and the "Third Space": The Shifting Politics of Nationalism in Greater Mexico
David G. Gutiérrerz
In October 1994, in an incident that is now widely considered to have marked a turning point in recent immigration history, an estimated seventy thousand people took to the streets of Los Angeles to protest the impending passage of California’s Proposition 187. The statewide initiative, much of which was subsequently invalidated in a federal district court, was a frankly punitive measure designed to discourage unauthorized migration to California by denying undocumented residents and their children access to virtually all public services, including tax-subsidized health care, welfare programs, and public education. The initiative generated fierce debate in the state in the months before the vote. Indeed, the controversy swirling around the initiative was such that the anti-187 march was among the largest organized political protests to occur in Los Angeles since the height of the Vietnam War.1
The march became a political flash point for many reasons, not least of which was a long-simmering resentment felt by many Californians based on their sense that "illegal aliens" were demanding rights in the United States to which they were not entitled. This impression undoubtedly was reinforced by the large numbers of Latinos who participated in the march. It is impossible to tell exactly who the protesters were, but photographs and news footage of the event indicate that most of the crowd appeared to be Latinos, and since the Mexican proportion of the Latino population of Los Angeles is conservatively estimated to be something between 70 and 80 percent, most of the marchers were probably either resident Mexican nationals or sympathetic Mexican Americans.2 What really seemed to raise the ire of observers most, however, was the political symbolism of the protest. According to many of the letters to editors that appeared in numerous newspapers in the weeks following the march, some southern Californians were disturbed because marchers chanted political slogans in Spanish and carried Spanish-language protest signs. Others seemed offended when reports surfaced that three horn players at the march had burst into an impromptu mariachi-style version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." But the symbolic image that clearly created the greatest uproar was the many flags waving among the marchers. As was apparent from the post-election fallout reported in local papers, voters were most upset by the fact that, although a few American flags could be seen waving in the assembled throng, most of the protesters proudly and defiantly waved the red, white, and green flag of the Republic of Mexico.
Three years later, in February 1998, many southern Californians had their hackles raised once again when local newspapers published accounts of an important soccer match at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum between the national teams of the United States and the Republic of Mexico. Playing before a huge crowd of 91,255 (and an overflow group of 6,941 who watched the event on closed-circuit television next door at the Los Angeles Sports Arena), the Mexican squad eked out a 1-0 victory after the United States team’s famous bearded and shaggy-haired defender, Alexi Lalas, lost control of the ball in front of the American goal and watched in dismay as Mexico’s Luis Hernández headed in the match’s only score. Reporters covering the contest duly noted that the disappointing United States team had lost the regional Gold Cup to Mexico, and thus yet another important preparatory match for the World Cup scheduled later in the year. Again, however, most of the newspaper stories focused not so much on the match itself, but on the symbolic drama that unfolded at the event. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, while the highly partisan crowd, which was largely Latino, "was delighted" by the outcome, "the American players quickly found out . . . that playing in Los Angeles is not a home game for the United States national team."
At a deeper level, however, these symbolic popular evocations of Mexican national identification and pride—and the countering grass-roots nationalistic responses they are generating in the United States—must be seen as reflections of much larger and more complex social and psychological processes set in motion by the mass movement of different populations from one place to another. If viewed from this broader perspective, these spontaneous, emotional displays of national identification provide poignant glimpses of the ways changing social contexts—in this case the ubiquitous presence of thousands of ethnic Mexicans in the national territory of the United States—continuing to destabilize fixed and unitary notions of community, culture, nationality, and, indeed, of the territorial "nation" itself. In an effort historically to contextualize some of the more dramatic current social and cultural trends in the United States–Mexico border region, this essay offers some reflections on the deeply complicated evolution of popular nationalist sentiments and political orientations in a region that for nearly four centuries has been situated at the intersection of clashing systems of imperial competition, capitalist economic expansion, and national consolidation. This essay focuses primarily on events of this century and especially on trends unfolding among ethnic Mexicans on the northern side of the border since 1945. My hope here is both to contribute to the discussion at hand in this issue of the journal and to provoke a rethinking of the relationship of Chicano history (that is, the history of ethnic Mexicans in the United States) to the heretofore dominant—and largely separate—national historical narratives of both Mexico and the United States.
The intensity of demographic and cultural change in the United States–Mexico borderlands over the past quarter century often makes it seem as if the recent interethnic and national tensions in the region are new and unique. But fundamental questions regarding people’s intertwined notions of ethnic identity, political orientation, and national affiliation have faced ethnic Mexicans and other residents of what the Mexican American folklorist Américo Paredes has called Greater Mexico for more than two hundred years.5 Like other areas of the world where populations of different cultural, linguistic, or religious heritages come into close daily contact, in this hotly contested area, questions of personal and collective identity and affiliation have been especially volatile.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, much of this volatility stemmed from the physical isolation of New Spain’s (and, after 1821, the newly proclaimed Republic of Mexico’s) northern frontier settlements. Extending in an arc spanning hundreds of thousands of square miles from what is now southern California and Baja California Norte on the Pacific Ocean to the current states of Texas and Tamaulipas on the Gulf Coast, the constellation of settlements in the Mexican North were isolated from the political and administrative centers of Mexico—and from one another. The isolation of the norteños (inhabitants of Mexico’s northern provinces) was reinforced by the fact that, with few exceptions, the governments of both New Spain and the early Mexican Republic usually treated the North as marginal to the nascent projects of national integration and state building unfolding in central Mexico. Indeed, after 1821, even as various competing elites in Mexico City vied with one another to "forge the fatherland" (to borrow Manuel Gamio’s famous phrase) by developing their particular versions of a mythical national past, their specific ideological positions on the nature of the patria grande (the imagined integrated nation-state of Mexico), and their general vision of the Mexican national future, inhabitants of the North remained little more than afterthoughts.6 The social distance between the core of Mexican society and the frontier periphery was intensified by the cavalier attitudes that Mexican officials and military leaders who were sent to administer the northern provinces often exhibited toward the locals. Local norteño elites, chafing at what was alternately considered undue "outside" interference in local affairs (such as restrictions on trade) or outright neglect (such as the inadequate military defense of northern settlements against Indian attack), slowly developed what sometimes could be fiercely independent senses of local autonomy. Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that, although the inhabitants of the North nominally "became Mexican" after the declaration of the Republic of Mexico, most residents of the northern provinces were probably no more than dimly aware of the nation-building strategies pursued by competing elites in central Mexico. Instead, like most inhabitants of Greater Mexico in the nineteenth century, ordinary norteños focused more on the daily rhythms of everyday material life and on the ritual observances of events on the Catholic calendar. Thus, rather than identifying with the incipient notion of the patria grande, most probably identified themselves first as Catholics or Christians, second as members of intricate local networks of familial or kinship association, and last with their patrias chicas (their localities or regions).7
Northern Mexicans’ relationship to the "nation" obviously became much more complicated after the United States annexed Mexico’s northern territories in 1848—particularly for the nearly one hundred thousand Mexicans who were annexed along with the ceded territories. In this new political context, most ethnic Mexicans on both sides of the new border probably continued to feel mutual cultural affinities with one another based on a shared linguistic and religious heritage (and perhaps on a weaker sense of a shared "national" or protonational history as well), but the imposition of the new political boundary tended to intensify issues that contributed both to a reinforcement of existing modes of individual and collective identification and a multiplication of new possibilities. Sources of division that had existed before the United States–Mexican War, such as those based on class, degrees of mestizaje (racial mixture), and mutually recognized regional differences between mexicanos de acá (Mexicans from "here") and mexicanos del otro banda (Mexicans "from the other shore")—which were, of course, relational notions depending on where one was situated in the sprawling region—continued internally to segment the ethnic Mexican population. But in the context of the creation of the new international boundary and the racial hierarchy the "white" Americans gradually imposed along with it, Mexicans became doubly marginalized as orphans of the Mexican nation and as internal outcasts within the newly expanded United States. In these difficult circumstances, the very idea of lo mexicano, of "being Mexican," consequently became significant in ways that it had not been before the North American invasion.
Though nominally granted both United States citizenship and American nationality under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, this first group of Mexican Americans confronted widespread discrimination that greatly diminished their ability to exercise their rights as American citizens. Faced simultaneously with their own racialization and with a gradual but inexorable slide to the bottom rungs of the emerging economic order, ethnic Mexicans of all class positions were necessarily compelled to devise a variety of new subject positions in reaction to their new political status and changing material conditions in the United States.
As it had been before the conquest, the process of identity formation that emerged in the Mexican cession between 1850 and the 1880s was significantly mediated by class considerations. As the historian David Montejano has suggested in his provocative work on Texas, since American settlers were forced for a short while to work within the existing Mexican class structure in the region, American entrepreneurs often found it in their interest to cultivate alliances and partnerships with the remaining ethnic Mexican propertied elites in the population centers of Texas and to a significant degree also in New Mexico, Arizona, and southern California. By entering into business and matrimonial partnerships with Mexicans, a practice that had been established in the region by American and European settlers well before the Mexican War, Americans implemented what Montejano calls a "peace structure" to gain commercial and political advantages.8 Adequate research has not yet been done on this question for other areas of the Southwest, but it is likely that similar arrangements helped the new immigrants elsewhere to consolidate economic and political power without having constantly to resort to the overt use of force.9
From the point of view of the surviving Mexican elite, such alliances served different, but no less important, purposes. For members of this small and dwindling group, partnerships with non-Mexican immigrants sometimes offered ways to defend their threatened economic position, bolster their status in a rapidly changing social environment, and ensure for themselves and their offspring at least functional integration into the new socioeconomic and political order.10 Perhaps just as important, such working partnerships with white American and European immigrants also helped members of the ethnic Mexican elite to distance themselves from the growing stigma associated with being considered a Mexican "greaser" in the new social order of the southwestern United States. Those with sufficient material means and sufficiently light skin had the option of following what by then was already an old tradition in Mexico (and in Latin America more generally) by professing to be "Spanish" and thus laying claim to a certain kind of whiteness via a distant and dubious association with Europe. As the historian Neil Foley has noted in his suggestive recent work on a somewhat later period, by accepting this "Faustian pact with whiteness," this group of Mexican Americans pursued a precarious strategy combining traditional Latin American notions of race with "Anglo" racism and thus helped lay the basis for a political strategy that would continue to resonate in certain circles of Mexican American and pan-Latino civil rights politics in the United States and that remains a force today (as will be discussed further below).11
However much claims of whiteness enabled members of the erstwhile Mexican elite and their children to "pass" into the newly normative social mainstream of regional American life, such strategies obviously were not open to the vast majority of ethnic Mexicans. For them, phenotypical markers, lower-class standing, lack of proficiency in English, and increasing spatial segregation combined to militate against even the most basic forms of social integration with the people they commonly referred to as los norteamericanos (that is, white Americans). This is not to argue that the racial, class, and residential polarization that increasingly characterized the region was complete, because even in the worst of circumstances some intermarriage and other forms of social and cultural exchange and melding between white Americans and Mexicans took place.12 Nevertheless, as their numbers steadily dwindled in relation to the expanding numbers of American newcomers, the mutually perceived lines of difference separating "Mexicans" from "Americans" sharpened and hardened over the course of the nineteenth century.
In response to their increasingly sharp experience of racial, cultural, and class difference, ordinary working-class ethnic Mexicans were forced to develop new mechanisms of adaptation—mechanisms that drew on sources of collective identity and solidarity that were only tangentially related to notions of formal nationality or citizenship. Given their rapidly changing circumstances, this is not at all surprising. Having been juridically divorced from Mexico and yet blocked in virtually every venue from achieving meaningful integration into the social, political, and economic structures being transplanted and developed by white American settlers, ethnic Mexicans were forced into the unsettled margins of the society that was growing up around them. Faced with an intensifying territorial encroachment by white Americans on the one hand and by a pervasive atmosphere of racial and cultural hostility on the other, ethnic Mexicans were increasingly forced to devise defensive strategies of adaptation and survival in an intermediate, "third" social space that was located in the interstices between the dominant national and cultural systems of both the United States and Mexico. Physically located in the insular social and cultural spaces carved out of the segregated urban barrios and isolated rural colonias that dotted what was now "American" territory, this third space was the site where ethnic Mexicans attempted to mediate the profound sense of displacement and other stresses raised by their daily existence as members of a racialized and marginalized minority in a region they had long considered to be their ancestral homeland.13
Although some readers might find the notion of identity formation in the third space overly abstract, I believe historians of the border region have already successfully used similar concepts to describe and analyze the social and cultural mechanisms ethnic Mexicans employed to adapt to and survive the changes that were transforming their communities. For example, in their pathbreaking work on the ethnic enclavement of Mexicans in southern California after the Mexican War, the historians Albert Camarillo, Richard Griswold del Castillo, and Ricardo Romo have noted that, while the emergence of harshly segregated urban neighborhoods and rural communities must be attributed to the increasing impoverishment and political disfranchisement of ethnic Mexicans, the patterns of social segregation that emerged between the 1850s and the 1880s were also at least partly the result of a strategy employed by ethnic Mexicans themselves in an effort to defend their communities against the increasing territorial encroachments of non-Mexican settlers. Thus, one of the central ironies of the process of segregation and impoverishment that unfolded in this period was that although the run-down barrios and rural colonias were often conceded to Mexicans as the most undesirable and marginal plots in a local area, these pieces of territory were often imbued with a different kind of value by their inhabitants. Serving as relatively safe havens where ethnic Mexicans could communicate in Spanish, continue to practice most of their family customs, maintain their religious practices and rituals, teach their children, and otherwise symbolically express themselves by enjoying distinctive cuisines, styles of music, and forms of entertainment, these social spaces became the primary sites for the transmission of distinctive regional variants of Mexican culture and also seedbeds for the emergence of new forms of ethnic identity and solidarity.14 It is important to recognize how much ethnic Mexicans’ freedom of action was constrained by the structures of power and control instituted by the American interlopers, but within the physical and cultural boundaries of these insulated enclaves, ethnic Mexicans were able to move more or less freely outside the confines of what Peter Sahlins, a historian of another border zone, has called "the world of authority and the power of the central state." 15
The fact that within these social spaces ethnic Mexicans’ self-perceived collective interests diverged so clearly from the interests of their conquerers acted as a catalyst to the emergence and gradual elaboration of a variety of different forms of identity formed in opposition to the white Americans who pressed in on them on all sides. In my view, much more research needs to be done to flesh out the specific details of the processes involved in the forging of local oppositional notions of identity and collective solidarity among ethnic Mexicans in the last half of the nineteeth century. However, several developments lend credence to the view that ethnic Mexicans in the United States had begun to forge new cultural identities for themselves that directly impinged on their evolving notions of national affiliation.
Signs began emerging very soon after Mexico lost its northern territories that ethnic Mexicans in the United States had begun to think of themselves, and to evoke identities based on, a sharpened sense of difference. In southern California, for example, a review of the Los Angeles Spanish-language weekly El Clamor Público indicates that, as early as the mid-1850s, the paper’s crusading editor, Francisco P. Ramírez, was experimenting with descriptive terminology of collective identification designed to fit the changing circumstances of California’s Spanish-speaking population. Although much of the political positioning in the pages of the paper made it clear that Ramírez recognized that Mexicans now had to work within an American political context, he recognized that California’s contiguity with Mexico guaranteed that ethnic Mexicans would continue to be a distinctive force in regional society and politics. Consequently, rather than using older regional categories of identification such as the term californio— or even more localized demarcations of identity such as those commonly used by californios to distinguish between residents of the north (arribeños) from those in the south (abajeños)—stories in El Clamor Público began utilizing more broadly encompassing ethnocultural categories such as nuestra raza ("our people") and nuestros compatriatos ("our compatriots") to describe the ethnocultural population. At times, Ramírez and his contributors used even more precise, if less wieldy, terms such as nuestra población California y Mexicana (that is, "our combined Mexican population of both Californian and Mexican origin") that spoke to the perceived differences that demarcated the ethnic Mexican community in California from the dominant national communities of the United States and Mexico.16
Similar signs that ethnic Mexicans were coming into new awareness of themselves in contradistinction to Anglos were evident in the sporadic instances of "social banditry" that erupted along the border in the years following the Mexican War. One well-known example of this was the border insurgency instigated in south Texas by the local rancher Juan Nepomuceno Cortina in 1859. Infuriated after one of his mother’s ranch hands was beaten in a dispute with an Anglo marshal, Cortina shot and wounded the marshal and fled to one of his family’s properties south of the border. Over the next several months, the dispute escalated into a series of running gun battles between local ethnic Mexicans and Anglo Texans, and by the time the dust cleared, several people had lost their lives.
Although on one level these events represented a conflict between individuals, several public pronouncements made by Cortina made clear that he saw his actions in much broader social terms. In a pronunciamento he issued from his mother’s Rancho del Carmen in September 1859, Cortina couched his actions as being part of a larger campaign of resistance against Anglo oppression and what he considered to be a systematic despoliation of Mexicans’ lands dating to the Texas revolution some twenty-three years before. "Our object," he insisted,
Similar language was heard when the notorious Mexican bandit Tiburcio Vásquez was captured and sentenced to hang in San José, California, in 1874. Indeed, it is remarkable how much his assessment of Mexican-American relations in California resembled Cortina’s analysis in south Texas. Vásquez had spent more than twenty years in and out of California jails for robbery and assault against both North Americans and Chinese laborers. But Vásquez went to the gallows insisting that his actions were a form of self-defense. Expressing resentment about how norteamericanos disrespected California Mexican men and women after the war, Vásquez justified his career of brigandage as a form of ethnic insurgency. When asked about this by a Los Angeles Star reporter sent to interview him before his execution, Vásquez admitted that he had become a robber out of a spirit of "hatred and revenge" but added that he had fought "in defense of what I believed to be my rights and those of my countrymen. . . . I believed that we were unjustly and wrongfully deprived of the social rights which belonged to us. . . . The officers of the law sought me out . . . and strove to drag me before the courts [but] I always resisted arrest."18
Although one needs to acknowledge both the self-serving nature of much of this kind of rhetoric and the fact that most ethnic Mexicans tried to avoid violent confrontation with white Americans, the few examples cited here provide some indication of the extent to which the imposition of the border in 1848 sharpened ethnic awareness and helped to reconfigure the senses of collective identity and the political orientations of a population cut off from the nation of its cultural roots. The general meanings attached to the categories of "American" and "Mexican" probably seemed clear enough to those involved in the low-level, yet clearly simmering, regional ethnic struggle that characterized the last half of the nineteenth century, but the terminology and rhetoric employed between the 1850s and the 1870s by people such as Ramírez, Cortina, and Vásquez provide glimpses into just how fluid and ambiguous ethnic Mexicans’ national and cultural orientations had become after the Mexican War. Ethnic Mexicans lacked the power to put these isolated expressions of oppositional consciousness into effective mass action, but their deeply ambiguous social location as a segregated cultural minority in American territory virtually guaranteed that questions about the appropriate sources of affiliation and solidarity would continue to smoulder in the borderlands for years to come.
The dynamics of cultural and political change in the transnational border region became much more complicated after the turn of the century, especially after Mexico erupted into revolution in 1910. As the social forces and class polarization unleashed by massive economic development on both sides of the border converged with the equally massive political upheaval that shook Mexico, the resulting cataclysm contributed to a shattering of existing senses of collective identity and national affiliation and the creation of a broad range of new ones for people throughout Greater Mexico. On one level, this process of fragmentation, mutation, and reconfiguration of political orientations and identities was perfectly predictable. If, as Alan Knight has argued, Mexico proper at the turn of the century was "a mosaic of regions and communities . . . ethnically and physically fragmented, and lacking common national sentiments," this became even more true of the ethnic Mexican population of the United States as hundreds of thousands of Mexican nationals poured across the border after 1910.19 The "reterritorialization" of the northern borderlands with ethnic Mexicans at this time set off a process that helped to sharpen and complicate debates about national affiliation in the region by pulling political discussion and debate about the revolution across the border into the United States, by exacerbating deeply rooted intraethnic and class tensions between ethnic Mexicans of different nationalities, and, ultimately, by drawing the United States and Mexico into a kind of competition for the loyalties of both groups.
To address the last point first, political and economic elites in both nations were keenly interested in raising the national consciousness of ethnic Mexicans in the borderlands during this period—albeit in very different ways. North of the border, for example, "Americanization" programs developed between World War I and the 1920s focused on policing and disciplining resident ethnic Mexicans (of both nationalities) to ensure the most efficient exploitation of their labor, especially after mass migration created what was commonly referred to in the southwestern United States as "the Mexican Problem." At least some American reformers were genuinely interested in solving the so-called problem by assisting Mexican immigrants and working-class Mexican Americans to adjust and become more integrated into American political and social life. But most Americanizers, especially proponents of the principles of eugenics then in vogue, seemed unable to imagine Mexicans as even potentially part of American civic culture. Such individuals therefore leaned toward programs designed to ensure the orderly control of people who were widely regarded as racially inferior and suited to little more in life than performing the most menial and backbreaking forms of labor.20
Within Mexico, the tremendously unsettled political situation between 1900 and 1940 militated against the promulgation of anything like a consistent nationalist vision for Mexicans in Mexico, much less for the vast and growing expatriate community in the United States. Nevertheless, given the political stakes involved, such efforts were undertaken by a succession of Mexican governments. The governments of Alvaro Obregón, Plutarco Elias Calles (including his "unofficial term" as jefe máximo), and Lázaro Cárdenas were all primarily concerned with consolidating power and stabilizing the economy in the critical years following the most intense military phases of the revolution, but they also had to deal with the far more daunting task of breaking down local loyalties and establishing widespread allegiance to the newly reconstituted nation-state. Each leader confronted this challenge differently, but each sought to shape public memory of the revolution and to identify himself as a positive embodiment of the "new" Mexico and thus tried to ensure at least a working level of consent in the deeply factionalized populace. In Mexico, leaders of the emergent postrevolutionary state attempted to reach these goals by mobilizing powerful animating symbols of the revolution to promote a more aggressive popular nationalism among the masses. As a number of scholars have argued (and I can only mention in passing here), they did this by attempting to redefine "true" mexicanismo by pursuing a broad, multifaceted strategy that included manipulating antiforeign (particularly anti-American) sentiment; promoting contemporary Mexican art, music, and literature; extolling and placing new emphasis (at least symbolically) on the value of the nation’s indigenous peoples and the heritage of mestizaje; and, perhaps most important over the long run, by visibly establishing themselves as the symbolic guardians of the revolution by doling out patronage and creating institutions such as the Comité de Acción Social y Cultural (committee on social and cultural action) and the Partido Nacional Revolutionario, the organizational precursor to the Partido Revolutionario Institucional.21
Again, although the expatriate community was not a major concern of most contending elite factions during this period, after the military phase of the revolution, various Mexican governments attempted to project outward new forms of officially sanctioned Mexican national identity through their consular representatives in méxico de afuera (that is, within the expatriate population in the United States). Intent on maintaining what Peter Sahlins in another context calls an "institutionalized moral presence" in the growing expatriate community, the consulates continued to play an important role in both protecting the interests of Mexican nationals abroad and, in some cases, supporting the civil rights activities of American citizens of Mexican descent.22 For example, in the decades before the revolution, the consulates consistently protested against instances of discrimination or violence committed against both Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans. After the turn of the century, local consulates also selectively lent assistance in labor disputes involving Mexican citizens and in some cases actually sponsored the formation of labor unions on United States soil. In addition, the consular corps sometimes assisted in Mexican American civil rights cases by providing technical legal advice and even financial support for litigation in United States courts. The consulates also exerted a strong and consistent symbolic presence in ethnic Mexican enclaves by helping to organize and support a vast network of juntas patrioticas (patriotic councils) and comisiónes honoríficos (honorary committees) formed to celebrate secular Mexican national holidays such as the Cinco de Mayo and the Dieciseis de Septiembre. In this last function, the consulates played a key role in inculcating in the expatriate population what the Mexican government considered to be "appropriate allegiances."23
However, as the ruling elites of Mexico and the United States vied with each other to orchestrate or compel popular consent, mold minds, and legitimate their ongoing nation-building projects, the subjects of those efforts often responded in completely unexpected ways. Indeed, as Mary Kay Vaughan has noted so perceptively in her recent work on the popular reception of state-centered attempts to manufacture nationalist sentiment in postrevolutionary Mexico, "social subjects responded to the vocabulary [of national hegemony] selectively by adopting, reinterpreting, discarding, and internalizing parts of it."24 North of the border, a similarly intricate dialogical process stimulated a broad spectrum of popular reactions within the "third spaces" created as white Americans, Mexican Americans, and Mexican nationals all confronted one another in a national territory that was continuously traversed by Mexicans moving in both directions across the international frontier. Faced with the multiplying choices presented by the increasingly complex, heterogenous cultural landscape created by this continuous transnational circulation of people, ethnic Mexicans employed several strategies in efforts to situate and orient themselves politically. Some nurtured the hope of eventual repatriation to México lindo (beautiful Mexico) and tried stubbornly to cling to a nostalgic orientation toward the Mexico of their imagination and to an identity as Mexicans no matter how long they lived in the United States.25 Others, arguing that such romanticized views were retarding the social development and political integration of Mexican Americans, went in the opposite direction by consciously cultivating a primary political identification as "Americans"—and actively encouraging other Mexican Americans and permanently settled Mexican immigrants to do the same. Still others (perhaps the majority?) took an intermediate path that reflected the growing ambiguity of their social and cultural life in the "third space."
In the interwar period, such general national and cultural orientations played themselves out in the wide variety of stances ethnic Mexicans of different class positions and nationalities adopted on more specific and localized political, social, and cultural questions. For obvious reasons, continuing immigration from Mexico was a prominent political issue in virtually all communities with significant ethnic Mexican populations. Thus the fierce debate it stimulated among ethnic Mexicans often provided important insights into how they felt about a broad range of other fundamental questions.
For members of the small but doggedly upwardly mobile bourgeois sectors of both the Mexican expatriate community and the Mexican American population, ongoing Mexican immigration was widely viewed as a threat. Consequently, in borderlands towns such as Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Laredo, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson, and Los Angeles, members of local ethnic Mexican elites often argued that immigration should be controlled because immigrants directly competed with Mexican Americans for jobs and housing and because they so clearly were reinforcing Anglos’ negative stereotypes about all Mexicans. But even people who agreed in principle about the immigration question often tended to disagree among themselves about their own national orientations and political agendas.
For example, many well-to-do expatriate Mexicans who had settled in the United States as political refugees from the revolution exhibited paradoxical attitudes about the growing presence of their impoverished countrymen and -women. In class terms, their position was unsurprising. Many of these individuals tended to think of themselves as members of la gente decente (that is, as "people of the better sort") and as the exemplars of the best of Mexican society and culture. Although they too had fled Mexico to the relative safety of the United States, they often reacted to the influx of what they considered to be the dregs of Mexican society with great embarrassment. However, despite this, many of these same individuals also believed that they were the natural leaders of the Mexican community in exile. As such, they were critical in directing the many comisiónes honoríficos and juntas patrioticas that played such central roles in inculcating a spirit of Mexican nationalism among the masses they so reviled. Thus, throughout this period, members of this self-defined elite occupied an inherently conflictual position in which they constantly had to negotiate the contradictions raised by claiming to be the cultural leaders of people they considered to be their social inferiors.26
Similarly positioned United States–born Mexican Americans often had identical opinions about the mass northward migration of Mexicans into the United States, but they usually drew very different conclusions about their relationship to Mexico and to Mexican culture. Rather than framing identity politics primarily along Mexican national or ethnic lines, members of this class and cultural segment came to believe that adoption of what they perceived as the dominant national ideology of the United States was the only way Mexican Americans could reasonably expect to improve their political, economic, and social position in American society. Consequently, during and soon after World War I, some Mexican Americans in Texas formed proto–civil rights organizations based on that premise.
This development marked a major political turning point in the history of the borderlands, especially after the first of these groups merged in 1929 to form the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). LULAC, which has subsequently grown to become one of the largest Mexican American advocacy organizations in the United States, self-consciously parted ways from the Mexican expatriate community by deciding to organize as "true-blue Americans" rather than as an organization of Mexicans who happened to live in the United States. Consistent with this national orientation, LULAC’s leaders pursued a program that emphasized their distinction from migrants recently arrived from Mexico. Some went so far as to argue that as "Americans of Latin extraction" in Texas (by whom they meant Mexican Americans) they were somehow more closely related in racial and cultural terms to white Americans than they were to Mexicans from "Old Mexico."
LULAC’s political program logically followed from these claims to both "Americanness" and "whiteness." From the early 1930s through the 1960s, LULAC’s political agenda focused on citizenship training and naturalization of "foreign-born Mexicans," English-language training for those monolingual in Spanish, coordinated support of antidiscriminatory litigation and legislation (particularly in the area of public education), and, significantly, strict control of further immigration from Mexico. In choosing to follow an American political tradition in which marginalized minorities attempted to use the liberal rhetoric of "equality" and "rights" and the mutual obligations of citizenship, the Mexican Americans affiliated with organizations such as LULAC promoted the acceptance and adoption by ethnic Mexicans of established "American" assumptions about political identity, community, and access to power. Though largely unstated, their commitment to such a strategy clearly implied general acceptance of contemporary state-sponsored liberal American notions of the engaged activist-citizen, a responsive and sovereign collective polity, and the United States as a bounded (and therefore rational and controllable) territorial entity ruled by law.27
This kind of political thought and discourse became increasingly influential among Mexican Americans after the great Mexican repatriation campaigns of the early 1930s (when as many as six hundred thousand Mexican nationals and their United States–born children were compelled or coerced into returning to Mexico), but dissenting views could also be heard, especially among the working classes.28 Whereas the political positions of the well-to-do expatriate community and the upwardly mobile Mexican Americans associated with LULAC were grounded in large part in their social pretensions and in their relative position of material advantage (that is, when compared to the ethnic Mexican laboring classes), workers often had little ideological incentive to adopt either the conservative Mexican nationalism of the expatriates or the United States nationalist (and racialist) orientation of their bourgeois Mexican American coethnics. Indeed, virtually all of their socioeconomic circumstances militated against this. Most were firmly ensconced in the laboring classes. Most were largely uninvolved in the state-centered political systems of either nation (despite the periodic efforts by various American and Mexican agents to implicate them in various projects of "national integration"). And most of them clearly were not "white."
Consequently, most working-class ethnic Mexicans were compelled to continue to operate in those unstable, interstitial social spaces that were by nature semi-separate worlds of cultural and social syncretism, experimentation, and pastiche. Working-class individuals of both nationalities were necessarily more concerned with economic survival and the maintenance of familiar and functional everyday practices of social life (such as those involved in family, religion, entertainment, and various forms of expressive culture) in the segregated urban barrios and rural enclaves they occupied. As a consequence, ethnic Mexicans’ senses of national orientation or affiliation to either the United States or Mexico were generally only very unevenly articulated and developed. Moreover, in a social world in which thousands of Mexican migrants constantly circulated through the barrios and colonias where ethnic Mexicans of both nationalities lived together, it was inevitable that, on the streets and in the fields, notions of nationality, community, and other forms of individual and collective identity were blurred and subject to constant mutation and recombination.
This is not to argue that popular senses of national affiliation, to one or even both nations, were not strongly felt by some, but to suggest that for all the ideological claims made by agents of the state then, and the historiographical claims made by interpreters on different sides of the issue since, most working-class ethnic Mexicans were much more likely to have had a flexible and fundamentally instrumentalist sense of national affiliation than they were to adhere to a simple sense of being either "Mexican" or "American." Much more careful and specific localized research needs to be done for the period between 1910 and 1940, but from my point of view it makes more sense to believe that the dynamic social spaces in which most ethnic Mexicans of the time lived encouraged, and at times positively compelled, the development of new forms of social knowledge and cultural innovation, which in turn laid the foundations for the constant emergence and articulation of alternative and sometimes oppositional forms of political action.29
It is of course difficult to assess with any sense of certainty the relative weight of the nationalistic positionings that working-class people adopted earlier in this century, but several developments unfolding between 1910 and 1940 make it clear that a number of such alternative, instrumentalist political orientations were emerging and that as a result new sites for political action were being generated among working-class ethnic Mexicans across the northern borderlands. Some had their origins in the mutualistas (mutual aid associations) and other voluntary organizations Mexicans began forming across Greater Mexico in the late nineteenth century. Born out of the discriminatory practices that excluded ethnic Mexicans from fully participating in the social and institutional life of the mainstream, these organizations were established as a way to provide members with services and benefits such as accident and burial insurance and short-term credit that were otherwise unavailable to the working poor in either the United States or Mexico. It is telling that on the United States side of the border such organizations often reflected both the different political positionings and the refracted imagining of communities of their members. Virtually all had patriotic Mexican names commemorating great individuals or events in Mexican national history. But some restricted membership exclusively to citizens of Mexico; others to citizens of the United States; and still others were open to all comers—in some cases including "non-Mexicans." The variability in membership requirements reflected just how complicated the issues of cultural and national orientation and affiliation had become by this time.
The mutualistas foreshadowed the later emergence of a similarly diverse array of labor unions, community associations, and eventually civil and human rights organizations that would come to play increasingly important roles, often the most important roles, in local Mexican community affairs. Although the linkages between the mutualist tradition and political organizations established later were often indirect, various mutualistas contributed to a brand of political activism that characterized a great many subsequent ethnic Mexican and pan-Latino organizations.
For example, in the first two decades of the twentieth century, mutualistas in Texas, Arizona, and California served as springboards for the formation of labor unions or more spontaneous strike committees and community advocacy organizations.30 Later, during the Great Depression, local groups of ethnic Mexican workers moved into unions affiliated with the emergent Congress of Industrial Organizations and thus opened a new chapter in the political and social history of the Mexican diaspora. Activities in such unions tended to reflect the growing importance of an experimental, democratic, and pluralist perspective in this one branch of the labor movement. In one well-known case, the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (ucapawa) opened up radical new political space by actively seeking to organize even noncitizen workers and exploring, however briefly, new opportunities for women as organizers and even as union leaders.31 Such experiments in organization had a clear multiplier effect. In the heady political atmosphere of the late 1930s, the convergence of industrial unionism in the United States and the rise of fascism abroad at least momentarily opened up new possibilities for the aggressive articulation of "minority" political demands. Into this breach stepped groups such as El Congreso de Pueblos que Hablan Español (Congress of Spanish-speaking peoples). Operating in the highly charged period between the campaign of mass Mexican repatriation during the depression and the United States mobilization for war in the early 1940s, the Congreso pushed the envelope of the extant civil and human rights agenda.
For example, by simultaneously demanding the development of transnational, Pan-American coalitions as a constitutive component of United States domestic politics and a relaxation of immigration, naturalization, and citizenship requirements, members of the Congreso began to transform the debate over immigration and national politics by insisting that the growing de facto economic and cultural integration of the United States–Mexico border region required social and political thinking that transcended national borders. For the same reason, the Congreso also took the lead in advocating what for the time was an extremely radical cultural pluralism that not only acknowledged the right of Spanish speakers to continue to use their language and follow their customs within United States territory but granted that right as a principle of law in communities with significant Mexican or Latino populations.
In short, from the Congreso’s point of view, events transpiring in the region in the first third of the century had proven the futility of dealing with transnational issues in unilateral national terms. The radical potential of such experiments never came to fruition (largely due to the combination of employer resistance and the outbreak of World War II), but labor organizations such as ucapawa and labor–civil rights coalitions such as El Congreso de Pueblos que Hablan Español were important manifestations of the emergence of a new form of human rights politics among working-class ethnic Mexicans. Though solidly rooted in the political culture of the liberal state, these new organizations had begun to push a political project that transcended national political discourse by recognizing the increasing economic and cultural melding of the United States–Mexico borderlands. In my view, these first steps provided critical templates for a new kind of multiracial, multiethnic, transnational politics that are currently reverberating with much greater force among an increasing number of ethnic Mexican and Latino community activists.32
Conventional wisdom has it that World War II significantly changed the political calculus of the borderlands by dramatically accelerating the integration of Mexican Americans into the mainstream of American economic, political, and social life. In many ways, this is a difficult argument to dispute. The structural changes wrought by World War II eventually did open up a tremendous array of new economic opportunities for ethnic Mexicans, other minority populations, and women. During the war itself, the participation of hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans in the armed forces and in defense industries (increasingly in union jobs) played an incalculable role in accelerating their social integration into—and positive identification with—the imagined American national community.33 Even more crucially, after the war, general economic growth and civil rights advances opened up new opportunities in education, language and job training, and mortgage assistance (especially for veterans under the G.I. Bill). As a result, in the period from 1945 to about the early 1970s, significant numbers of both Mexican Americans and permanent emigrants from Mexico began to move out of dead-end, low-wage work into higher-paying and higher-status skilled blue-collar occupations. As a result, in aggregate, Mexican Americans and permanent Mexican immigrants and their children experienced steady gains in virtually all major socioeconomic indicators, including income, occupational status, English-language proficiency, years of education, and geographic mobility.34 Not incidentally, English-language acquisition, along with increased geographic and class mobility, also brought growing numbers of ethnic Mexicans into contact with other groups, which in turn contributed to a significant increase in interethnic marriages and eventually of children of multiple ethnic backgrounds. To date, very little quantitative research has been done on this question, but the evidence that does exist suggests that rising rates of exogamy among ethnic Mexicans of both nationalities may well have contributed to an acceleration of what Milton Gordon called the "structural assimilation" of the children of these unions into the larger society.35
Socioeconomic mobility of this type tended to increase the impetus for ethnic Mexicans to follow the reformist, integrationist civil rights strategies advocated by political organizations such as lulac. As older civil rights groups and newer community organizations such as the American G.I. Forum (a national advocacy group established by Mexican American veterans in Texas in 1947) and the Community Service Organization (cso, established in California in 1949) pressed their civil rights agendas with new force after the war, the federal government and courts slowly began to respond to demands for the desegregation of public facilities and the end to discrimination in education, housing, and employment.36 The combination of upward mobility and increasing government responsiveness proved a potent mix among ethnic Mexicans and among other "minority" groups. For perhaps the first time in American history, significant numbers could look to a future in which their children had a reasonable chance to partake in both the material and the political promise of American citizenship.37
But it is critical to remember how uneven this process of socioeconomic inclusion was even at the height of postwar prosperity. The general aggregate socioeconomic trajectory for the ethnic Mexican population was clearly upward (particularly for American citizens), but not all benefited from this trend. Indeed, throughout the period, thousands of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants living in the persistently blighted barrios of Los Angeles, Tucson, El Paso, and San Antonio, in the chronically depressed lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and in the isolated rural hamlets of Colorado and New Mexico continued to eke out livings on the ragged edges of society and thus remained largely unaffected by the larger inclusionary social and political trends stimulated by the war and postwar prosperity.38
Moreover, the reinstitutionalization during the war of state-managed labor migration from Mexico played an even more critical role in countering the generally integrative trends of the postwar years. The implementation of the Emergency Farm Labor Program in 1942 (soon popularly dubbed the bracero program) had a number of crucial long-term effects. On the most fundamental level, the program acted as the catalyst that restarted the demographic transformation of the United States–Mexico borderlands begun some four decades earlier. The bilateral labor agreement was explicitly designed as a temporary and "closed" system intended to protect the national sovereignty of both the United States and Mexico by allowing strictly controlled numbers of contract workers into the country for finite periods. But the scope of the program was such that it soon re-created a large and permanent "floating" population of Mexican workers who constantly circulated into and out of United States territory.39 In addition, by the late 1940s it became clear that this ostensibly closed system of labor recruitment was leaking. As braceros gradually realized that better jobs could be had elsewhere, large numbers of contract workers began "skipping out" of their contracts and melting into the region’s expanding informal economy. More crucially, as the word-of-mouth transnational networks of communication first established by circulating Mexican workers forty years earlier were reestablished in the 1940s and 1950s, it also became obvious that the bracero program had stimulated an unprecedented increase in the rate of undocumented migration from Mexico into the United States.40 When combined with the continuous circulation of braceros and the steadily increasing rate of "legal" permanent migration from Mexico (Mexico became the largest source of immigration to the United States in the mid-1950s and has remained at the top or near the top ever since), the steadily rising flow of unauthorized migrants and immigrants laid the foundation for a dramatic demographic restructuring and cultural reconfiguration of large portions of the United States.41
Just as occurred at the turn of the century, demographic growth during the bracero era contributed to the cultural reinvigoration of existing ethnic Mexican enclaves in the United States and thus also profoundly influenced the sociocultural matrix in which individuals’ senses of personal and collective identities were forged. Moving in a sociocultural milieu in which both an ethnic infrastructure (including Spanish-language media, small businesses, clubs, restaurants, sports leagues, etc.) and an ethnic consumer market expanded simultaneously, a great many working-class ethnic Mexicans once again found it easy to live their lives in an alternative social space that had little to do with formal citizenship status or other trappings of what David Harvey has called "bourgeois legality, legitimacy, and institutions."42
The effects of these circumstances could be seen at all levels of social life in the region. As the migratory stream between the United States and Mexico deepened, more and more people became habituated to living part of their lives in Mexico and part of their lives north of the border. The escalating number of legal and "illegal" border crossings underscored the growing linkages binding ethnic Mexican settlements in the United States with towns and villages in Mexico. Naturalization figures also reflected the fact: naturalization rates among Mexican immigrants were consistently among the lowest, if not the lowest, of any identifiable national group.43 Lack of participation in American electoral politics provided yet another clear sign of how the systematic internationalization of the regional labor force was reconfiguring the matrices in which individuals’ political orientations developed. Although voter registration and actual voting rates among native-born and naturalized Mexican American citizens climbed slowly throughout this period, until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the combination on the one hand of a large, floating, and essentially stateless population, and the existence of poll taxes, gerrymandering, and other formal and informal discriminatory practices, on the other, kept ethnic Mexicans’ participation in mainstream American electoral politics at a much lower level than was true of the general population.44
The effects of the expansion of Mexican social space in the United States was even more pronounced at the level of popular culture. As much as the organs of the state (such as schools, local police, the courts, the military, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service) continued to structure and constrain their lives, the expansion of a Mexican sociocultural infrastructure in barrios across the Southwest allowed working-class ethnic Mexicans of both nationalities the flexibility to move about in a social world that often ran counter to that of the larger society. Whether watching Spanish-language films (often preceded in regional movie theaters by live floor shows featuring Mexican norteña music), drinking in neighborhood cantinas, performing, listening, or dancing to Mexican music, or following other variants of Mexican cultural practices such as compadrazgo (fictive kinship networks), significant numbers of working-class ethnic Mexicans (again, both permanent residents and sojourners of both nationalities) continued to follow largely autonomous cultural practices in the new social spaces that in an almost literal sense were situated between the state-centered national systems of the United States and Mexico.45
The conditions and forces that historically have contributed to a fragmenting and multiplication of potential individual and collective identities and loyalties in the United States–Mexico border region have obviously intensified over the past thirty years. In Mexico, chronic unemployment and underemployment, the collapse of the oil market, deeply rooted political corruption and violence, the rise of "narcoterrorism," and an almost unremitting cycle of economic downturns, consumer price inflation, and currency devaluations have all contributed to rising levels of social discontent and to widespread disillusionment and psychological alienation from the extant structures of the Mexican state. These factors have also obviously continued to stimulate massive population movements both within Mexico’s existing borders and across the northern frontier into the United States.46
In the United States, ongoing post–Cold War economic restructuring, a seemingly insatiable demand for low-skilled, low-wage labor, and the continued use of international labor on a massive scale both at home and abroad have tended to reinforce and expand the transnational migratory labor streams first established earlier in the century. The continuing growth of the informal economy and low-wage service sector in the United States and a strong commitment to maintaining free trade principles most recently manifested in the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994–1995 have encouraged continued large-scale migrations of both "legal" and unsanctioned workers. At the same time, ongoing revolutions in electronic communications, in low-cost transportation, and in the ability to transfer funds instantaneously from one place to another have reduced obstacles to physical mobility and thus have also greatly encouraged people to move from where they are to places where they think they can better their material conditions.
The demographic and sociospatial results of these overlapping trends have been stunning. The expansion of industrial production in the Mexican border states (Baja California Norte, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahulia, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas), combined with the ever-present lure of possible work in the United States, has drawn millions of people into an expanding zona fronteriza (frontier zone) straddling the international border. On the Mexican side, the Border Industrialization Program of the 1960s and the more recent steady expansion of maquiladora industries have drawn millions to the zona fronteriza.47 Similar movement has been seen on the United States side of the border. By 1990 (to name but a few of the most prominent examples), ethnic Mexicans constituted more than 40 percent of the population of the city of Los Angeles (and 30 percent of Los Angeles County), nearly 30 percent of the city of Tucson, 52 percent of San Antonio’s population, 66 percent of El Paso’s, and nearly 78 percent of the sprawling Brownsville-Harlingen-San Benito metropolitan area. By the turn of the century, ethnic Mexicans will constitute even larger minorities (or even pluralities) in these locales and in scores of other smaller towns and cities in the region. Overall population statistics paint much the same picture. From a population of just 4.5 million in 1970, the total estimated ethnic Mexican population of the United States grew to at least 8.7 million in 1980, to 13.4 million in 1990, and to more than 17 million by 1997 (of whom nearly 7 million were individuals born in Mexico).48
The ongoing demographic revolution unfolding in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States has transformed the social and cultural landscape of the binational border zone in a manner that dwarfs anything that has occurred before. Replete with small businesses, thriving religious congregations, a vibrant and growing Spanish-language press, and a rapidly expanding network of Spanish-language radio and television outlets, these transformed social spaces have become part of what can only be described as a parallel "Mexican" society in the United States. Thus, despite the fact that the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service has recently made it much more difficult and dangerous for Mexicans to move back and forth across the international frontier, once they do cross la linea, immigrants and migrants know they have entered a social and cultural world that in some respects is simply a more affluent version of the one they left behind.49
In the expanding borderlands, however, affluence is a relative concept. Although for many Mexican immigrants and migrants work in the United States is better than the employment they can find in Mexico (or no work at all), the general economic context that recent immigrants enter is very different from the one that greeted workers in the 1950s and 1960s. As discussed earlier, significant numbers of Mexican migrant and immigrant workers entering the United States in the postwar years could reasonably anticipate both improving their immediate economic position and eventually moving from entry-level low-skilled occupations to skilled blue-collar jobs of higher status and significantly better pay. Of course, the long-term prospects of United States–born Mexican American children, who had the added advantage of greater fluency in English and access to higher levels of education, were even better. This may no longer be the case.
In recent years, the long-term prospects of a growing proportion of both immigrants and native workers of Mexican descent have worsened considerably. Even a cursory review of data on major socioeconomic indicators strongly suggests that, after a sustained postwar period in which the wages, occupational status, educational attainment, and other indicators of the general long-term socioeconomic prospects of ethnic Mexican workers all moved upward, since the mid-1970s virtually all of those trends have flattened and, in some cases, actually reversed. For example, after years in which permanent Mexican immigrant workers closed the wage gap separating them from non-Hispanic whites, by the late 1970s and continuing into the 1990s, the gap began to widen again.50 Some analysts have attributed these trends to the massive influx of low-skilled Mexican migrant and immigrant workers in that period, but other researchers have found that even after accounting for differences in citizenship, length of residence, and language proficiency, similar patterns are also affecting United States–born Mexican American workers of even the third and fourth generations. After nearly three decades of steady upward mobility, United States–born Mexican American workers’ median income levels have declined, the gap between their earnings and non-Hispanic whites’ earnings has grown, occupational mobility has flattened significantly, and the poverty rate, especially among ethnic Mexican children, has climbed to alarming levels.51 The economic recovery of the late 1990s seems to have mitigated some of the harshest effects of these trends, but the long-term prognosis is likely a continued pattern of "segmented assimilation" and a structural reproduction of disadvantage in which very large numbers of contemporary ethnic Mexican immigrants and natives and many of their children enter the bottom segments of the economy and languish there.52
These negative patterns have been exacerbated and reinforced by the general failure of the American public education system to deal adequately with the challenges posed by a rapidly increasing immigrant and ethnic student population. Many teachers and school districts have tried heroically to implement innovative strategies to teach the huge and growing number of non-English-speaking or limited English-proficiency students, but tragically this has been much more the exception than the rule. In general, school districts have "tracked" Spanish-speaking students into low-level, non–college preparatory curricula, and as a result most of these students never have had a reasonable opportunity to reach their full intellectual potential. After years of such practices, the situation is grim. Ethnic Mexicans and other Latinos are now the most highly segregated students in the country. Lacking adequate facilities and enough well-trained teachers and facing a massive erosion in support for bilingual and English as a Second Language (ESL) training, many simply cannot beat the odds stacked against them. Dropout rates for ethnic Mexican students, which historically have been among the highest in the nation, currently range from 25 to 50 percent depending on locale. Not surprisingly, only about 5 percent ever complete college; and high school and college completion rates have dropped over the past twenty years.53 More ominously, many ethnic Mexican students seem to be reacting to the stresses they are currently experiencing in school and to their bleak employment prospects in the future by consciously choosing not to learn. Indeed, in what is perhaps the most frightening trend among ethnic Mexican students, a growing body of evidence suggests that the performance of otherwise bright and eager Mexican immigrant and Mexican American children actually seems to decline the longer they remain in American public schools.54
It is impossible to predict with any degree of certainty how the combined weight of these social and economic trends will shape evolving notions of community, political identity, and national orientation in the future, but it is already clear that the volatile mix of the segmented socioeconomic incorporation of new immigrants and working-class Mexican Americans with the ongoing cultural "Latinization" of large swaths of United States territory has unleashed a powerful array of contradictory forces. At the very least, these developments have created a chronic state of what the cultural critic Dick Hebdige has called "category confusion" both by multiplying the ways people can identify themselves and by broadening and deepening the interstitial social spaces in which such identities are forged and develop.55 The political implications of this powerful trend are just beginning to become clear.
As in the past, class differences and differential access to political power continue to play definitive roles in shaping potential identities and orientations. But the recent demographic restructuring and social class polarization of United States territory has produced some interesting new intra-class divisions and further complicated what was already a complex social situation. Of course, many of the same fracturings and political positionings that historically have divided the ethnic Mexican population are being recapitulated in the current juncture. For example, the recent regional and national debates over highly charged questions of immigration control, affirmative action, and bilingual / bicultural education reveal that some Mexican Americans and permanent Mexican immigrants continue to operate under what Stuart Hall has called "the old logic of identity" by largely accepting a state-centered political vision of themselves as United States citizens and of the United States as a controlled and bounded territory with a more or less unified core culture.56 Much like their counterparts in the 1940s and 1950s, such individuals have largely ceased to think of themselves as "Mexican" (and, indeed, often think of themselves as "white") and believe that the continuing influx of Mexican immigrants aggravates existing social problems and inevitably slows the potential "assimilation" of both newcomers and natives. Consequently, such individuals tend to support strict control on the border, question the efficacy of affirmative action and bilingual education programs and policies, and generally attempt to follow a political vision of integration and civil rights similar to that first advanced by groups such as LULAC more than a half century ago.57
There are signs, however, that other segments of the upwardly mobile ethnic Mexican population view these sweeping social and cultural changes in a very different light. For those positioned to take full advantage of the steady expansion of the "ethnic market" and the concomitant flowering of Mexican and pan-Latino cultural forms and practices—artists, intellectuals, ethnic entrepreneurs, and at least some politicians—the current cultural renaissance represents both a tremendous economic opportunity and a chance to develop a cosmopolitan Latino aesthetic that would have been impossible as recently as ten or twenty years ago. The explosive expansion of ethnic entrepreneurship in Mexican communities, the increasing influence of committedly bilingual and bicultural political leaders, and the recent flowering of a vast body of syncretic Mexican American literature, film, music, and criticism are all signs that a significant segment of the educated ethnic Mexican middle class is experimenting with different cultural paths enabled by the social transformation of the borderlands.58
Both kinds of political and social views and responses may well be heartening to those who hold out hope that the machinery of assimilation continues to hum along in the United States, or at least that ethnic Mexicans are following some kind of benign pluralistic (multi)cultural and political vision for the future. But recent research strongly suggests that a great many ethnic Mexicans of both nationalities may not consider either type of the practice of American citizenship to be "the treasure without measure" touted by the Republican party during the 1994 political campaigns in California.59 One need only spend a few days traveling in the schoolyards, the workplaces, and the urban and rural areas where ethnic Mexicans have congregated in the United States to recognize that the old politics of integration—and perhaps even the "new" politics of multiculturalism—may not have much relevance to large segments of the ethnic Mexican "community." As I have pointed out elsewhere, after a century of sustained migration and immigration from Mexico, this really should not surprise anyone. To the contrary, in communities where it is not at all uncommon to find in the same neighborhoods (and often in the same households) virtually any combination of United States–born Mexican Americans, permanent immigrants (both officially sanctioned and undocumented), long-term and short-term sojourners, and the United States–born and Mexican-born children of all these groups, it would be surprising not to see new forms of self-identification, affiliation, and political orientation emerge.60
And if one looks, evidence of the emergence of new forms of identity and orientation are obvious. For example, habitual transmigrants and their extended families on both sides of the border represent one case of a group that may well be operating under substantially different assumptions and expectations about their place in the nation-state. This too is hardly surprising. With the Mexican economic and political crises showing few signs of abating in this generation, thousands of Mexicans will feel compelled to try their luck in the United States, just as previous generations of their friends and families did before them. While recent highly publicized border enforcement efforts such as Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego and Operation Hold the Line in El Paso have increased the physical and financial risks associated with unauthorized entry into the United States (and back to Mexico), the reality of the situation is that every year hundreds of thousands of people come to the conclusion that they have no real choice in the matter: they undoubtedly will continue to take their chances by moving back and forth across the border.61
This is not to argue that the sovereign state somehow has suddenly lost the power to inscribe difference on either sojourner migrants or permanent immigrants or that the state no longer influences their daily lives in powerful ways. Recent legal measures in California such as propositions 187, 209 (which banned affirmative action programs), and 227 (which abolished bilingual education in public schools), the Hopwood decision in Texas (which banned affirmative action in that state), "English-only" legislation in many other states, the so-called federal welfare reform law of 1996, and the more prosaic forms of daily harassment by immigration and other law enforcement officials are all monuments to the continuing power of the state to do just this.
But despite the obvious persistence of this type of state power, equally powerful countering forces driven by free-market global capitalism including the ongoing transnationalization of production processes and financial markets, the increasing utilization of multinational sources of labor, and the ongoing expansion of international communication networks of all kinds have had the inevitable effect, to paraphrase the anthropologist Michael Kearney, of "transnationalizing" the identities of people who habitually travel through the social spaces transformed by these trends.62 Having grown used to living, working, and playing in physically separated communities on both sides of the border, members of these transnational social networks often feel as "at home" in one place as another.63 Of course, on the border, different examples of this transnational sensibility can be seen every day. On the simplest level, people who live on one side or the other cross the line each day to work, conduct business, or go to school, and for them life in a steadily expanding third space has become routine. At more complex levels, some transmigrants live most of the year in the United States but habitually return to their homes in Mexico to attend village fiestas, tend to business affairs, and participate in baptisms, weddings, funerals, and the many other rites of passage that structure Mexican cultural life. At another level, the intertwining and bleeding over of one nation into another has stimulated a growing awareness among at least some border dwellers that social problems such as public health, environmental pollution, and labor exploitation by multinational corporations do not recognize the international border. As a consequence, health professionals, environmental experts, and at least some labor organizers are currently taking steps both to reconceptualize their traditional roles and to act in ways that transcend the old arbitrary boundaries of the nation-state by experimenting in building transnational public health coalitions, developing environmental impact statements, and forming new multinational forms of labor organizations and strike support committees.64
At another level, awareness of their economic displacement and political alienation in Mexico and of their experience of racial discrimination and exploitation in the United States has also intensified a deep ambivalence—if not complete cynicism—among working-class ethnic Mexicans toward both state-centered national systems. In Mexico, simmering political unrest in Chiapas, in Guerrero, in the capital, and elsewhere provide stark evidence of the extent to which ordinary Mexicans are challenging received wisdom about what it will mean to be "Mexican" in the coming century. On another plane, the lukewarm response expatriate Mexican citizens in the United States have had to recent changes in Mexican law that allow for dual nationality may be another sign that while ordinary mexicanos may continue to exhibit popular nationalistic fervor in specific, circumscribed contexts (such as international soccer matches and perhaps in some political protests as well) there almost certainly is a generally growing disconnection between such expressions of national affiliation and feelings toward "official" representatives of the Mexican state.65 As a result of these multiple layers of alienation, new forms of consciousness based on alternative senses of affiliation (for example, as "Indians," as workers, as women, or as members of some other form of subnational community) are clearly now competing with nationality as primary categories of self-identity and political orientation.66
Similar processes seem to be at work, perhaps with even greater force, in the United States. As I have tried to suggest in this essay, if one accepts the premise that the successful political integration of immigrants into a "host" society and the political socialization of citizens within a nation-state historically has been largely dependent on the extent to which citizens, denizens, and their children had a meaningful chance to become economically integrated into that society (particularly a society whose popular ideology and national mythology is based precisely on that premise), the recent erosion of working-class ethnic Mexicans’ economic position in both Mexico and the United States raises profound questions about their eventual social and political trajectory. The situation of working-class ethnic Mexicans who have settled permanently or who were in fact born and raised in the United States is obviously very different from those who stay in Mexico or move in and out of the country, but the dynamics involved in the process of identity formation are similar.
For example, although a great deal of attention has been paid to the recent increases among ethnic Mexicans in naturalization applications, voter registration, voting, and other forms of participation in traditional American electoral politics, these trends may well obscure much more than they reveal about the actual political orientations and potential behaviors of ordinary ethnic Mexicans of both nationalities. On the most elementary level, it is critical to recognize how much the general civic culture of the United States has changed in this century. One must at the very least raise the question about what formal citizenship and political participation mean in a society in which voter turnout has dropped steadily for forty years, where fewer than half of all eligible voters cast ballots in the last presidential election, and where only 38 percent voted in the most recent midterm congressional elections.67 Voter participation rates are significantly lower among eligible ethnic Mexican and Latino voters, and under the best of circumstances, it is difficult to see how and why members of these populations would suddenly become mobilized in a manner that would buck these general trends. Moreover, since it is well established that political participation (at least at the level of electoral politics) is strongly correlated with age, income, occupational status, language facility, and level of educational attainment, extant socioeconomic conditions among huge numbers of working-class Mexican Americans (to say nothing of the ambiguous national sentiments of unnaturalized resident aliens) make it highly unlikely that they will soon be meaningfully integrated as actively participating members in national, state, or even local electoral polities.
Indeed, recent research on ethnic Mexican youth in the United States suggests that the opposite may be occurring. While there is no question that a small number of young people of Mexican descent are in fact becoming educated, going on to college, and then succeeding in their career aspirations, and that they are also often coupling their success with both new and traditional forms of political activism in their communities, it is also becoming apparent that huge segments of entire generations are living most of their lives at the outer margins of society, where their prospects for even incremental mobility—much less full-blown economic and social assimilation—are slim. The steady rise since the late 1960s in gang activity, drug trafficking, and rates of incarceration—and the formation of antisocial counteridentities among ethnic Mexican youth as a result—are merely the most spectacular indications of the kind of alienation that is being experienced in the ethnic Mexican population.68
In my view, what is much more provocative are the signs that, in the face of the disappearance of skilled blue-collar jobs, the collapse of public education for Latino students, and the growing class polarization of American society, many ordinary ethnic Mexican young people are developing attitudes and behaviors and new forms of self-identification that may well push them further away from what is widely considered the "mainstream" of society. There are clear signs, for example, that in a growing number of communities ethnic Mexican children of both nationalities are increasingly less likely to think of themselves as "hyphenated Americans" (with all that implies for their eventual "assimilation") and are instead consciously defining themselves in oppositional terms as "Mexicans," as "Chicanos," or as members of some other self-defined subnational community that has little to do with a conception of themselves as "being American." 69 Although a few of these subcultures may eventually spawn political orientations or even civic identities that allow for active engagement in the traditional mainstream American politics of "integration," if current economic trends continue, it seems much more likely that a great many ethnic Mexicans will continue to define themselves in ways that militate against their cultural "assimilation" and their political socialization as "Americans"—at least in the manner that these terms have been commonly used in the past.70
In conclusion, this is not to
suggest that political and
social exchange and melding is no longer occurring among ethnic Mexicans
in the northern borderlands. As already noted in different contexts above,
both the American ideology of the melting pot and American consumer culture
historically have exerted tremendous disciplinary and coercively assimilative
power on ethnic Mexican and other Latino immigrants, and there is no indication
that this has ceased in even the most segregated locales. But as demographic
balances continue to shift, the creation and constant reproduction of a
critical mass of ethnic Mexicans speaking Spanish and otherwise following
regional Mexican folk traditions, religious practices, and customs (however
syncretic these may be) allow both migrants and permanent residents unprecedented
latitude in selecting which of these blandishments to accept, which to
reject, and which to translate into terms that are meaningful to their
everyday lives. Similarly, the continuing social, cultural, and economic
integration of the United States–Mexico border region almost certainly
means that the same kind of political orientations that in the past could,
and often did, run counter to common popular expectations about how immigrants
were supposed to adapt, adjust, and eventually "melt" into the mainstream
of American life will shape identities, political orientations, and potential
loyalties with even greater force in the future. By continuing to "vote
with their feet"—either by seasonally floating between the two countries
or by practicing a "politics of refusal" by declining to participate in
the civic culture as currently constituted by the ruling elites of either
the United States or Mexico—working-class ethnic Mexicans are providing
strong clues to the relative importance of national allegiance in their
everyday lives.71 At very least, these circumstances
indicate that significant numbers of Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants,
and Mexican migrants remain deeply ambivalent about their relationship
to the nation-state and the national "community" it supposedly represents—whether
that nation-state is the Republic of Mexico or the United States of America.
As the inextricably linked processes of globalization and mass human migrations
continue, this deepening ambivalence will surely present the putative citizens
and leaders of both nations with one of the major social and political
dilemmas of the new century.
David G. Gutiérrez is a member of the history faculty at the University of California, San Diego. The author wishes to thank Luis Arroyo, Bill Deverell, Neil Foley, Ramón Gutiérrez, and David Thelen for their insightful critiques of earlier versions of this essay. This essay is dedicated to the memory of Don Américo Paredes, 1915–1999.
1 See Patrick J. McDonnell and Robert J. López, "70,000 March through L.A. against Prop. 187," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 17, 1994, pp. A1, A19.
2 A brief note on nomenclature: although I fully recognize the impossibility of reducing to simple categories the almost infinitely complex amalgams that constitute people’s sense of personal and collective identity, for the sake of brevity I use the terms "Mexican" to refer to citizens of the Republic of Mexico (regardless of their ethnic background and / or primary language preference); "Mexican national" to describe citizens of Mexico physically present in the United States; "Mexican American" to refer to United States– born or naturalized American citizens of Mexican descent (however distant that descent may be); "Chicano" to refer to Mexican Americans who use this term as a self-referent; and "ethnic Mexican" as an overarching descriptor of the combined population of Mexican origin or Mexican descent living on both sides of the current border between the United States and Mexico (that is, regardless of their formal nationality). As a matter of convenience, I use the umbrella term "Latino" to describe all other residents of Latin American or Spanish-speaking Caribbean descent. For the same reason, I use the terms "European immigrants" and "white Americans" to refer to non-Hispanic white residents. I hope the text makes clear just how crude and arbitrary I consider each of these terms to be.
3 Grahame L. Jones, "Mexico Is Right at Home in Win," Los Angeles Times, Feb. 16, 1998, p. C1.
4 Grahame L. Jones, "This Is Much Worse than Trash Talking," ibid., p. C7.
5 In this essay, I follow Américo Paredes’s example by focusing in particular on the United States–Mexico "borderlands" (defined very roughly as the territory now demarcated as the northern tier of states in Mexico and the southwestern states of the United States), but, as should become clear in the text, my general argument to some extent extends both to Mexico proper and to settlements of ethnic Mexicans in the United States that are located well away from the border. For his explication of the term, see Américo Paredes, Folklore and Culture on the Texas-Mexican Border (Austin, 1993).
6 Manuel Gamio, Forjando Patria (Mexico City, 1960). See also D. A. Brading, The Origins of Mexican Nationalism (Cambridge, U.K., 1985); and Alan Knight, "Peasants into Patriots: Thoughts on the Making of the Mexican Nation," Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos, 10 (Winter 1994), 135–62.
7 For suggestive studies exploring the complexities of identity formation and the role of nascent popular nationalisms in the Mexican North, see, for example, David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: The American Southwest under Mexico (Albuquerque, 1982); Ramón A. Gutiérrez, When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846 (Stanford, 1991); Ana María Alonso, Thread of Blood: Colonialism, Revolution, and Gender on Mexico’s Northern Frontier (Tucson, 1995); and Lisbeth Haas, Conquests and Historical Identities in California, 1769–1936 (Berkeley, 1995). For more recent studies that bring even finer focus to these issues, see Andrés Reséndez, "Caught between Profits and Rituals: Native Contestation in Texas and New Mexico" (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1997); Raúl Ramos, "From Norteño to Tejano: The Rise of Borderlands Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Political Identity in Bexar, 1811–1861" (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, forthcoming, 1999); and Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez, "Identity on the Texas-Tamaulipas Border: Citizenship, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Nineteenth Century" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, forthcoming, 1999).
8 See David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986 (Austin, 1987), esp. 34–41, 309–12.
9 For some suggestive initial forays in this direction, see, for example, Deena J. Gonzales, "Las Tules of Image and Reality: Euro-American Attitudes and Legend Formation on a Spanish-Mexican Frontier," in Building with Our Hands: New Directions in Chicana Studies, ed. Adela de la Torre and Beatriz M. Pesquera (Berkeley, 1993), 75–90; Gilbert Hinojosa, A Borderlands Town in Transition: Laredo, 1755–1870 (College Station, Tex., 1983); and Leonard Pitt, Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846–1890 (Berkeley, 1966).
10 The contradictions and social fracturing created by such efforts are discussed in Tomás Almaguer, Racial Fault Lines: The Origins of White Supremacy in California (Berkeley, 1994); Leticia Magda Garza-Falcón, Gente Decente: A Borderlands Response to the Rhetoric of Dominance (Austin, 1998); Genaro Padilla, My History, Not Yours: The Formation of Mexican American Autobiography (Madison, 1993); and Rosaura Sánchez, Telling Identities: The Californio "Testimonios" (Minneapolis, 1995).
11 Neil Foley, "Becoming Hispanic: Mexican Americans and the Faustian Pact with Whiteness," in Reflexiones 1997: New Directions in Mexican American Studies, ed. Neil Foley (Austin, 1998), 53–70. Foley provides a more extended contextual discussion in Neil Foley, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley, 1997); see also Ramón A. Gutiérrez, "Unraveling America’s Hispanic Past: Internal Stratification and Class Boundaries," Aztlán, 17 (Spring 1986), 79–102; and David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven, 1992), 335–60. For earlier treatments of this phenomenon, see Pitt, Decline of the Californios, 277–96; and Carey McWilliams, North from Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the Southwest (New York, 1948).
12 See, for example, Jane Dysart, "Mexican Women in San Antonio, 1830–1860: The Assimilation Process," Western Historical Quarterly, 7 (Oct. 1976), 365–77; Darlis A. Miller, "Cross-Cultural Marriages in the Southwest: The New Mexico Experience, 1846–1900," New Mexico Historical Review, 57 (Oct. 1982), 335–59; Sandra L. Myres, "Mexican Americans and Westering Anglos: A Feminine Perspective," ibid., 317–33; and Rebecca McDowell Craver, The Impact of Intimacy: Mexican-Anglo Intermarriage in New Mexico, 1821–1846 (El Paso, 1982).
13 Different social theorists have used different inflections of the notion of a third space in their still-evolving efforts to describe and analyze the unsettled situations of colonized or diasporic populations. Drawing from this ongoing work, my use of the term is meant to denote the social spaces where marginalized people have forged new identities in reaction to, and often in opposition to, their marginalization. In short, like the anthropologists Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson, I envision third spaces as the dynamic social sites where people construct senses of community based both on "recognition of cultural similarity or social contiguity" and in reaction to externally imposed processes of "exclusion and constructions of otherness." See Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson, "Culture, Power, Place: Ethnography at the End of an Era," in Culture, Power, Place: Explorations in Critical Anthropology, ed. Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson (Durham, 1997), 13. For more general discussions of the relationship of power, place, and identity formation in the interstitial social location of the third space, see Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford, U.K., 1991); John Comaroff, "Humanity, Ethnicity, Nationality: Conceptual Perspectives in the U.S.S.R.," Theory and Society, 20 (1991), 661–87; Homi Bhabha, "The Third Space: Interview with Homi Bhabha," in Identity: Community, Culture, Difference, ed. Jonathan Rutherford (London, 1990), 207–21; Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London, 1994); and Edward W. Soja, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other Real-and-Imagined Places (Cambridge, Mass., 1996).
14 Albert M. Camarillo, Chicanos in a Changing Society: From Mexican Pueblos to American Barrios in Santa Barbara and Southern California, 1848–1930 (Cambridge, Mass., 1979), esp. 53–78, 117–20; Richard Griswold del Castillo, The Los Angeles Barrio, 1850–1890: A Social History (Berkeley, 1979); Ricardo Romo, East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio (Austin, 1983). For similar arguments for Texas, see Arnoldo De León, The Tejano Community, 1836–1900 (Albuquerque, 1982); for New Mexico, see Robert J. Rosenbaum, Mexicano Resistance in the Southwest: "The Sacred Right of Self-Preservation" (Austin, 1981).
15 Peter Sahlins, Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees (Berkeley, 1989), 264.
16 David G. Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity (Berkeley, 1995), 35–36.
17 "Pronunciamento, Rancho del Carmen, 30 September 1859," in Juan Cortina and the Texas-Mexico Frontier, 1859–1877, ed. Jerry D. Thompson (El Paso, 1994), 14, 16, 17, 18. For general discussion of social banditry among Mexican Americans at this time, see Rosenbaum, Mexicano Resistance in the Southwest; and Albert Camarillo and Pedro Castillo, eds., Furia y Muerte: Los Bandidos Chicanos (Fury and death: The Chicano bandits) (Los Angeles, 1973).
18 See excerpts of the Vásquez interview in "Revenge Took Possession of Me," in Foreigners in Their Native Land: Historical Roots of the Mexican Americans, ed. David J. Weber (Albuquerque, 1973), 227.
19 Alan Knight, The Mexican Revolution(2 vols., Cambridge, Eng., 1986), I, 2. Estimates vary widely, but most demographic historians agree that at least 600,000 and perhaps as many as 1,000,000 Mexicans migrated to the United States between 1900 and 1929. For a brief discussion of population trends during this period, see Mark Reisler, By the Sweat of Their Brow: Mexican Immigrant Labor in the United States, 1900–1940 (Westport, 1976), 265–73.
20 On the ambiguities of Americanization programs, see Mark Reisler, "Always the Laborer, Never the Citizen: Anglo Perceptions of the Mexican Immigrant during the 1920s," Pacific Historical Review, 2 (May 1976), 231–54; Gilbert G. González, "Segregation of Mexican Children in a Southern California City: The Legacy of Expansionism and the American Southwest," Western Historical Quarterly, 16 ( Jan. 1985), 55–76; Gilbert G. González, Chicano Education in the Era of Segregation (Philadelphia, 1990); and George J. Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900–1945 (New York, 1993), esp. 87–107.
21 For samplings of recent analyses of various campaigns of national integration between 1900 and 1940, see Ilene V. O’Malley, The Myth of the Revolution: Hero Cults and the Institutionalization of the Mexican State, 1920–1940 (New York, 1986), esp. 3–17, 113–32; Alan Knight, "Revolutionary Project, Recalcitrant People: Mexico, 1910–1940," in The Revolutionary Process in Mexico: Essays on Political and Social Change, 1880–1940, ed. Jaime E. Rodíguez O. (Los Angeles, 1990), 227–64; Alan Knight, "Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico, 1910–1940," Hispanic American Historical Review, 74 (no. 3, 1994), 393–444; Knight, "Peasants into Patriots"; and Mary Kay Vaughan, "The Construction of the Patriotic Festival in Tecamachalco, Puebla, 1900–1946," in Rituals of Rule, Rituals of Resistance: Public Celebrations and Popular Culture in Mexico, ed. William H. Beezley, Cheryl English Martin, and William E. French (Wilmington, 1994), 213–46.
22 Sahlins, Boundaries, 145.
23 The phrase is found in Knight, "Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico," 406. For discussion of the activities of the consulates in the United States, see Juan Gómez-Quiñones, "Piedras contra la Luna, México en Aztlán y Aztlán en México: Chicano-Mexican Relations and the Mexican Consulates, 1900–1920," in Contemporary Mexico: Papers of the Fourth International Congress of Mexican History, ed. James W. Wilkie, Michael C. Meyer, and Edna Monzón de Wilkie (Berkeley, 1976), 494–527; Francisco Balderrama, In Defense of La Raza: The Los Angeles Mexican Consulate and the Mexican Community, 1929 to 1936 (Tucson, 1982); Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American, esp. 108–25; Gilbert G. González, Labor and Community: Mexican Citrus Worker Villages in a Southern California County, 1900– 1950 (Urbana, 1994), esp. 77–84, 135–45, 154–60; and Gilbert G. González, "Company Unions, the Mexican Consulates, and the Imperial Valley Agricultural Strikes, 1928–1934," Western Historical Quarterly, 27 (Spring 1996), 53–73.
24 Vaughan, "The Construction of the Patriotic Festival," 233.
25 Indeed, many went to their graves (in the United States) clinging to this vision of return. For insightful discussions of how this romantic popular nationalism played itself out in two southwestern cities, see F. Arturo Rosales, "Shifting Self-Perceptions and Ethnic Consciousness among Mexicans in Houston 1908–1946," Aztlán, 16 (nos. 1 & 2, 1987), 71–94; and Roberto R. Treviño, "Prensa y patria: The Spanish-Language Press and the Biculturation of the Tejano Middle Class, 1920–1940," Western Historical Quarterly, 22 (Nov. 1991), 451–72.
26 For other discussions of the complicated ideological positionings of the segment of the ethnic Mexican population Richard A. García termed los ricos (the rich ones), see Richard A. García, Rise of the Mexican American Middle Class: San Antonio, 1929–1941 (College Station, Tex., 1991); Mario T. García, "La Frontera: The Border as Symbol and Reality in Mexican-American Thought," Mexican Studies / Estudios Mexicanos, 1 (Summer 1985), 1905–225; Treviño, "Prensa y patria"; González, Labor and Community, 78–84, 175–77; Garza-Falcón, Gente Decente; Elliott Young, "Deconstructing La Raza: Identifying the Gente Decente of Laredo, 1904–1911," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 98 (Oct. 1994), 227–59; and Elliott Young, "Red Men, Princess Pocahantas, and George Washington: Harmonizing Race Relations in Laredo at the Turn of the Century," Western Historical Quarterly, 29 (Spring 1998), 49–88.
27 For the most recent scholarship on LULAC’s ideology and activities during this critical period, see Mario T. García, Mexican Americans: Leadership, Ideology, and Identity, 1930–1960 (New Haven, 1989), esp. 25–61; and Cynthia Orozco, "The Origins of the League of United Latin American Citizens (lulac) and the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement in Texas with an Analysis of Women’s Political Participation in a Gendered Context, 1910–1929" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1993). For more critical discussion of the racial and class dimensions of LULAC’s early rhetoric and political activities, see Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors, esp. 74–89; Benjamin Márquez, lulac: The Evolution of a Mexican American Political Organization (Austin, 1993); and Foley, "Becoming Hispanic."
28 For the most recent analysis of the mass repatriation campaigns of the Great Depression, see Francisco E. Balderrama and Raymond Rodríguez, Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s (Albuquerque, 1995).
29 For provocative preliminary theoretical explorations of what Edward Soja calls "lived space as a strategic [political] location," see Soja, Thirdspace, esp. 67–100. For further theoretical explications of this theme, see, for example, Charles Tilly, ed., Citizenship, Identity, and Social History (Cambridge, U.K., 1996); and James Holston and Arjun Appadurai, eds., "Cities and Citizenship," a special issue of Public Culture, 8 (no. 2, 1996). For recent analyses of these mechanisms at play among ethnic Mexicans in specific locales, see Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American, generally; and Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors, esp. 69–116.
30 For insightful recent discussions of the evolution and links between the mutualistas and subsequent political and quasi-political local mobilizations, see, for example, Juan Gómez-Quinoñes, "The First Steps: Chicano Labor Conflict and Organizing, 1900–1920," Aztlán, 3 (Spring 1972), 13–49; José Amaro Hernández, Mutual Aid for Survival: The Case of the Mexican Americans (Malabar, Fla., 1983); Julie L. Pycior, "La Raza Organizes: Mexican American Life in San Antonio, 1915–1930, as Reflected in Mutualista Activities" (Ph.D. diss., University of Notre Dame, 1979); Emilio Zamora, The World of the Mexican Worker in Texas (College Station, Tex., 1993), esp. 86–109; and Devra Weber, Dark Sweat, White Gold: California Farm Workers, Cotton, and the New Deal (Berkeley, 1994), esp. 57–78.
31 Stuart Jamieson, Labor Unionism in American Agriculture (Washington, 1945); Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919–1939 (Cambridge, U.K., 1990), esp. 324–25, 338–39; Douglas Monroy, "Mexicanos in Los Angeles 1930–1941: An Ethnic Group in Relation to Class Forces" (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1978); Vicki Ruiz, Cannery Women, Cannery Lives: Mexican Women, Unionization, and the California Food Processing Industry, 1930–1950 (Albuquerque, 1987); Vicki Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (New York, 1998), esp. 72–98.
32 The significance of El Congreso de Pueblos que Hablan Espa–ol is discussed in Albert Camarillo, Chicanos in California: A History of Mexican Americans in California (San Francisco, 1984), 58–64; García, Mexican Americans, 145–74; Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors, 110– 16; Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American, 244–52; and Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows, 94–98. For a suggestive comparative analysis of the emergence of similar political perspectives in Europe in about the same period, see Geoff Eley, "Legacies of Antifascism: Constructing Democracy in Postwar Europe," New German Critique, 67 (Winter 1996), 73–100.
33 These integrative trends are discussed in Cohen, Making a New Deal, 361–66; Raul Morín, Among the Valiant: Mexican Americans in World War II and Korea (Alhambra, 1966); García, Mexican Americans, esp. 1–22; and Vicki Ruiz, " ‘And Miles to Go . . .’: Mexican Women and Work, 1930–1985," in Western Women: Their Land, Their Lives, ed. Lillian Schlissel, Vicki Ruiz, and Janice Monk (Albuquerque, 1988), 117–36.
34 This is not to argue that ethnic Mexicans suddenly closed the educational or income gap separating them from non-Hispanic white Americans. On the contrary, although ethnic Mexicans’ material conditions clearly improved in the period in question, the gap between them and the majority population closed much more slowly. Still, for the first time, large numbers of both United States–born and foreign-born ethnic Mexicans saw real improvement in their standards of living. For discussion of these general economic trends, see Vernon M. Briggs Jr., Walter Fogel, and Fred H. Schmidt, The Chicano Worker (Austin, 1979); Mario Barrera, Race and Class in the Southwest: A Theory of Racial Inequality (Notre Dame, 1979); and Frank D. Bean and Marta Tienda, The Hispanic Population of the United States (New York, 1987), 17–22, 280–337.
35 For some suggestive preliminary studies on intermarriage at this time, see Leo Grebler, Joan Moore, and Ralph Guzmán, The Mexican American People: The Nation’s Second Largest Minority (New York, 1970), 405–19; Edward Murguia, Chicano Intermarriage: A Theoretical and Empirical Study (San Antonio, 1982); and Brian Gratton, F. Arturo Rosales, and Hans DeBano, "A Sample of the Mexican-American Population in 1940," Historical Methods, 21 (Spring 1988), 80–87.
36 These trends are discussed in García, Mexican Americans; Guadalupe San Miguel, "Let All of Them Take Heed": Mexican Americans and the Campaign for Educational Equality in Texas, 1910–1981 (Austin, 1987), esp. 9–163; and S. Dale McLemore and Ricardo Romo, "The Origins and Development of the Mexican American People," in The Mexican American Experience: An Interdisciplinary Anthology, ed. Rodolfo O. de la Garza et al. (Austin, 1985), 3–32.
37 As Raymond Grew has described similar dynamics in Europe, ordinary working-class people increasingly recognized that "there were practical [political] benefits . . . that could be achieved through increased social mobility within a national community, broader participation with its implications of democracy, and stronger ties between local interests and national affairs. In return for proper behavior, the citizen gained the right to make new claims on the state." See Raymond Grew, "The Construction of National Identity," in Concepts of National Identity: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue, ed. Peter Boerner (Baden-Baden, 1986), 36.
38 Although by 1950 large numbers of ethnic Mexicans had moved out of entry-level, low-skilled, low-wage occupations into higher-wage, higher-status, skilled blue-collar jobs, a significant proportion of both the citizen and alien population remained mired at the bottom of the economy. Among Mexican American men, fully 43% were still working as unskilled workers or farm laborers in 1950. The gap had closed by 1960, but one-third of Mexican American men continued in these jobs. Nearly 56% of Mexican American women worked in low-paying operative or service occupations in 1950; by 1960, 51% were found in these same occupational categories. See Barerra, Race and Class in the Southwest, 131.
39 Renewed several times under various guises after the war, the bracero program was in place for more than twenty years. By the time the labor importation scheme was terminated by Congress in 1964, more than 5 million foreign workers—the overwhelming majority of whom were Mexican—had been contracted to work in the United States.
40 Apprehensions of unauthorized Mexican migrants climbed steadily during the first twelve years of the program. By 1947, nearly 200,000 apprehensions were reported, and the number grew to nearly 900,000 in 1953. Apprehensions peaked in 1954 when the Immigration and Naturalization Service claimed to have repatriated more than 1.1 million Mexican nationals under its infamous Operation Wetback. For discussion, see Julian Samora, Los Mojados: The Wetback Story (Notre Dame, 1971), 44– 46.
41 Elliott Barkan, And Still They Come: Immigrants and American Society, 1920s to the 1990s (Wheeling, Ill., 1996), appendix, tables 7.2a and 7.3, pp. 202–3.
42 David Harvey, Justice, Nature, and the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, Mass., 1996), 106. Indeed, Mexican American civil rights organizations such as LULAC, the American G.I. Forum, and the CSO and prominent political activists such as Manuel Ruiz Jr., Ernesto Galarza, and George I. Sánchez all recognized this trend and demanded that the bracero program be terminated. Sánchez summarized this position in an interview with a New York Times correspondent in 1951, arguing that, "from a cultural standpoint, the influx of a million or more wetbacks a year transforms the Spanish-speaking people of the Southwest from an ethnic group which might be assimilated with reasonable facility into what I call a culturally indigestible peninsula of Mexico. The [illegal] migration tends to nullify processes of social integration going back 300 or 350 years, and I would say at the present time has set the whole assimilation process back at least twenty years." Gladwyn Hill, "Peons in West Lowering Culture," New York Times, March 27, 1951, pp. 31, 33. Most Mexican American civil rights activists agreed until they reconsidered the issue during the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. See Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors, 152–205.
43 For discussion of naturalization rates during this period, see Grebler, Moore, and Guzmán, Mexican American People, 557–60; and Barkan, And Still They Come, 42, 67, 106, 173.
44 Harry P. Pachón, "Political Mobilization in the Mexican-American Community," in Mexican Americans in Comparative Perspective, ed. Walker Connor (Washington, 1985), 243–56; Rodolfo O. de la Garza and Louis DiSipio, "Save the Baby, Change the Bathwater, and Scrub the Tub: Latino Electoral Participation after Seventeen Years of Voting Rights Act Coverage," Texas Law Review, 71 ( June 1993), 1479–1539.
45 For insightful discussions of how the process of cultural mingling and exchange influenced interethnic and intraethnic relations in Greater Mexico between the late 1920s and the late 1960s, see, for example, Maria Herrera-Sobek, The Bracero Program: Elitelore versus Folklore (Los Angeles, 1979); Maria Herrera-Sobek, Northward Bound: The Mexican Immigrant Experience in Ballad and Song (Bloomington, 1993); Manuel Peña, The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-Class Music (Austin, 1985); Vicki Ruiz, "’Star-Struck’: Acculturation, Adolescence, and the Mexican-American Woman," in Between Two Worlds: Mexican Immigrants in the United States, ed. David G. Gutiérrez (Wilmington, 1996), 125–47; and Alex M. Saragoza, "Cinematic Orphans: Mexican Immigrants in the United States since the 1950s," in Chicanos and Film: Representation and Resistance, ed. Chon Noriega (Minneapolis, 1992), 114–26. For useful comparisons of this type of interplay in different contexts, see, for example, Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (London, 1979); George Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads: Popular Music, Postmodernism, and the Poetics of Place (London, 1994); Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Durham, 1996); and José E. Limón, American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture (Boston, 1998).
46 Mexican employment statistics provide the most graphic evidence of the depth of the crisis. Between 1980 and 1996, when more than 17 million Mexicans entered the work force for the first time, it is estimated that only 2 million jobs were created in Mexico. For discussion of the many long-term implications of this sobering fact, see Enrique Dussel Peters, "Recent Structural Change in Mexico’s Economy: A Preliminary Analysis of Some Sources of Mexican Migration to the United States," in Crossings: Mexican Immigration in Interdisciplinary Perspective, ed. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco (Cambridge, Mass., 1998), 55–74.
47 For example, between 1940 and 1990, the cities of Tijuana and Mexicali in Baja California grew from populations of 16,486 and 18,775 to 742,686 and 602,390, respectively. In Sonora, the city of Nogales grew from 13,866 to more than 107,000 over the same period. In Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez grew from 48,881 to 797,679; and in Tamaulipas, the border metropolitan areas of Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros grew from populations of 28,872, 9,412, and 15,699 in 1940 to 217,912, 281,618, and 303,392, respectively, in 1990. For population trends in northern Mexico, see Daniel D. Arreola and James R. Curtis, The Mexican Border Cities: Landscape Autonomy and Place Personality (Tucson, 1993), 24–29; and Roberto Ham-Chande and John R. Weeks, "A Demographic Perspective on the U.S.-Mexico Border," in Demographic Dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico Border, ed. John R. Weeks and Roberto Ham-Chande (El Paso, 1992), 1–27.
48 For demographic shifts in southwestern cities, see Hispanic Databook of U.S. Cities and Counties (Milpitas, Calif., 1994); and "Top Ten Metropolitan Areas in Terms of Percentage Hispanic by 2015," American Demographics, 16 (Aug. 1994), 16. For overall population trends, see U.S. Bureau of the Census, Hispanic Americans Today, Current Population Reports no. P23-183 (Washington, 1993).
49 For discussions of the current transformation of social space in Greater Mexico, see, for example, Ricardo C. Ainslie, "Cultural Mourning, Immigration, and Engagement: Vignettes from the Mexican Experience," in Crossings, ed. Suárez-Orozco, 283–300; and David G. Gutiérrez, "Ethnic Mexicans and the Transformation of ‘American’ Social Space: Reflections on Recent History," ibid., 307–35.
50 Jorge Chapa, "Trends in Educational and Occupational Attainment of Mexican Americans," Journal of Hispanic Policy, 4 (1990), 3– 18; and Elaine M. Allensworth, "Earnings Mobility of First and ‘1.5’ Generation Mexican-Origin Women and Men: A Comparison with U.S.-Born Mexican Americans and Non-Hispanic Whites," International Migration Review, 31 (Summer 1997), 386–410.
51 The sociologist Jorge Chapa estimates that the gap between ethnic Mexicans’ and non-Hispanic whites’ earnings was closest in 1973 and has gradually widened since. Despite the obvious growth of a Mexican American middle class, ethnic Mexicans (including second- and third-generation United States– born cohorts) remain significantly overrepresented in the occupational category of operators, fabricators, and laborers and underrepresented in the managerial and professional occupations associated with middle-class status. Given these overall trends, it is not surprising that the poverty rate for children in 1990 had climbed to 30% for United States– born children and an astounding 42% for children who had been born in Mexico. For discussion of the development of these trends, see Chapa, "Trends in Educational and Occupational Attainment of Mexican Americans"; Sonia M. Pérez and Denise De La Rosa Salazar, "Economic, Labor Force, and Social Implications of Latino Educational and Population Trends," Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 15 (May 1993), 188–229; and William P. O’Hare, "Race / Ethnicity and Child Poverty: A Closer Look," Population Today, 23 (March 1995), 4–5. Of course, similar, albeit less severe, trends have also affected the general working-class American population. For discussion of the larger context, see Lawrence Mishel and Jared Bernstein, The State of Working America, 1992–93 (New York, 1993); and Jeffrey Madrick, The End of Affluence: The Causes and Consequences of America’s Economic Decline (New York, 1995).
52 On segmented assimilation, see Alejandro Portes and Min Zhou, "The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants," Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science(no. 530, Nov. 1993), 74–96; Ruben Rumbaut, "The Crucible Within: Ethnic Identity, Self-Esteem, and Segmented Assimilation among Children of Immigrants," International Migration Review, 28 (Winter 1994), 748–96; Ruben Rumbaut, "Assimilation and Its Discontents: Between Rhetoric and Reality," International Migration Review, 31 (Winter 1997), 923–60; and Min Zhou, "Segmented Assimilation: Issues, Controversies, and Recent Research on the New Second Generation," ibid., 975–1008.
53 For discussion of the crisis in education for ethnic Mexicans and other Latinos, see Jorge Chapa and Richard R. Valencia, "Latino Population Growth, Demographic Characteristics, and Educational Stagnation: An Examination of Recent Trends," Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 15 (May 1993), 172–73; Guadalupe Valdes, Con Respeto: Bridging the Distances between Culturally Diverse Families and Schools, an Ethnographic Portrait (New York, 1996); James Diego Vigil, Personas Mexicanas: Chicano High Schoolers in a Changing Los Angeles (Fort Worth, 1997); and Guadalupe San Miguel Jr. and Richard R. Valencia, "From the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to Hopwood: The Educational Plight and Struggle of Mexican Americans in the Southwest," Harvard Educational Review, 68 (Fall 1998), 353–412.
54 M. E. Matute-Bianchi, "Situational Ethnicity and Patterns of School Performance among Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Mexican-Descent Students," in Minority Status and Schooling: A Comparative Study of Immigrant and Involuntary Minorities, ed. Margaret A. Gibson and John U. Ogbu (New York, 1991), 205–47; Carola Suárez-Orozco and Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Transformations: Migration, Family Life, and Achievement Motivation among Latino Adolescents (Stanford, 1995); Laurie Olson, Made in America: Immigrant Students in Our Public Schools (New York, 1997).
55 Hebdige, Subculture.
56 Stuart Hall, "Old and New Identities, Old and New Ethnicities," in Culture, Globalization, and the World-System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity, ed. Anthony D. King (Minneapolis, 1997), 41–68.
57 For recent discussions of this streak of social conservatism among some middle-class Mexican Americans, see, for example, Linda Chávez, Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation (New York, 1991); and Peter Skerry, Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority (New York, 1993).
58 For recent works that explore new political and aesthetic possibilities among ethnic Mexicans and other Latinos, see, for example, Gloria Anzaldśa, Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco, 1987); Coco Fusco, English Is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (New York, 1995); Guillermo Gómez-Peña, The New World Border: Prophecies, Poems, and Loqueras for the End of the Century (San Francisco, 1996); Rubén Martínez, The Other Side: Fault Lines, Guerrilla Saints, and the True Heart of Rock and Roll (London, 1993); José David Saldívar, Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies (Berkeley, 1997); and Ilan Stavans, The Hispanic Condition: Reflections on Culture and Identity in America (New York, 1995).
59 Greg Krikorian and Amy Wallace, "Prop. 187 Rises as Key Theme in Top Two Races," Los Angeles Times, Oct. 25, 1994, p. A22.
60 Gutiérrez, "Introduction," in Between Two Worlds, ed. Gutiérrez, xi–xxvii.
61 Indeed, some border scholars are now insisting that transnational migratory labor circuits linking destinations in the United States to towns and cities deep in Mexico have been in place for so long that this kind of cyclical, multigenerational migration should be considered a largely "autonomous" social phenomenon. As the sociologist Nestór Rodríguez, a prominent proponent of this line of thought, has argued: "Autonomous migration means that working-class communities in peripheral countries have developed their own policies of international employment independent of interstate planning. As such, autonomous international migration can be considered state-free migration, i.e., a process that decenters the state as the regulator of human movements across international boundaries. Through autonomous migration undocumented workers themselves have created a guestworker program, which many U.S. employers have supported." Thus, one of the many ironies of the ongoing militarization of the border is that it has made it that much more difficult for cyclical migrants to return to Mexico. These border enforcement efforts thus paradoxically may be contributing to the growth of the permanent ethnic Mexican population of the United States. See Nestór Rodríguez, "The Battle for the Border: Notes on Autonomous Migration, Transnational Communities, and the State," Social Justice, 25 (Fall 1996), 23. For further elaboration of this argument, see Saskia Sassen, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York, 1998), 5–30.
62 Michael Kearney, "Borders and Boundaries of State at the End of Empire," Journal of Historical Sociology, 4 (March 1991), 52– 74. For similar arguments, see Roger Rouse, "Mexican Migration and the Social Space of Postmodernism," Diaspora, 1 (Spring 1991), 8– 23; and Daniel Mato, "On the Making of Transnational Identities in the Age of Globalization: The U.S. Latina / o–‘Latin’ American Case," Cultural Studies, 12 (Oct. 1998), 598–620.
63 The immigration sociologist Ruben Rumbaut notes that several national surveys conducted in Mexico in the 1980s indicated that fully half of the Mexican population were related to someone living in the United States. See Rumbaut, "Assimilation and Its Discontents," 948.
64 I am indebted to Lori Buchsbaum of the Border Health Initiative, Project Concern International, a binational nonprofit public health organization, for information on current cooperative transnational health initiatives on the California-Mexico border. Contextual analysis of increasing United States–Mexico cooperation on environmental issues can be found in Marla Cone, "Good News for Beach-Goers—With a Caveat," Los Angeles Times, April 9, 1999, p. A1. For a summary of recent trends in transnational labor organizing and other innovative cross-border ties, see Gutiérrez, "Ethnic Mexicans and the Transformation of ‘American’ Social Space," 324–27; and S. Pincetl, "Challenges to Citizenship: Latino Immigrants and Political Organizing in the Los Angeles Area," Environment and Planning A, 26 (June 1994), 895–914.
65 Although it is probably much too early to determine what the long-term implications recent changes to the nationality provisions of the Mexican Constitution will be, I find it significant that as of late 1998, only 3,000 expatriate Mexican nationals had applied for dual nationality status. See "Mexico and Central America," Migration News (Nov. 1998), [http: // migration.ucdavis.edu].
66 For provocative examples of this process
for migrants originating in Mexico, see, for example, Kearney, "Borders
and Boundaries of State at the End of Empire"; Carole Nagengast and Michael
Kearney, "Mixtec Ethnicity: Social Identity, Political Consciousness, and
Latin American Research Review, 25 (no. 2,
1990), 61–91; Leo Chávez,
Shadowed Lives: Undocumented Immigrants
in American Society (Ft. Worth, 1992); and the excellent book by Pierrette
Gendered Transitions: Mexican Experiences of Immigration
(Berkeley, 1994). For explications on the theme of social alienation in
Mexico, see Claudio Lomnitz, "Decadence in Times of Globalization," Cultural
Anthropology, 9 (May 1994), 257–67; Claudio Lomnitz, "Fissures in Contemporary
Mexican Nationalism," Public Culture, 9 (Fall 1996), 55–68; and
the brilliant and deeply disturbing detective novels of Paco Ignacio Taibo.
For useful comparative discussions of similar trends in other diasporic
populations, see, for example, Luis E. Guarnizo, "Los Dominicanyorks: The
Making of a Binational Society,"
Annals of the American Academy of Political
and Social Science (no. 533, May 1994), 70–87; Jacqueline M. Hagan,
to Be Legal: A Maya Community in Houston (Philadelphia, 1994); and Linda
Basch, Nina Glick Schiller, and Christine Szanton Blanc, Nations Unbound:
Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized
Nation-States (Basel, 1994).
68 On the evolution and social significance of ethnic Mexican gangs, see Joan W. Moore, Homeboys: Gangs, Drugs, and Prison in the Barrios of Los Angeles (Philadelphia, 1978); James D. Vigil, Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern California (Austin, 1988); James D. Vigil, "Cholos and Gangs: Culture Change and Street Youth in Los Angeles," in Gangs in America: Diffusion, Diversity, and Public Policy, ed. C. Ronald Huff (Beverly Hills, 1990); and Joan W. Moore, James D. Vigil, and J. Levy, "Huisas of the Street: Chicana Gang Members," Latino Studies Journal, 6 ( Jan. 1995), 27–48.
69 For recent research in this area, see Matute-Bianchi, "Situational Ethnicity and Patterns of School Performance"; Rumbaut, "Crucible Within"; Rumbaut, "Assimilation and Its Discontents"; and Vigil, Personas Mexicanas. For a fine journalistic account of the ongoing formation of a rising number of antagonistic youth subcultures, see William Finnegan, Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country (New York, 1998), esp. 209–68.
70 For a provocative and sensitive recent discussion of this question, see Kevin R. Johnson, "’Melting Pot’ or ‘Ring of Fire’?: Assimilation and the Mexican-American Experience," California Law Review, 85 (Oct. 1997), 1259–1314.
71 I am indebted to Luis Alvarez, Toni Nelson Herrera, Manuel "Monolo" Callahan, and other students at the University of Texas, Austin, for providing me with a wide-ranging introduction to this provocative concept during my visit to their borderlands seminar in spring 1997.