Nowhere in the Hispanic universe is the subject of one's identity so central to life as in Mexico—and even more so, if that is conceivable, for those who dwell on its northern rim. Who are we? That, in a nutshell, is what countless Mexican thinkers have asked since the days when Hernán Cortés and his rapacious hordes subjugated the Aztecs and put the men to labor and bedded the women. Among sundry reasons, that is so because of mestizaje, the blending over centuries of two races and cultures, remnants from the Old World and the New; along the border, it is so because of proximity to the United States and, conversely, because many miles separate the region from Mexico City, mecca of the historic culture.
This question strikes at the core of basic issues. After all, border Mexicans—fronterizos—dwell in the shadow of the most powerful people in the world, and their way of life seduces even the cocky French. Yet they are hardly natives of the region. Few trace their roots to the border towns of the nineteenth century: Most arrived only recently, particularly residents of cities and towns west of Ciudad Juárez. Not until the 1950s did the trek north really get under way. Border residents are newcomers from diverse regions of the republic, and only their children and grandchildren can begin to lay claim to birthrights in the North. Culturally, they represent a kaleidoscope of colors.
For the haughty denizens of Mexico City, all Mexicans must swear allegiance to one culture, speak one language, and uphold common values. That centralist view dates, as Maria Socorro Tabuenca, a writer from Ciudad Juárez suggests, from the nineteenth-century fear of repeating Mexico's loss of half of its territory because its inhabitants, for want of a national culture, lacked the will to defend it. Thus, in the rush to create a sense of mexicanidad (Mexicanness), so as not to suffer a fiasco like that of