Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona

Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona

Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona

Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona

Synopsis

Borders cut through not just places but also relationships, politics, economics, and cultures. Eric V. Meeks examines how ethno-racial categories and identities such as Indian, Mexican, and Anglo crystallized in Arizona's borderlands between 1880 and 1980. South-central Arizona is home to many ethnic groups, including Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants, and semi-Hispanicized indigenous groups such as Yaquis and Tohono O'odham. Kinship and cultural ties between these diverse groups were altered and ethnic boundaries were deepened by the influx of Euro-Americans, the development of an industrial economy, and incorporation in the U. S. nation-state. Old ethnic and interethnic ties changed and became more difficult to sustain when Euro-Americans arrived in the region and imposed ideologies and government policies that constructed starker racial boundaries. As Arizona began to take its place in the national economy of the United States, primarily through mining and industrial agriculture, ethnic Mexican and Native American communities struggled to define their own identities. They sometimes stressed their status as the region's original inhabitants, sometimes as workers, sometimes as U. S. citizens, and sometimes as members of their own separate nations. In the process, they often challenged the racial order imposed on them by the dominant class. Appealing to broad audiences, this book links the construction of racial categories and ethnic identities to the larger process of nation-state building along the U. S.-Mexico border, and illustrates how racial differences can both fuse cultures together and drive them apart.

Excerpt

In the mid-1960s a group of Yaquis in the Tucson barrio called Pascua took the first steps toward seeking federal acknowledgment of their status as American Indians. In part they hoped to obtain access to federal resources and an area of land outside the city. Since World War II, Tucson's warehouse district had enveloped Pascua, and the mechanization of agriculture had dramatically reduced the number of jobs on nearby industrial farms. Pascua residents lived in poverty, with dilapidated housing and worn-out and insufficient infrastructure. Catholic Yaquis also complained about excessive interference by local Protestant missionaries. They hoped that by moving outside the city they might be, as one contemporary ethnographer put it, “left alone with the traditional religious life of the Yaquis.” The campaign to establish a new settlement sparked a rancorous debate about what it meant to be Yaqui, Indian, and ethnic Mexican in twentiethcentury Arizona.

Anselmo Valencia, a Yaqui war veteran, led the campaign to establish a new settlement after founding the Pascua Yaqui Association in 1963 “to maintain and enhance the Yaqui culture as it is found in the State of Arizona.” Membership in the association was limited to “any person who has been ceremonially associated with the Yaqui Indians.” Valencia enlisted the help of Anglos living in Tucson, such as ethnographers Edward Spicer and Muriel Thayer Painter, who formed the Pascua Advisory Committee that same year. Finally, declaring himself the chief of the Pascua Yaquis, he wrote to Rep. Morris Udall, explaining that Pascua had long been “the heart of Yaqui life and culture in Arizona” and that resettlement would empower them to protect their way of life. Udall agreed to take up the . . .

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