Política: Nuevomexicanos and American Political Incorporation, 1821-1910

Política: Nuevomexicanos and American Political Incorporation, 1821-1910

Política: Nuevomexicanos and American Political Incorporation, 1821-1910

Política: Nuevomexicanos and American Political Incorporation, 1821-1910


Política offers a stunning revisionist understanding of the early political incorporation of Mexican-origin peoples into the U.S. body politic in the nineteenth century. Historical sociologist Phillip B. Gonzales reexamines the fundamental issue in New Mexico's history, namely, the dramatic shift in national identities initiated by Nuevomexicanos when their province became ruled by the United States.

Gonzales provides an insightful, rigorous, and controversial interpretation of how Nuevomexicano political competition was woven into the Democratic and Republican two-party system that emerged in the United States between the 1850s and 1912, when New Mexico became a state. Drawing on newly discovered archival and primary sources, he explores how Nuevomexicanos relied on a long tradition of political engagement and a preexisting republican disposition and practice to elaborate a dual-party political system mirroring the contours of U.S. national politics.

Política is a tour de force of political history in the nineteenth-century U.S.-Mexico borderlands that reinterprets colonization, reconstructs Euro-American and Nuevomexicano relations, and recasts the prevailing historical narrative of territorial expansion and incorporation in North American imperial history. Gonzales provides critical insights into several discrete historical processes, such as U.S. racialization and citizenship, integration and marginalization, accommodation and resistance, internal colonialism, and the long struggle for political inclusion in the borderlands, shedding light on debates taking place today over Latinos and U.S. citizenship.


The tiny El Rito Campus of the Northern New Mexico College bristled with Historias de Nuevo México/Histories of New Mexico conference activities. in the crisp air of the El Rito autumn of 2013, participants spoke to, represented, and performed portions of the Nuevomexicano, indigenous tribal, and Euroamerican (white) contributions to New Mexico culture. For the Native American and Nuevomexicano representations particularly, the focal resolve involved the preservation of tradition.

In the perspective of the Nuevomexicanos (Mexican American natives of New Mexico), the declared attachment was to herencia and the active devotion to querencia. Herencia, literally “heritage,” harks back to an agrarian base with origins in the Spanish colonization of the region, a base that evolved through a Mexican period and survived as the United States took possession of what became the American Southwest. Querencia figures as the beloved culture of the homeland, linked here to a distinct bioregional place identity. However, for proponents today, querencia leaves wistful nostalgia and romantic memory behind, acting instead to defend Nuevomexicano material culture and village tradition, maintaining community survival as a matter of collective well-being against the ravages of externally driven modernity (including a debilitating heroin problem among village dwellers) and overriding colonial structures.

Such themes as the communal land grants, the wisdom of everyday life in rural aridity, a unique folk spiritualism, and the acequia system of horticulture form the stuff of reverential querencia in the outlands of northern New Mexico. in this light an arresting juxtaposition appeared in the conference setting. It was that Historias de Nuevo México held its sessions in a venue named Jaramillo Hall and convened its plenary in Cutting Hall.

Nuevomexicanos have been engaged in conventional Western-

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