New ways of thinking about US-Mexico border history reveal a significant shift from narrowed national narratives to newly conceptualized transnational histories. The field continues to evolve, drawing from the contributions of previous intellectual generations to more-complex and nuanced approaches to borderlands history. Early intellectual and academic pioneers such as US historian Herbert Eugene Bolton, Hubert Howe Bancroft, and John Francis Bannon forged a connection between Anglo and Spanish America. Almost immediately following the contributions made by the aforementioned scholars, many of their Mexican American contemporaries, such as Carlos E. Castañeda, Manuel Gamio, and Américo Paredes, sought to deepen the intellectual and academic scope of the borderlands and documented the histories and narratives of ethnic Mexican culture and identity in Texas and throughout the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. As a result of their contributions, they and others forged a new path of analysis that brought to light the diasporic experiences of ethnic Mexicans in the United States within an academic scope. In the 1960s and 1970s, a fresh perspective offered by Chicano scholars focused on the historical foundations of inequality and racism while continuing the scholarly trajectory of understanding identity and community formation. The intellectual evolution of borderlands history continues to challenge traditional historical narrative and analysis by redirecting the marginal spaces of the borderlands to the center of intellectual and academic discourse. Several scholars argue that it is within the inherent and functioning contradictions and conflict of the US-Mexico borderlands that historians can better assess a nation’s historical narrative. Examining the conflictive nature of competing and coexisting spaces helps scholars understand the complex infrastructure of a transnational society that must look outward, rather than within, to construct its national and transnational narrative. Newer scholarship focusing on the US-Mexico borderlands continues to use regional case studies as experiments for cultural heterogeneity. However, others are bridging the temporal and geographic gap and are tying their localized studies within a larger national and international narrative. Borderlands history contains an inherent framework in which contradictions are functional and multiplicity is the status quo. The call for a decentralized national discourse has been initiated, and US-Mexico borderlands history serves as a compass for new ways of understanding human agency and transnational historical narrative.
These selected entries represent a broader dialogue of US-Mexico transnationalism. Meier and Ribera 1993 provides an expansive ethnohistory of Mexicans from their indigenous past to their current place in the United States. Ngai 2005 highlights a poignant shift in understanding national narratives within a transnational context by calling for human agency and transnationalism in historical discourse. Gonzales 2009 emphasizes larger ideological and cultural differences between Mexican American political generations. Montejano 1987 provides a more regional scope of the social history of Texas since 1836, offering a critical review of Mexican and Anglo relations and the state’s long-standing caste system. Hernández 2012 investigates the merging of national narratives and the recognition of historical shifts within the ethnic Mexican community, examining the repatriation and colonization of Mexicans south of the newly designated boundary drawn after the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. A general and expansive resource that covers news, research, teaching, and other topics of interest is H-Borderlands.
Gonzales, Manuel G. Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States. 2d ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.
A comprehensive and critical survey of resident and migrant ethnic Mexicans in the United States; emphasizes larger ideological and cultural differences rooted in the different Mexican American and Chicano political generations. The author counters the prevailing revisionist tradition of Chicano historical literature and focuses on an assimilationist political generation that emphasized integration and acculturation.
A comprehensive database for research and teaching borderlands history that contains several links to news, grants, syllabi, book reviews, and other online resources that focus on the US-Mexico borderlands region.
Hernández, José Angel. Mexican American Colonization during the Nineteenth Century: A History of the US-Mexico Borderlands. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
This study examines the history of those who were repatriated into northern Mexico following the US-Mexican War. These resettlements were the core of frontier development. The focus rests primarily on Mexican citizens displaced after the war until the end of the 19th century.
Meier, Matt S., and Feliciano Ribera. Mexican Americans / American Mexicans: From Conquistadors to Chicanos. Rev. ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993.
Originally written in 1972, an early and important ethnohistory of Mexicans. Begins with their indigenous origin and evolves into their contact with Spanish and Euro-American colonizers, which influenced the formation of a new identity. The concept of race is pervasive and accounts for the central theme in this study.
Montejano, David. Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987.
This social history of ethnic relations between Mexicans and Anglos in Texas provides a view into the establishment of economic, political, and social infrastructure in the state. By employing an interdisciplinary approach that blends a sociological lens with intense historiographical research, a broader scope into race relations in Texas emerges. Winner of the Frederick Jackson Turner Award.
Ngai, Mae M. “Transnationalism and the Transformation of the ‘Other’: Response to the Presidential Address.” American Quarterly 57.1 (March 2005): 59–65.
A brief essay addressing the trajectory of historical scholarship and the role of transnationalism in national histories; emphasizes the role of human agency and a reexamination of marginalized peoples as social actors. Available online by subscription.
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