students and reveled in the chance to build the reading list. For those considering building similar courses, here are the books we worked through. Continue reading →
Samuel Truett’s Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands examines the industrial development of the Arizona-Sonora border in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Major themes include the significance of railroads and mining operations as conveyors of modernity, environmental and social challenges to technological growth, and the relationship between labor and capital during this period. He proposes the idea of the “fugitive landscape” as a space where environmental and social conditions can lead to technology failure and the frustration of state-corporate endeavors to extend their influence. The governments of Mexico and the United States, in conjunction with their business allies, sought to exert control over the borderlands by regulating and regimenting the bodies of new settlers who arrived to work in rail construction, mining, and other ventures. They deployed “apparatuses of security” to police these populations and separate them from Native American communities that resisted the modern nation-state. Michel Foucault’s theoretical frameworks of governmentality and bio-power are useful to explore the transformations wrought by the deployment of public and private institutions in the borderlands, alongside industrial technology, which served to extend the reach of modernity to a once “fugitive” space.
I read this fascinating post the other day from historian Ann Little. Among other points, the author discusses women’s history in borderlands literature. She writes:
I am so tired of reading “new” histories of the North American borderlands and “new” conceptualizations of “empire” that read just like anything that Francis Parkman or Frederick Jackson Turner ever wrote, except minus the racism. Now, that “minus the racism” part is important, don’t get me wrong. But is it really an intervention for which modern historians should be congratulated when we assume that historical Native Americans were rational and had their own politics? Continue reading →