Capitalism and Complicity between the U.S. Government and Railroad Corporations along the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
This paper analyzes issues surrounding the construction of the Southern Pacific Railway in the late nineteenth century, and early twentieth century, through María Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s novel The Squatter and the Don (1885) and Daniel Venegas’s novel Las aventuras de Don Chipote, O cuando los pericos mamen (1928). In my study I discuss the representations of somatic violence, what Johan Galtung describes as “deprivation of health…with killing as the extreme form,” and structural violence, which is “the violence [that] is built into the structure and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances.” This cultural production studied in this chapter represents the exploitation of laborers, which is a type of somatic violence, as well as structural violence such as federal and state legislation. This included funding construction of railroads and gave them public land that formerly belonged to marginalized communities, legalized discriminatory medical procedures, legalized slavery through vagrancy laws and anti-Indigenous laws, all sanctioned by the United Sates government to further its efforts of nation-building and settler colonialism.
Land and Life: Building Infrastructure for Social Needs in Deep South Texas
Scholarly and popular accounts of the U.S.-Mexico border often depict nearby communities as caught between clashing nations. Yet, such framing obscures both countries’ far-reaching policy collaborations that have structured vast inequality as a condition of local life. This paper historicizes the thousands of chronically under-resourced Texas border communities (las colonias) where today a half-million people live in one of the greatest concentrations of American poverty. Through property records, oral histories, and government archives, it explores how Texas landowners devised extra-legal schemes targeting Mexican migrant workers in the twentieth century. It further contends that U.S., Mexican, and local policies shaped a land-use regime of simultaneous urban development and rural underdevelopment—launching myriad grassroots battles that transformed the once-small migrant settlements into ready-made housing markets. Ultimately, the project explains how workers, landowners, and state actors made the Texas colonias a transnational institution of poverty and profit in the modern U.S.-Mexico borderlands.
Respondent: Rachel St. John, University of California-Davis
This event is free, but all participants must register in advance and space is limited. To register and request a copy of the pre-circulated paper, click below. Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.Register
About the Borderlands and Latino/a Studies Seminar Series
The Newberry Borderlands and Latino/a Studies Seminar provides a forum for works-in-progress from scholars and graduate students that explore a variety of topics in the field. Seminars are conversational and free and open to faculty, graduate students, and members of the public, who register in advance to request papers.