Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar: Borderlands of Race and Empire

Borderlands and Latino/a Studies Seminar
Saturday, November 1, 2008

10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Panel One: 10:00am–Noon

Raza Sí, Migra No”: Herman Baca and the Chicano Movement Debate on Immigration in the California Borderlands
Jimmy Patiño, Jr., University of California at San Diego

This paper traces the emergence of the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 70s in the San Diego borderlands to assess how activists addressed the increasingly pressing issue of Mexican immigration. I argue that the activism led by local activist Herman Baca was a significant departure from the ambivalence most movement activists exhibited toward immigration. Baca combined the movement ideology of chicanismo with mentorship by ethnic Mexican activists of the previous generation to address the increasing Border Patrol harassment occurring in his borderlands community. This local occurrence indicated an important attempt to deal with the human consequences of political-economic globalization.

Eusebio Chacón’s America
John Alba Cutler, University of California at Los Angeles

Although Eusebio Chacón’s stories in Hijo de la tempestad y Tras la tormenta la calma (1892) are often cited as important early landmarks in U.S. Latina/o literature, they remain critically neglected, and Chacón himself is a mere cipher in literary histories. This essay seeks to reconstruct the cultural and political world that Chacón inhabited when he produced the stories, arguing that Chacón’s stories participate in the emergence of the modern short story as a genre among New Mexican periodical writers in the 1880s and 90s. The emergence of this localized genre is one marker of what theorist Charles Taylor refers to as “creative adaptation” to modernity, and anticipates the contours of future oppositional, transnational Latina/o cultural practices.

“A New Factor in American Destiny”: U.S. Travelers, the National Family, and the Logical Paternalism of Porfirio Díaz
Jason Ruiz, University of Notre Dame

American travelers to Mexico between 1876 and 1910 were enchanted with the dictator Porfirio Díaz and his wife, Carmen Romero Rubio Díaz. This chapter argues that American representational practices during the Porfiriato cast Díaz and his wife as the heads of a Mexican national family that was amenable to foreign economic and cultural intervention. The couple acted as the cultural mediators that, while superficially representing Mexico’s emergence as an independent modern nation, also came to embody gendered and racialized dimensions of the ideal colonial subject. Through reading the words and images of American travelogues, the chapter demonstrates the powerful roles that gender, race, and sexuality played in producing Mexico as a suitable object for United States cultural and economic imperialism.

Commentator: Josef Barton, Northwestern University

Panel Two: 1:00–3:00pm

The Flexibility of American Empire: Reading Anew the Legacies of the Spanish-American War
Augusto Espiritu, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Recent scholarship on U.S. Empire (Kaplan and Pease, 1993; Salvatore, 1998) suggests a transformation from formal, colonial models to informal, post-colonial modes of rule. This interpretation has excluded the field of strategic political considerations and has failed to explain the chronic resurgence of colonial military adventures, including the current occupation of Iraq. Taking the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars as its point of departure, this paper argues that the diversity of colonial formations between Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines attests to the fallacy of the division between formal and informal empire. Rather, it shows American Empire’s flexibility in adapting to the varied contexts of imperial-colonial encounters—deploying military rule, formal colonialism, and neo-colonialism all at the same time. Likewise, the legal innovation of “unincorporated territories,” which obviates the need for granting Constitutional rights to the colonized and inflames passion among those concerned with the influx of racial inferiors into the American body politic, shows the parallel flexibility of U.S. racial discourse in the context of American Empire’s expansion after 1898.

A complex systems approach to cultural formation in the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands
Belinda Román, University of Western Ontario

The Spanish Borderlands represent an important historical feature in the ongoing process of cultural exchange between Mexico and the United States. First encounters between indigenous populations in the region and Spanish explorers/conquistadors offer a starting point for a study of the consequences of and ongoing manifestations of these encounters. This paper presents results from a larger research project into the process of cultural exchange and genesis resulting from encounters in these borderlands using complexity theory. A simple multi-agent simulation anchored in the chronicles of New Mexico and subsequent research is utilized to approximate the emergence of a third cultural expression.

Immigration Restriction, the SSRC, and the Emergence of Mexican Migration Studies
Laurencio Sanguino, University of Chicago

Mexican immigration to the United States increased considerably beginning in 1916. By the 1920s not only had the number of Mexican immigrants entering the United States increased, Mexicans began to form a much larger percentage of the overall number of immigrants legally admitted to the country. Although advocates of immigration restriction had long criticized unregulated migration from Mexico, it would not be until the 1920s that government officials, scholars, and the American press began to speak, in earnest, of the “Mexican Problem.” This paper examines how the United States’ growing preoccupation with the “Mexican Problem” in the 1920s influenced the work of the nascent Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and gave rise to Mexican Migration Studies. Particular attention is paid to the way questions of mobility influenced the work carried out by Manuel Gamio, Paul S. Taylor, and Robert Redfield (then a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Chicago) under the auspices of the SSRC.

Commentator: Emilio Kouri, University of Chicago