Academic journal article Social Justice

Invasion of the Americas and the Making of the Mestizocoyote Nation: Heritage of the Invasion

Academic journal article Social Justice

Invasion of the Americas and the Making of the Mestizocoyote Nation: Heritage of the Invasion

Article excerpt

I WAS BORN IN SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS, ALMOST IN THE SHADOW OF THE ALAMO. BEFORE I was a year old, my family moved back to my father's hometown in Canadian County, western Oklahoma, a stone's throw from the Old Chisholm Trail. Canadian County, Oklahoma, part of the old Southern Cheyenne/Arapago treaty territory, partitioned for homesteading in the late-19th century, was the northern-most point of my family's many treks.

San Antonio was dead center.

The southern point was the Valley -- McAllen, Texas -- where my grandfather had taken my father's family in the early 1920s, from Canadian County, Oklahoma, where he had farmed. My grandparents on both sides had been born on the eastern periphery -- Joplin, Missouri; Mena, Arkansas. Three out of four of us children of that edge of the frontier moved west, as far as possible, to California.

In the middle of that territory lay New Mexico, a kind of mystical throbbing heart, for me anyway.

Aztlan.

I found a name for my homeland, that territory that expanded from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River, from the Rockies to the Rio Grande, when I met Chicanos, who had just begun to call themselves Chicanos, at UCLA during the late Sixties.

Aztlan. The North.

And living in San Francisco, I found that mid-California was called Big Sur, the South, south of Monterey, south of the Presidio at San Francisco. This was the geography of my upbringing, and remains the geography of my mind, the center from which I relate to the rest of the world. That ancient territory of the Aztecs, the north of the Spanish conquest, and finally liberated as a part of the Republic of Mexico, was annexed by the United States in 1848.

When I decided to write my doctoral dissertation in Latin American History at UCLA on one part of that territory, New Mexico during the precolonial and Spanish period, I was forced to transfer from Latin American to United States History! The region was called the "Borderlands" of the U.S. West. So much for academic objectivity. Borderlands. When I first heard that term, it rang a bell. I knew it meant me. Borderline, marginal, on the edge, neither this nor that, identity not certain.

In fact, my family on all sides was mostly Scots-Irish--the Dunbars, Jennings, Currys -- poor whites moving across a frontier forged by the United States expansion into indigenous America; farmers, peasants, fenced out, starved out of Europe, seeking cheap land, and, ending up sharecroppers, farm workers, drifters, ranch hands ("cowboys").

But there were others--the mysterious maternal grandmother whose family was unknown and who died when my mother was a toddler--an Indian, they said, actually they said a "squaw," married to or living with my drunken Irish itinerant grandfather, a "squawman," they called him. Then there was my father's paternal grandmother, Mexican, family name Angel. A few years ago, when my father was under sodium pentothal in surgery, he spoke for two hours in fluent Spanish (his surgeon was a native Spanish-speaker), "babbling Mexican," as my half-Cherokee stepmother put it. For the first time in my life, he informed me that his grandmother had been Mexican and always spoke to him in Spanish when he was little, calling him "my little angel" because he was dark like her.

During the valiant Sandinista decade in Nicaragua, I spent a lot of time there and found another borderland, the Mosquitia, the eastern region of Nicaragua and Honduras, filled with marginal peoples -- the Miskitos (mixed Indian, Black, white, who speak Miskito, an Indian language); the Creoles (same mixture but English speaking); and the Garifunos (same mixture speaking a patois). It was there that I finally comprehended my own historical/political theory of two decades -- the power of resistance, the importance of borderlands, the ultimate Achilles heel of colonialism and imperialism. Although the term may seem quaint today, "class" best captures the unity of such disparate peoples and cultures. …

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