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Open Access Publications from the University of California

"The Border Crossed Us!": Mexican Americans, Colonization, and Race

  • Author(s): Salgado, Casandra Danielle
  • Advisor(s): Ortiz, Vilma
  • et al.
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Among historians and social scientists, it is clear that Nuevomexicanos are a sub-population within the broader ethnoracial category of Mexican in the United States. Yet Nuevomexicanos continue to dis-identify with the “Mexican” category based on the colonial Spanish narrative in New Mexico. Why is this the case? Nuevomexicanos are the descendants of Mexican Americans who resided in New Mexico following the U.S.-Mexico War in 1848. Yet unlike other Mexican Americans, Nuevomexicanos often claim ancestral ties to Spanish settlers of New Mexico and do not have recent immigrant connections to Mexico. This distinction is important because it shapes how Nuevomexicanos view themselves ethnically and nationally in relation to other Mexican-origin people. Moreover, Spanish identification has waned in popularity over time, particularly for its false claim to being white; minimization of Mexican and mestizo roots; and valorization of colonization, that is, Indigenous subjugation. Nevertheless, Spanish identification can remain salient within a context where Nuevomexicanos are declining in demographic dominance to Anglo and Mexican newcomers. Given contentious debates regarding Spanish identification, why and how does Spanishness continue to be of relevance to Nuevomexicanos? To address this question, I analyze distinct aspects of Nuevomexicano group membership to offer critical insight into the maintenance and evolution of Spanish identification; Nuevomexicanos’ perceptions of unity and distance with other Mexican-origin people; and how race and racism operate for Mexican Americans, as a group. Overall, the Nuevomexicano case extends our understanding of how colonization and its persistence in the southwestern United States continues to be central to Mexican Americans’ racialized status. This means that both a colonization and racialization lens is critical to theorizing Mexican Americans’ and other Latinos’ status within the American political and racial landscape.

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This item is under embargo until May 31, 2021.