Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar: Mini-Conference

Borderlands and Latino/a Studies Seminar
Saturday, April 2, 2011

9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, e-mail the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org.  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.

Panel One: Politics and Violence

“ ‘We have no rights because we have no vote’: Mexicans in the Deep South, 1900-1910”
Sarah Cornell, University of New Mexico

This essay examines the experiences of thousands of Mexican workers in Louisiana and Mississippi. This moment sheds light on how Mexicans disrupted the South’s black-white binary and evolving economic relations. I discuss why Southern planters sought Mexican labor specifically, the conflicts that developed between planters and Mexicans, especially those held as peons, and the strategies workers used to negotiate the South’s systems. Rarely invoking their legal status as white, Mexicans used other strategies to claim rights with varying success. I also outline how Mexicans used these events to foment opposition to the Diaz regime, linking it to U.S.-style white supremacy.

“Chicano Lynching’s Erasure and Representation: Narrativizing a Usable Past
Annette Rodriguez, Brown University

In North from Mexico: the Spanish Speaking People of the United States Carey McWilliams asserts that “more Mexicans were lynched in the Southwest between 1865 and 1920 than blacks in other parts of the south.” The hundreds of unrestrained murders of Mexicans throughout the Southwest have gone largely unrecognized in U.S. and Chicano/a historical narrative. Previous work on lynching has focused on the murders of African Americans in the South. Those works that have discussed violence against Mexicans in the Southwest in this period conflate lynching murders with generalized stories on “frontier violence” and “vigilantism.” In addition, no work has been published that considers “modern” southwestern lynchings of Mexicans. Why has the lynching of Mexicans been largely unwritten and the losses of these lynching victims unvalued?

Commentator: Geraldo Cadava, Northwestern University

Panel Two: Culture and Performance

“A Contest for Community: La Prensa’s Annual Musical Popularity Contests
Christina D. Abreu, University of Michigan

Focusing on the relationship between the colonia de habla española de Nueva York and the mass culture industries, this paper examines the annual musical popularity contests and fundraising festivals sponsored by La Prensa, New York City’s most prominent  Spanish-language daily newspaper, between 1941 and 1959.  I argue that a review of the contest rules and results as well as analysis of the performers and public(s) who attended the fundraising showcase celebrating each year’s winners offers a micro view into the macro processes of community development, political and cultural citizenship, and racial and ethnic identity formation.  This paper contends that the diversity of performers and audiences participating in the contests and festivals points towards a community much less homogenous and unified than previously understood.

“On Transborder Folk Performance: Greater Mexico, Postmodernity and Chicana/o Cultural Studies
Alex E. Chávez, University of Notre Dame

This paper interrogates the intellectual project of Chicana/o Cultural Studies in an attempt to dismantle the conventional “symbolic anthropology” of ethnic-Mexican culture and in its stead recuperate a grounded vision of the always-emergent forms of life and quotidian aesthetic practices that abound in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. With a focus on folk-music performance, oral poetry, and verbal play among Mexican immigrant communities, Chávez unearths how their situated discursive features invoke deep epistemic interventions that fracture the transborder imaginary – a social field contoured by institutionalized (state and non-state) knowledge apparatuses central in maintaining social borders that racialize, isolate, and render vulnerable an entire group of people.

Commentator: Jason Ruiz, University of Notre Dame

Panel Three: Legal Borders

“A Fence, Quails and Ocelots on the U.S.-Mexico Border: The Caloboz Land Grant
Guadalupe T. Luna, Northern Illinois University

This Seminar addresses the intersection of federal immigration policy with the present property rights of homeowners residing in near proximity to the nation’s southernmost geographical border. This intersection is long rooted in the past historical struggles of former property holders who sustained land losses following the United States War against Mexico. Grounded in legal and historical evidence this Seminar rejects the formal record that the innumerable land losses following the war accrued because of the conflict between two legal systems. Linking the past with the present this Seminar provides a contemporary example of an Indigenous landholder confronting the historically based burdens of landownership in the region. Specifically the United States is constructing a fence across the nation’s southernmost geographical border. This Seminar will thereby focus on the present opposition of a holder of a land grant held in her family since Spain and Mexico governed the region. In comparison wealthier and public based properties escaped the harm and burdens of the fence, its purported intent and purpose. Ultimately and in sum this Seminar underscores the human rights struggles of Indigenous populations to retain their property interests under the jurisprudence of United States legal systems.

Commentator: Marc Rodriguez, University of Notre Dame