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BHIP #6: A Conversation with Dr. Maria Montoya

 

Montoya2013

Join me in welcoming Dr. Maria Montoya to the BHIP as she helps us bring this fantastic year for the Borderlands History Blog to a close. I was fortunate to meet with her at the Western History Association conference in Portland, Oregon. It was a chilly morning in late October when I sat with Professor Montoya to discuss her research, teaching, and new projects. We discussed the convergence of Western and Borderlands history in her work and teaching. Dr. Montoya is currently Associate Professor of History at New York University. She received her M.A. in 1990 and her PhD in 1993 from Yale University.

Dr. Montoya has written extensively on the history of the American West and borderlands. Her first book Translating Property: The Maxwell Land Grant and the Conflict Over Land in the American West, 1840 to 1920 about the various state and capitalist forces that altered the American landscape after 1848 received excellent reviews, she has several articles and chapters in edited volumes including one with Vicki Ruiz and John Chavez, titled “Creating an American Home: Work, Gender and Space in Rockefeller’s Coal Towns.” Her second manuscript titled: Taking Care of American Workers: The Origins of Universal Healthcare in the American West 1900-1950 and a text book Global Americans: A Social and Global History of the United States are both forthcoming. We talked about what inspired her research and her teaching, and how borderlands history and methods have influenced how she engages her scholarship. Continue reading

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Thank you, readers!

We wanted to thank all of you who read the blog for your support. We’ve just passed 1,000 followers on Twitter and are excited about growing even more in the coming year. We look forward to continuing this work and having you along for the journey.

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Review of “Bordertown” Prescreening

 

bordertown

Last week I attended an advance screening of Fox’s upcoming animated series Bordertown, co-sponsored by USC El Centro Chicano, the Institute for Diversity & Empowerment at Annenberg, and the USC Annenberg Third Space Initiative. The event featured the showing of two episodes followed by a Q&A with the show’s creator Mark Hentemann, co-writer & cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, actor Nicholas Gonzalez, and USC Annenberg Professor Josh Kun. Produced by Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy, Bordertown is set in the fictitious Mexifornia, a desert town that supposedly blends the characteristics of Arizona, Texas, and California. Bordertown takes a satirical look at cross-cultural interaction and conflict along the U.S.-Mexico border and pulls no punches in pointing out the absurdity of U.S. immigration policy and politics.

BordertownPreScreenPanel

(From left to right: Bill Vela, Prof. Josh Kun, Mark Hentemann, Lalo Alcaraz, Nicholas Gonzalez, Maria Jose Plasencia, and Prof. Robert Hernandez)

The first episode, “the engagement,” appears to be the pilot and it will introduce audiences to the families of Bud Buckwald and Ernesto Gonzalez, neighbors in Mexifornia, as the town deals with the passage of an AZ SB 1070-like piece of anti-immigrant legislation. The second episode, entitled “Borderwall” will air around the middle of the first season and as the title implies spoofs the aftermath of constructing an outlandish concrete wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to Mark Hentemann, not all episodes will feature political issues and themes, but the show does seek to highlight the social friction emanating from cultural shifts in the country, like the emergence of a minority-majority populace.

Bud Buckwald is Archie Bunker-like in his take on the demographic, cultural, and economic transitions occurring in Bordertown. His family’s roots go back to the town’s establishment and he longs for the good old days when the town reflected his WASP heritage. Bud is disgruntled at work and home. He works for the Border Patrol, has a Mexican American supervisor, and is repeatedly outsmarted by a coyote that looks like the Mexican bandits featured in Warner Bros. 1948 film The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Even more aggravating for Buckwald, is that his immigrant neighbor is doing better than he is economically.

Ernesto Gonzalez is an immigrant from Mexico and the successful owner of a landscaping business. While Buckwald is bitter and nostalgic, Gonzalez is optimistic and sees America as truly, “the land of opportunity.” While Buckwald is rude and condescending in his interactions with his neighbor, Gonzalez is good natured and amicable, either ignoring, or apparently not picking up on Buckwald’s bigotry. Although posing contrasting figures, from the screening of the two episodes, it seems the two form somewhat of a friendship (or mutual tolerance) as the season progresses.

Clearly, the show plays with numerous cultural stereotypes, which according to Alcaraz are intended to shock, offend, and provoke a national dialogue surrounding the absurdity and incipient racism that underlies much of the popular discourse surrounding immigration, border security, the economy, demographic change, and multiculturalism. While not offended, I was certainly surprised by the show’s breakneck pace—rapidly moving from one social/political issue to another—as well as its reliance on cultural caricatures, misogynist representations of hyper-sexualized women, and its light-hearted depiction of border violence and death. In fairness, this is satire, and the show’s creators, writers, and producers certainly understand the seriousness of the topics they cover and feel comedy is the ideal medium to bring audiences together to laugh, think, and discuss these polarizing issues.

Debuting amidst an election year that has already witnessed a flood of anti-immigrant rhetoric ranging from the mildly xenophobic and ethnocentric to the blatantly racist, it seems Bordertown is ideally positioned to attract a lot of attention. Naturally, the true test will come in the weeks following its nationally televised release on Sunday, January 3rd 2016.

The show’s official trailer can be viewed here

Thanks to Adam Goodman for providing the photo of the panelists.

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A conversation with Ana Elizabeth Rosas, author of “Abrazando el Espiritu: Bracero Families Confront the US-Mexico Border”

The Emergency Farm Labor Program (a.k.a. Bracero Program) was initiated in 1942 as a bilateral wartime agreement between the governments of the United States and Mexico. The program’s initial objectives were two-fold, address labor shortages in U.S. agriculture, and promote the modernization of rural Mexican peasants through a type of worker training (i.e., contract labor) that would infuse the Mexican economy with cash remittances. In the standard narrative established by scholars over the last few decades, the Bracero Program was a boon to American corporate agriculture as U.S. and Mexican government officials subsidized the profits of the industry by turning a blind eye to numerous reports of worker exploitation and employer abuses throughout the continuous twenty-two year history of the program. Additionally, scholars have highlighted the period as essential to understanding the evolution of U.S.-Mexico migratory trends, the rise of so-called illegal immigration, and the entrenchment of restrictionist-minded federal immigration policy towards Mexico.

In Abrazando el Espiritu: Bracero Families Confront the US-Mexico Border (University of California Press, 2014), Ana Elizabeth Rosas, Associate Professor of History and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine, observes that the top down focus of previous scholarship has missed the Bracero Program’s impact on families (women and children in particular) left behind by the husbands, fathers, and brothers that sojourned to the U.S. as contract laborers. Providing a bottom up perspective rooted in rural Mexicans villages like San Martin de Hidalgo, Professor Rosas narrates the experiences and development of transnational Mexican immigrant families. Complimenting previous studies that have emphasized Mexican worker vulnerability and victimization, Abrazando el Espiritu (“embracing the spirit”) highlights the agency of Bracero families confronting the challenges of separation and alienation. In addition to official government archives, Professor Rosas relies on family photographs, love letters, popular songs, and oral histories to provide an intimate tale of family survival that transcended international borders. A truly landmark study, Abrazando el Espiritu deepens our understanding of the costs of transnational labor migration on families and the efforts undertaken by women, children, men, and the elderly to preserve familial bonds amidst government surveillance and abandonment.

Listen to our conversation at New Books in Latino Studies.

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Lecture on The “Lost” Apache Treaty of 1851, November 14, 2015 at 2 p.m.

Lost Apache Lecture

You are invited to attend a lecture by UTEP Professor Dr. Jeffrey Shepherd on the “Lost” Apache Treaty of 1852, on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 2 p.m. at El Paso Museum of Archaeology.  FREE.

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Notes on the UTEP Borderlands History Conference

In August 2014 the UTEP History Department decided that they wanted to host a binational/bilingual borderlands history conference to showcase the growing doctoral program given its location on the border. Heather Sinclair, a doctoral candidate in the borderlands history program, was brought on to plan and organize the event which would take place one year later in November 2015.

As the concept began to form, Chicano historian Ernesto Chávez suggested a broad theme that would help to bring scholars from both sides of the line together. While Latin Americanists have long articulated theories on the significance of the state during the colonial and national periods, U.S. historians have long danced around its significance. In the spirit of emerging histories about the state—think Margot Canaday’s The Straight State—as well as a larger discussion about the state of borderlands history, Chávez suggested the State in/of Borderlands history as the conference theme.

UTEP History faculty members formed a committee to help steer and coordinate the conference. Sam Brunk, Yolanda Leyva, Jeff Shepherd, Paul Edison, Ignacio Martinez and Heather Sinclair met over weeks and months to discuss the call for papers as well as the other activities that the conference would offer to all those attending. Over sixty proposals were received for the first annual borderlands conference, and the committee read and grouped papers in order to advance the theme of the meeting. In the end 14 papers were chosen. While there were great papers from borders around the globe, the committee wanted to focus primarily on the U.S.-Mexico line in order to highlight the location of UTEP as a border institution. Chávez recommended Kelly Lytle Hernandez (UCLA), author of MIGRA! : The History of the U.S. Border Patrol, as the keynote speaker. Her studies underscore the significance of state actors, particularly the emergence of the border patrol and also her current work on the use of incarceration on the U.S. side of the line, as foundational to the creation of the borderlands region.

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Putting together a conference is never easy, with support from the Graduate School and the conference committee, Sinclair balanced the logistical aspects of lodging, food, and meeting space, with questions about abstracts and paper deadlines, panel chairs and commentators, and volunteers. There were many volunteers, mostly doctoral students from the Borderlands History Program, who worked to create the poster and the program, as well as during the event. Over the course of the year committee members took on different roles in the department, Leyva ended her three years as history department chair and Brunk began his with a seamless transition. Their borderlands expertise and overall investment in the conference helped to move things forward. As the conference approached, scholars registered and program notes were fine tuned.

DSC_0407 (2)The conference was a two-day event overflowing with panels and discussions about the state. Lytle Hernandez kicked off the event with a fantastic keynote address held at UTEP’s El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center that traced our contemporary crisis of over incarceration to its origins in the borderlands. In the vein of Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, Lytle Hernandez shifted the discussion to understand the genesis of ethnic Mexican incarceration in the United States. The Immigration Act of 1929, championed by Senator Blease, not only criminalized the migration of ethnic Mexicans into the United States, but also the incarceration of Mexicans, Lytle Hernandez argued, further racialized them as permanent foreigners in need of removal from the body politic. Using settler colonial theory that posits land acquisition—the formation and reproduction of colonizers social structures on stolen land—as the ideological framework for understanding mass incarceration of ethnic Mexicans in the early twentieth century, Lytle Hernandez discussed the creation of La Tuna, in Anthony, New Mexico and blank prison in Arizona as the first major federal prisons designed to incarcerate immigration violators along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Her passionate call for greater study of and activism against the grave crisis of migrant incarceration in the borderlands, left many graduate students feeling energized and euphoric as we celebrated Lytle Hernandez during the evening’s reception. The wine flowed and the food was plentiful as Mexican and U.S. scholars of the Borderlands were introduced or reconnected during the festivities. Students socialized with each other and waited to speak with the many prominent historians that attended the event. Mario T. Garcia, Fernando Saúl Alanís Enciso, and Cheryl Martin among others engaged with up and coming graduate students throughout the evening. Continue reading

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Upcoming Event on the Legacy of the Revolution in Northern Mexico

Dear readers, if you’re going to be in Mexico City between November 17th and 19th, we wanted you to know about a great series of panels that will be hosted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The venue for the conference is the Museo de la Revolution en la Frontera. Panels include a retrospective on Friedrich Katz’s work and his perspective on the Revolution in northern Mexico. The event also has workshops and other exhibits scheduled. We’ve included the poster INAH is circulating. For more information, you can also check out the museum’s website: http://www.muref.org

COMPRIMIDO POSTER JORNADAS

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Sunday Reading Suggestions: “The Refugees at Our Door” and “Erasing the U.S.-Mexico Border”

Last month, the New York Times ran an excellent profile about how the United States has outsourced to Mexico a crackdown against migrants looking to reach the U.S.-Mexico border. The author, Sonia Nazario, travels to Mexico to meet and write about the people affected by this policy, many of whom are living in shelters across the country. She describes the exhaustive ordeals migrants have endured, walking great distances through difficult mountain terrain, and fearing for their lives against abuse from gangs, the police, and others. The profile includes compelling photography of people’s living conditions. Nazario writes:

Although President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico said when he announced the so-called Southern Border Plan that it was to “protect the human rights of migrants as they pass through Mexico,” the opposite has happened. By the Mexican government’s own accounting, 72,000 migrants have been rescued from kidnappers in recent years. They are often tortured and held for ransom. The survivors tell of being enslaved working in marijuana fields or forced into prostitution. Many are killed — sometimes they have organs harvested — in what’s become an invisible, silent slaughter. The government push has been interpreted as open season on migrants who have become prey to an exploding number of criminals and the police who rob, rape, beat and kill them.

In another story we wanted to bring to your attention about a new exhibit along the border that combines art and activism. Writing for the Phoenix New Times, Lynn Trimble describes how artist Ana Teresa Fernández and volunteers have begun painting portions of the border fence that separates Nogales, Sonora from Nogales, Arizona. They “erase” the fence by painting it sky blue, allowing it to blend in with the horizon. It is part of a broader campaign that has seen people do the same elsewhere along the border. Trimble writes:

Fernandez conceived both “paint outs” as a way of erasing the border. By painting the border fence blue to match the sky, she created the illusion that the fence no longer existed along a portion of the border. In each case, she worked alongside others to make it happen. About three dozen people painted with her in Nogales, including ASU students, community members, and her mom — whom Fernandez credits with raising her consciousness of the border.

For the full stories, follow the links. Enjoy!

The Refugees at Our Door

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/11/opinion/sunday/the-refugees-at-our-door.html?_r=0

Artist Ana Teresa Fernández on Erasing the U.S.-Mexico Border with Blue Paint

http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/arts/artist-ana-teresa-fernandez-on-erasing-the-us-mexico-border-with-blue-paint-7761675

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Sunday Reading Suggestion: Fuentes and the Forsaken Borderlands

In 2012, writing for the New York Times, Kyle Jarrard reflected on the life and literary contributions of Carlos Fuentes shortly after the author’s death in May. The crux of this article considered how Fuentes wrote about the border and he described its significance for Mexico and the United States as a liminal space of personal interaction, violence, and escape. As Jarrard described it, Fuentes wrote about the “ghosts” of the region and the stories they carried about a place on the periphery of the nation-state:

But it is not a romantic sojourn: He hits hard at both Mexico and the United States for letting the borderland sink into hell, and gets grief for it, of course, from the North, where they somehow doubt his convictions. “When I satire Mexico I’m a great satirist. When I poke fun at the United States, I’m a mean, clichéd caricaturist. It is curious that one should always get pallid anemic WASPs as critics.”

Those aren’t the words of a man who doesn’t believe entirely in all he writes, of the power of the people on his pages, of their absolute reality: They are you and me, and there is no space between them and us.

This is the vicarious joy Carlos produced: A love for the tragic fact of life here and now, for the auténtico, and for the unending voyage through history to see again that so much never changes. Generals or their progeny will always occupy the president’s office; gringos will always come over the border, drink and then go off into the perilous night in search of finality.

For the full article, follow the link:

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A Paradise from Some, Harsh Reality for Others

The Guardian reports on the heartbreaking reality of everyday life along the border. At Organ Pipe National Monument, there’s a tourist boom underway with visitor rates increasing by 30%. The landscape in this part of southwest Arizona is beautiful and certainly should be known by more people. Yet, it’s also a very dangerous area for migrants arriving via Mexico, and many risk their life to do so. As the article says, two very different pamphlets, one in English, the other in Spanish, underscore the sharp contrast between tourists and migrants at this park:

“Immerse yourself in a photographer’s paradise!” advises a glossy tourist brochure. “Explore the abundance of plants and wildlife unique to the Sonoran desert. Guided walks through the park, as well as hiking trails, camping and picnic facilities, are available. Drive the scenic 21-mile Ajo Mountain loop … star-studded night skies wash away the modern world.”

An identical-sized pamphlet on cheap paper, which you find in Mexican towns bordering the park, offers starker tips in Spanish.

“Use the north star and the movement of the moon to guide you towards the north during the night. Carry one gallon of water in each hand and six litres in the backpack. You can drink cactus fruit but the skin has nearly invisible spines. Peel carefully. If you have no water, drinking urine can sustain you for a while. Don’t do it repeatedly because it will become toxic.”

For the full story, follow the link:
http://gu.com/p/4d6qd?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPress

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