History of the U.S.-Mexico Border

Miguel A. Levario

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
History of the U.S.-Mexico Border

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History


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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.

Article.  10948 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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