Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar: Mexican Immigrants in Interior Spaces: How Twentieth-Century Transnational Movements and Politics Shaped Communities, 1920–2000

Borderlands and Latino Studies Seminar
Saturday, October 27, 2007

10:00 am to 3:30 pm

Mexican Immigrants in Interior Spaces:
How Twentieth-Century Transnational Movements and Politics Shaped Communities, 1920–2000

Julia Grace Darling Young, University of Chicago
“Midwest Mexicans and the Cristero War”
This paper investigates the actions of Mexican emigrants, exiles and refugees in the Chicago area during Mexico’s Cristero War, a bloody church-state conflict that ravaged the Mexican countryside from 1926 to 1929. During this period, the Mexican community in the region became polarized around the religious question, as local Catholic associations and pro-Church immigrant newspapers encouraged them to participate in a conflict from thousands of miles away. Through their interactions with Catholic leaders in both the U.S. and Mexico, these emigrants attracted the support of powerful players within the Chicago Archdiocese, who in turn helped them to carve out enduring social spaces within Catholic Chicago. By examining these transnational political activities, I hope to shed new light on the history of Mexican community-formation in Midwest.

Deborah Cohen, University of Missouri at Saint Louis
“Border of Belonging, Border of Foreignness: Patriarchy, the Modern, and the Making of Transnational Mexicanness”
This chapter focuses on two moments of the journeys of those participating in the Bracero Program, the informal name for a series of labor agreements in effect from 1942 to 1964; these U.S.-Mexico agreements brought braceros, as participants were called, to work for brief stretches in US agricultural fields. Taken from my manuscript, Bordering Modernities: Transnational Labor Migration and the Making of Mexico and the United States, it traces out the encounters returning braceros had with Mexican border guards and their ultimate re-incorporation into home pueblos. In analyzing these culminating moments of the journey, the chapter attempts to reconcile its central irony: these migrants, who were crowned as state-appointed modern agents when leaving Mexico and denied the status and rewards of being modern north of the border, continued to fight for a version of being modern—a version imagined by neither Mexico nor the United States.

Geraldo L. Cadava, Yale University
“Defending the Borderlands”
This paper examines the culture and political economy of Tucson and the Arizona-Sonora border region during World War II. Focusing on such issues as the border’s wartime militarization; the labor migrations of Mexican and Mexican Americans to work in Tucson’s civil and military defense industries; World War II’s impact on regional economies; the relationship between Tucson and border communities like Nogales and Douglas; and the joint efforts of Arizona and Sonora to defend the border against enemy invasion through Mexico, my paper establishes many of the social, cultural, political, and economic relations that shaped Tucson and the Arizona-Sonora borderlands during the postwar era as well.

Myrna Garcia, University of California at San Diego
“Identity, Community, and Mexican Labor Immigration: Creating and Contesting Mexicanidad in Chicago, 1970–1979”
This paper is a preliminary investigation on how the influx of Mexican labor immigration during the 1970s changed the social dynamics of identity and community in the history of ethnic Mexicans in Chicago. I will focus on the evolution of two Chicago neighborhoods: Pilsen and Little Village in order to examine how Mexicans engaged with and contested Mexicanidad- “‘a feeling of common peoplehood’ based on a collectively-imagined Mexico” in everyday life. The shift in the dynamics of identity and community formation that the decade of the 1970s witnessed, I hypothesize, is the erosion of a civil rights orientation and the development of Mexicanidad. My work will critique dominant lines of interpretation of Mexican identity and community formation that reify narratives of voluntary Mexican immigration and settlement in the United States.

Jerry Garcia, Michigan State University
“Mexicans, Teamsters, and Growers: Immigration and Race in Washington State’s Apple Industry”
This paper examines how race, immigration, the political economy, and globalization sabotaged unionization efforts in the largest apple industry in the nation located in the state of Washington. The primary labor force in this industry are individuals of Mexican origin who have immigrated to the Pacific Northwest. The conclusion of this paper discusses why the Teamsters abruptly pulled out of representing the workers after a five year struggle.