In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Indigeneity

  • Introduction
  • Foundational Readings in Chicanx Studies on Indigeneity in the US-Mexico Borderlands
  • Indigeneity, Gender, and Latinx Feminism
  • Indigeneity, Health, and Food Politics
  • Indigeneity, Migration, and Criminalization
  • US and Canada: Sovereignty and Recognition
  • US and Canada: Identity, Race, Gender, and Sexuality
  • US and Canada: Land and Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Being

Latino Studies Indigeneity
Arturo Aldama, Clint Carroll, Natasha Myhal, Luz Ruiz, Maria Ruiz-Martinez
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 June 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0145


Issues of indigeneity, along with mestizaje—racial and cultural mixtures of African, indigenous, and Spanish ancestries and cultures that came as a result of the European colonization of the Americas—are core aspects of Chicana and Chicano and Latina and Latino identities, histories, and cultures. For Chicanas and Chicanos, understandings of indigeneity have shifted significantly since the early 1960s. During that time, tropes of cultural nationalism argued that all Mexican-origin people were descendants of the Aztecs, and that Aztlán—what many believed to be the conquered homelands of their Aztec ancestors encompassing the Four Corners region of the United States (Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona)—should be reclaimed. Today, a more nuanced understanding of Latinx/Chicanx indigeneity considers, for example, the complex politics of indigenous subjects migrating to settler colonial nation-states such as the United States, and the resulting negotiations of language and identity in this transnational space. Scholars of decolonial studies have added to this nuance by analyzing systems of heteropatriarchy (and the resulting gender binaries and practices of toxic masculinity) imposed through colonization and reinforced by such institutions as the Catholic Church. The editors seek to assemble and summarize key sources that speak to how indigeneity works within the transnational and transborder archives of colonization. This includes the differentiated ways that nation-states in the Americas have engaged with their indigenous pasts (including the sociopolitical and legal definitions of and practices toward indigenous communities and nations within the nation-state), as well as indigenous-led revitalization and sovereignty movements that envision decolonial futures. The goals of this bibliographic overview are to provide scholars interested in indigeneity in the Latinx context with key sources specific to Latinx communities and histories, while also considering important works that are grounded in Latin American, US, and Canadian indigenous contexts and histories. This bibliography thus invites scholars to explore the legal, political, social, and historical differences and similarities of indigeneity across hemispheric geographies. By juxtaposing the radical feminism of Gloria Anzaldúa (writing from the US-Mexico borderlands) with the decolonial visions of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Simpson (writing from her Canadian First Nation) the disjunctures and commonalities of indigeneity and decolonial thought are highlighted. The bibliography also include some key texts on indigeneity in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Bolivia that discuss places where the majority populations are mestiza/o and indigenous, and yet most indigenous communities, many whose first language is not Spanish, live in varying degrees of dispossession, poverty, and racial marginalization. The bibliography also invites scholars to consider Afro-Indigenous identities and community struggles in hemispheric frames.

Foundational Readings in Chicanx Studies on Indigeneity in the US-Mexico Borderlands

In the context of Chicana and Chicano studies (Chicanx studies), some foundational and early texts that discuss the importance of Aztlán as the ancestral homeland of Mexican-origin people in what is now the Southwest of the United States include Forbes 1973 and Anaya and Lomelí 1989, as well as more recent work that continues to valorize Aztlán as not necessarily the ancestral homeland of the Aztec civilization that inspired cultural nationalist ideas of the 1960s, but, in the case of Miner 2014, as a space of indigeneity and resistance and creativity. In addition, Moraga 1993 reframes the idea of Aztlán as a unifying community-building trope that honors women and LGBT members of the Chicanx tribe in the Southwest and beyond. Some early Chicanx women’s scholarship engaged with discourses prompted by Octavio Paz (see Paz 1962), particularly through the figure of La Malinche or Malintzin Tenepal, who takes on the role of “mother” of a conquered peoples, or a Mexican “Eve” who is to blame for the genocide and violence inflicted at the time of Spanish conquest. These arguably misogynistic discourses extend into the Mexican nation-state and are promoted and imbricated into ideas of national identities where mestiz@ peoples are vulgarly seen as hijos de la chingada (children of the screwed one, referring back to Malintzin Tenepal birthing famed Hernán Cortés’s children). For a more nuanced understanding of Malintzin Tenepal that challenges the patriarchal logics of Paz, see the early foundational essay del Castillo 1978 and the more recent Townsend 2015. Contreras 2008 looks at how indigenous tropes drive cultural nationalist ideas, texts, and practices, and the relationship between indigenismo in Mexico and indigeneity not tied to the state-driven practice of trying to reify and document the Mesoamerican past.

  • Anaya, Rudolfo A., and Francisco A. Lomelí. Aztlán: Essays on the Chicano Homeland. Albuquerque, NM: Academia/El Norte Publications, 1989.

    This volume offers twelve essays exploring the legend of Aztlán and the achievements of the Chicano movement in its earliest years. The essays illuminate the conception of a Chicano homeland with particular reference to its history, literature, myth, and anthropology.

  • Contreras, Sheila Marie. Blood Lines: Myth, Indigenism, and Chicana/o Literature. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.

    Contreras offers an authoritative analysis of various texts that have shaped the ethnographic and poetic discourses influencing Chicana/o nationalism and feminism as they relate to their indigenous descent. In doing so, the author undertakes an exploration of Chicana/o indigenism by problematizing traditions of Mexican indigenism and European primitivism. A new understanding of the resilience of indigeneity in the Mexican borderlands challenges established cultural perspectives of the “native.”

  • Del Castillo, Adelaida R. Ed. “Malintzin Tenepal: A Preliminary Look into a New Perspective.” Essays on La Mujer, Edited by Rosaura Sanchez and Rosa Martinez Cruz, 124–149. Los Angeles: University of California, Chicano Studies Center, 1978.

    This is the first archival based essay that presents a much more nuanced and complex representation and account of Malintzin Tenepal and her willingness to mediate the arrival of Spain with the growing Aztec nation-state. It is also notable in how it looks at sources within Aztec history to ground Malintzin Tenepal’s feminist agency within the specific religious and cultural context of how indigenous communities where responding to the demands of the Aztec nation-state at the time of Hernan Cortés arrival into Mexico in 1519. An arrival that that coincided with a prophecy of the return of Quetzalcoatl.

  • Forbes, Jack. Aztecas del Norte: The Chicanos of Aztlan. Greenwich, CT: Fawcett, 1973.

    This foundational book argues that Chicanos are part of the indigenous citizenry of what is now the US Southwest and argues that Chicanos are descendants of maíz (corn) cultures and are connected to indigenous communities in Mexico and the United States. Forbes argues that the term mestizo (mixed) is a colonial term and does not reflect the indigeneity of people of Mexican descent as original Anishinabe people.

  • Miner, Dylan A. T. Creating Aztlán: Chicano Art, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Lowriding across Turtle Island. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2014.

    Using the metaphor and practice of “lowriding,” a core aspect of Chicano car culture and histories, Miner excavates understandings of Aztlán from Mesoamerican codices, colonization, the Chicano movement of the 1960s, and into more recent times. Miner considers how indigeneity travels from the US-Mexico border areas to Canada by examining a range of artists that produce work from what he terms “indigenous cultural objects” to public murals.

  • Moraga, Cherrie. “Queer Aztlán: The Re-formation of Chicano Tribe.” In The Last Generation: Prose and Poetry. By Cherrie Moraga, 145–174. Boston: South End Press, 1993.

    In this interdisciplinary essay, Moraga offers a reimagined “Chicano tribe” that authentically encompasses the intersections of nation, race, gender, and sexuality in what she calls “Queer Aztlán.” By producing a comparative, historical, and contemporary examination of the strengths and drawbacks of past movements, she expands the possibilities for effecting real political change.

  • Paz, Octavio. The Labyrinth of Solitude: Life and Thought in Mexico. New York: Grove Press, 1962.

    Paz’s influential book-length essay is concerned with Mexican identity, arguing that Mexicans who are a part of two distinct cultures, the Spanish and the indigenous, have for the most part denied the indigenous to become stuck in a world of solitude. This solitude, according to Paz, maintains Mexicans in a state of oscillation between violent resentment and passivity.

  • Townsend, Camilla. Malintzin: Una mujer indígena en la Conquista De México. Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 2015.

    Using an ethnohistorical approach to the study of Malintzin, or “La Malinche,” Townsend provides a recollection of her life and context using 16th-century documentation. This work is an examplar of the growing feminist scholarship that explores women’s agency and reinterpretation of history

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