"The fate of every democracy, of every government based on the sovereignty of the people, depends on the choices it makes between these opposite principles, absolute power on the one hand, and on the other the restraints of legality and the authority of tradition." - John Acton
"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves; therefore, are its only safe depositories." - Thomas Jefferson
"The United States, not Iran, poses the greatest threat to world peace." - Noam Chomsky
"In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?" - Saint Augustine
The Definition of Sovereignty
This definition of sovereignty will be referred to as National Sovereignty from here on out. Under this designation, it is clear that only a nation-state can exercise sovereignty. No one should expect or even fathom that an individual, a group of individuals, or a corporation could possibly exercise sovereignty by this definition. However, as it turns out, there are other definitions of sovereignty that can apply to individuals or corporations. There is first, Corporate Sovereignty. This term, though, comes off as more of a deal made with various governments for a corporation to receive special benefits that most other entities or persons would not be privy to and that governments agree to protect. A quote in When Corporations Rule the World, says exactly that, “Today’s business corporation is an artificial creation, shielding owners and managers while preserving corporate privilege and existence. Artificial or not, corporations have won more rights under law than people have, rights which government has protected with armed force.” It would seem that corporations are working to slowly gain more and more privileges as time goes on, to the point that they are taking on burdens that the government is no longer willing or able to bear. Such a case can be seen in an article on the Think Progress blog. Corrections Corporation of America, The GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation all run major prison facilities that detain undocumented workers, a former government responsibility, from which they profit immensely. It should also be noted that they do so at the expense of the inmates health and well being.
Second, there is Popular Sovereignty. In The Time of Popular Sovereignty, Popular Sovereignty is defined as, “The people coming together and expressing their “popular will” to establish an agreement on the appointment of leaders to act in their stead, the leaders of which are then responsible to the to the people, in whom supreme authority resides.” It is important to point out when considering this definition that the author of the text admits that getting a great many people together to take such action has historically been extremely difficult. Next, there is Consumer Sovereignty. In Consumer Sovereignty and Human Interests, Consumer Sovereignty is defined as, “…the principle that [in a free market economy] what is produced, how it is produced, and hot it is distributed are to be better determined by consumer preferences expressed through individual choices in the free market.” In Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy, there are four other types of sovereignty that are encountered. They are International Legal Sovereignty, Westphalian Sovereignty, Domestic Sovereignty, and Interdependence Sovereignty. These terms refer to, in turn, the international implications of sovereignty, the ability to keep foreign powers from exerting authority over a nation-state’s territory, the ability of a state to establish authority and control over the population within its own borders, and the ability of a nation-state to control the flow of goods, people, capital, etc. across its borders.
Just to be clear, the purest form of National Sovereignty that one can get will come from the text, Semblances of Sovereignty. “[National Sovereignty is the] supreme legal authority in a national state to control one’s borders and the entry of aliens, the authority to acquire new territory by conquest, treaty, or purchase, the exclusive jurisdiction over one’s territory, the ability to exercise their laws in another nation’s territory, and the power to protect citizens overseas.” Given this more concise definition of National Sovereignty, this is what will be used as the definition from here on out. In the context of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, it the most appropriate. Further, this definition clearly condenses the terms in Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy into a single more manageable term. As for who exactly can exercise this type of sovereignty, given the implications that military force may be necessary in the assertion or defense of this type of sovereignty, only nation-states can exercise national sovereignty, which is what this project is dealing with. To be sure, this does not leave individuals and corporations powerless. There are countless examples that make this fact very clear, such as cases of undocumented immigration, war, violations of laws, insurrection, and many others. Over the next several paragraphs, a litany of such examples that show how individuals and corporations can resist or challenge the sovereignty of nation-states will be reviewed.
Another instance of an individual using violence to resist a nation-state’s sovereignty would be the actions of the Mexican General, and later, Rebel, Francisco “Pancho” Villa. A good sense of what happened is outlined in both Fugitive Landscapes and Militarizing the Border. In the midst of the Mexican Revolution, Villa resisted the sovereignty of both the United States and Mexico. Prior to mid-1915, Woodrow Wilson, then President of the United States, had endorsed Villa for the Presidency of Mexico. However, after Villa suffered some major military defeats, Wilson transferred his support to Venustiano Carranza, which made Carranza the recognized leader of Mexico and able to take action on Mexico’s behalf. Villa, affronted by this change in fortune, and smarting from a weapon sales ban that had been placed on him by Wilson, refused to accept the endorsement of Carranza. Acting on his own, Villa took his army, turned on Carranza, and then attacked several outposts under Carranza’s control. Auga Prieta was one of the battles where Villa’s forces faced off with Carranza’s forces. There was also an instance where Villa resisted the sovereignty of both the United States and Mexico simultaneously. This was at the site of the Santa Ysabel massacre. Villa gave the okay for his troops to attack a train that was carrying American engineers from the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). All of the men pulled of the train were executed. This showed resistance to Mexico’s sovereignty because Carranza had guaranteed these men’s safety. It did so to the United States’ sovereignty because the men were American Citizens. Carranza lost control over Mexican territory and the United States was not able to ensure the safe flow of its people across the border. Villa also later crossed the U.S.-Mexico border and launched a reckless attack on the town of Columbus, New Mexico, after he realized that Wilson had allowed Carranza to transport troops through U.S. territory to meet him in battle. Line in the Sand tells the story of this assault very well. Though reckless, the attacked showed the United States that they were not impervious to attack, and led to a huge invasion led by General John J. Pershing, whose sole mission was to find Villa. He failed, thus Villa's resistance actually damaged the credibility of the United States' sovereign control of its own territory.
To see how individuals can resist a nation-state’s sovereignty by simply ignoring their laws, one can look to Imaginary Lines. In this text, laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 are examined. This law barred all Chinese nationals, minus a few exceptions, i.e. merchants, teachers, and the like, from entry into the United States. Later, even those few exceptions were eliminated in amendments passed in 1884 and 1888. What did the Chinese immigrants do in response to this? Well, they simply found ways around the inspection stations where they would have been barred from entry. At the earliest points, they found routes into the country across the western Canadian border and later, after that became more difficult, across the Mexican border. Further, they did this, in most every case, at their own peril. Examples of this peril can be seen in pictures in Line in the Sand and Imaginary Lines. The Line in the Sand picture shows Chinese immigrants crossing under the border fence near Nogales, Arizona. They crossed the border in violation of U.S. law, resisting the United States’ sovereignty. These immigrants were facing persecution in Mexico after the repatriation of many Mexican citizens from the United States, during the Great Depression. To flea this persecution, they turned to the United States, a nation that had deemed them excludable since 1882. The Imaginary Lines picture is a black and white drawing by Frederic Remington that appeared in the March 1891 edition of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. This drawing shows how Chinese immigrants resisted U.S. sovereignty by trying to use its vast unmanned border, at least in 1891, against them to gain entry into the United States. What it also shows, however, is the harsh conditions that the Chinese immigrants fought in their attempts to cross the border. They were constantly at risk of perishing in the dry and hot environment that exists in the American Southwest. Solely on the Mexican Border, Mexicans did much the same.
In Entry Denied, one will find one of the most severe cases that reveals how Mexicans resisted the United States’ sovereignty at their own peril. This is the case of Blanca Bernal. Ms. Bernal and a friend of hers, Ana Gomez, crossed the border through a hole in the fence. They spent some time with friends, went to a couple of restaurants, and were then picked up U.S. Border Patrol Agent, Larry Selders. He asked for their papers, and when they could not provide any, he ushered them into his vehicle. He then offered to take them back to Mexico, without arresting them, in exchange for a sexual favor. Upon refusing, Gomez was ejected from the vehicle, and Bernal was then transported to a secluded area where she was raped. In response to the Immigration Act of 1917, and other laws like it, which made crossing even harder, some immigrants continued the effort to find clever ways around immigration checkpoints. However, other went a different route. One sly trick would be to memorize the lines from a stolen copy of the literacy test that was required by this law. Though this did work sometimes, it was not always the best way to go. The literacy test was changed out on the regular. If they were reading off a stolen copy of an earlier test, they could be charged with fraud on top of attempting to cross the border illegally. This could land them in prison for a number of years, without representation, before they ever stood before a deportation hearing.
To see how individuals can refuse to play the racial or social role that has been designated to them by the government, one can look at the case of Richard Rodriguez in Migrant Imaginaries. Rodriguez is the polar opposite of what a Mexican in the United States is billed to be. He is highly educated, he speaks English, he is gay, he is incredibly Americanized, he is a prolific and creative writer, and he is at odds with the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. He is, of course, fighting the image accepted by many and perpetuated by the government that Mexicans are supposed to be barely literate, ignorant of English, masculine, foreign, lazy, and radical. To get a sense of how intense Rodriguez’s emotions about his identity are, one should look to a quote from his book Days of Obligation, which appears in Migrant Imaginaries. In this quote, he says, “I am on my knees, my mouth over the toilet, waiting to heave. It comes up with a bark. All the badly pronounced Spanish words that I have forced myself to sound during the day, bits and pieces of Mexico spew from my mouth, warm, half-understood, nostalgic reds and greens dangle from long strands of saliva. I am crying from my mouth in Mexico City.” By refusing to meet the norms that the United States government set for the behavior of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in that country, Rodriguez resisted and even damaged their ability to control the behavior of the people living in the confines of their physical territory. This, of course, worked to put their sovereignty in the region, and as a whole, in question. If they can't control one man, how are they to control millions of similar individuals?
To see how someone can resist a nation-state’s sovereignty by joining radical political associations, one can look to the case of Emma Tenayuca, which is also in Migrant Imaginaries. As a member of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) in the 1930s, at the time a Marxist-Leninist organization, she was considered an enemy of the state. This was the case because one of the main tenements of Marxist-Leninism is the violent overthrow of the government, under the leadership of a small but dedicated band of professional revolutionaries. She was a leader in the Worker’s Alliance, especially during the Pecan Sheller’s Strike, and she was an author, having been published in the party journal, The Communist. She was also a teacher. In each of these roles, Emma Tenayuca espoused a program that was designed to empower the poor working class Mexican community of San Antonio, Texas. She also did some work in California for a brief period. As a communist in the 1930’s, Tenayuca’s association with CPUSA opened her up to investigation, arrest, and the possibility of violent reprisal at the hands of government. Precedent for such possibilities had already been set, as is evident in the passage of the Immigration Acts of 1903 and 1918, as wells as, the Palmer Raids, which were a part of the first Red Scare that reached its height from 1919-1920. This all made her out, in the eyes of the government, to be a direct threat to the National Sovereignty of the United States. The Immigration Act of 1903, also referred to as the Industrial Commission Bill, or the Anarchist Exclusion Act added anarchists and communists, a reference to leftist radicals in general, to the list of persons automatically denied entry into the United States. The bill also added epileptics, prostitutes, and professional beggars to the list. All of Tenayuca's work located her in the U.S.-Mexico Borderland region, which meant that her work would have involved undocumented workers, as well. Attempting to politically organize undocumented workers was a crime under the Immigration Act of 1903, which meant she was resisting the United States' sovereignty in the region by hampering their ability to determine who was or was not allowed to enter into and work in their nation.
The Immigration Act of 1918, 40 Stat. 1012 (1918), also known as the Dillingham-Hardwick Act, was enacted on October 16, 1918. Paul Arvich covers this in his book, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background. A major purpose of this act was to amend the definition of what the government felt an anarchist is. The act defined an anarchist as some who believes in, advises, advocates, or teaches, or is a members of, or is affiliated with, any organization, association, society, or group, that believes in, advises, advocates, or teaches (1) the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law, (2) the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers, either of specific individuals or of officers generally, of the Government of the United States or of any other organized government, (3) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property, (4) sabotage, as well as, someone who writes, publishes, or causes to be written or published, or who knowingly circulates, distributes, prints, or displays, or knowingly causes to be circulated, distributed, printed, or displayed, or knowingly has in their possession for the purpose of circulation, distribution, publication, or display any written or printed matter, advising, advocating, or teaching opposition to all government, or advising, advocating, or teaching (1) the overthrow by force or violence of the Government of the United States or of all forms of law, (2) the duty, necessity, or propriety of the unlawful assaulting or killing of any officer or officers of the Government of the United States or of any other government, (3) the unlawful damage, injury, or destruction of property, (4) sabotage.
The Palmer Raids were attempts by the United States Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States. The raids and arrests occurred in November of 1919 and January of 1920, at the height of the Red Scare, under the leadership of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Around three-thousand people were arrested and over five-hundred foreign citizens were deported, including a number of prominent leftist leaders. The raids covered more than thirty cities and towns in twenty-three states, and the raids targeted entire organizations, which resulted not in just leftist radicals being arrested but also non-affiliated visitors. They are intricately recounted in Robert K. Murray's Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920 and in Louis F. Post's The Deportations Delirium of Nineteen-twenty: A Personal Narrative of an Historic Official Experience. The First Red Scare was a period during the early 20th-century history of the United States, marked by a widespread fear of Bolshevism and anarchism. At its height, from 1919 to 1920, concerns over the effects of radical political agitation in American society and the alleged spread of communism and anarchism in the American labor movement fueled a general sense of paranoia. The Scare, as it is called for short, had its origins in the hyper-nationalism of World War I. When the war was nearly over, following the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, American authorities saw the threat of revolution in the actions of organized labor, including such disparate cases as the Seattle General Strike and the Boston Police Strike, as well as, the bombing campaign directed by anarchist groups at political and business leaders. Bolshevism and the threat of revolution became the general explanation for challenges to the social order, even such unrelated events as incidents of interracial violence. On January 7, 1920, at the first session of the New York State Legislature, Speaker Thaddeus C. Sweet attacked the Legislature's five new socialist members, declaring they had been elected on a platform that he said was “absolutely inimical to the best interests of the state of New York and the United States.” For a good recounting of the period, look to Louis Waldman's Albany, The Crisis in Government: The History of the Suspension, Trial and Expulsion from the New York State Legislature in 1920 of the Five Socialist Assemblymen by their Political Opponents. This just serves to show the length to which the United States and its subordinate governments were willing to go to defeat supposed threats to their National Sovereignty, specifically their ability to control the actions of the people within their borders, which they felt were posed by radical leftists organizations, their members, and their sympathizers.
So how do these particular instances demonstrate how individuals resisted a nation-state’s sovereignty? In the case of Carmella Torres and the El Paso Bath Riot, the United States was exercising its right to determine who can or cannot enter their nation. The United States Public Health Service was tasked with keeping people out of the country that they felt would be a disease risk. By rioting, Carmella Torres and her compatriots were resisting this. In the case of Pancho Villa, the United States and Mexico were both exercising their right to exert control over their territory. President Wilson was interested in bringing the Mexican Revolution to a rapid conclusion. An end to this conflict would alleviate the threat of war or the violence of the revolution from spilling across the U.S.-Mexico border. It would also ease tensions on the border as the United States prepared to ship troops to Europe. Carranza, now as the recognized leader of Mexico, was trying to do much the same. A quick end to the conflict would solidify his rule, and reduce the risk of conflict with the United States, which would then allow Mexico to begin the recovery process under his leadership. By, rejecting the legitimacy of Carranza's Presidency, and by attacking a U.S. city, Villa was resisting Mexico's right maintain order in its territories and the United States' ability to enforce the security of its borders against unwanted intrusions. Levario backs this assessment in Militarizing the Border.
In the case of the Chinese immigrants of the late nineteenth century and the Mexican immigrants of the early twentieth century, the United States again had to defend its right to determine who could or could not enter its territory. Laws were passed to exclude these persons, and yet they crossed the borders in direct violation of those laws, which the United States had the sovereign right to pass. This does not excuse the laws, as they were intentionally exclusive and discriminatory; it just recognizes that the United States, according to the definition of National Sovereignty espoused in this piece, had the right to pass them. This assessment is supported in Migrant Imaginaries, “Migrants…troubled the Republican ideals of a bounded, regulated population in the United States.” It also contends that, “they threaten to expose the failures of development policies that shaped trans-border terrains.” It seems that this is a threat to the promises of economic improvement in the borderlands, which also brings a nation’s sovereignty into question, over its failure to deliver to its own citizens.
In the case of Richard Rodriguez, in Migrant Imaginaries, it is really very simple. By refusing to adhere to the United State’s definition of what it means to be a Mexican, Rodriguez challenged their ability to quantify who is or is not a full citizen. He became simply an “American,” in defiance of the role assigned to him. As far as Emma Tenayuca was concerned, she was part of a political party, CPUSA that was considered a direct threat to the United States government. This is enough for her actions to be seen as a threat to the United State’s sovereignty. As a member of a party that espouses the violent overthrow of the government, she was challenging the United State’s sovereignty on every level. A fallen government has no power. Her participation in the Pecan Sheller’s Strike also threatened the sovereignty of the United States. She encouraged and led people in a thirty-seven day walk-out that limited the ability of the government to control those people. She also inhibited the country's ability to effectively conduct commerce. The fact that she was a threat is plainly seen in the passage of the Hatch Act of 1939, formerly entitled, “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities.” This law, one in a long line of such laws, was designed to limit the ability of radicals to spread their “pernicious” agenda. Her actions in Texas, which coincided with actions in other parts of the country, helped secure the passage of yet more legislation limiting the freedom of speech of person's who sought to limit the ability of a capitalist government to take advantage of its people. The full effect and purpose of the law was outlined very well in George B. Tindall's The Emergence of the New South, 1913-1945.
This of course, was not the only law where companies lobbied the government for exemptions from the immigration restrictions placed on their Mexican immigrant laborers. They also lobbied for exemptions for Mexican workers from the quota and head tax requirements of the 1921 and 1924 immigration acts. Lobbying is an effort to force the government to act against its ability to control the flow of persons across its border. Admittedly, this is not necessarily a challenge to a state's sovereignty by itself. However, there are other actions that when combined with this lobbying, make it so. If after the lobbying, the government has held fast, legally the companies are required to look to another labor source. However, the companies lobbying against the bills did not do this. Rather, they near openly encouraged Mexican nationals to cross the border anyways, in defiance of the new legislation. This gave them their cheap labor source; of course, but it also directly challenged, again, the federal government's ability to control the flow of persons across its borders. Further, the federal government, and the border patrol agents they assigned to police the area, did not have the resources to effectively stop this defiance, thus, damaging the United State's sovereignty over the its side of the border region.
To see how a corporation can use violence or outright theft to challenge a nation-state’s sovereignty, go back to Fugitive Landscapes. In the case of the 1906 Cananea Strike in northern Mexico, during the meat of the conflict, when workers were rioting and burning down buildings, it was reported by a local Judge, F. Lopez Linares that William Cornell Greene and other company officials were running through the streets instructing Americans to kill Mexicans. There were also armed company men at the Arizona border that were eventually allowed to cross the border to help put down the strike. Private citizens from a foreign country entered Mexico, in violation of orders from their central government, to help brutalize and even kill citizens of that nation. The Mexican government was not included in this affair for two reasons. One, their control over northern Mexico was weak to begin with, but also, the company was not obeying Mexican labor laws. Workers were starved, underpaid, beaten, and fired without compensation if they resisted the treatment. It is likely that had the Mexican government deployed troops to assist, the armed Americans would have engaged them, as well. The instance where it is clear that corporations can use outright theft is visible in the physical orientation of companies like CCCC’s and Phelps-Dodge’s operations in Mexico. Granted CCCC and Phelps-Dodge both entered the country with the permission of the Mexican government, but the railroads that they built to the mines were not sending resources to Mexico City. The railroads sent the resources mined by these companies back to the United States to service that economy, leaving Mexico with only customs fees. Normally, the idea of inviting a company into one's country to mine resources, is for the company to mine the resources, then deliver them to the government of the country in which they are located. Further, if the resources are to be sent elsewhere, the conditions of that delivery have be approved by the government of the nation where the resources are located. In these cases, none of these conditions were met, and Mexico's economy suffered for it.Further, it displayed to the world what little control the Mexican government had over its territories, opening Mexico up for further theft, and on many occasions, bribery.
To see how a company can take advantage of their location, their foreign business ventures, and an already existing phenomenon, mass migration, one can turn to the case of ASARCO (American Smelting and Refining Company). Their story is told quite clearly in Smeltertown. This company built lead, copper, and zinc smelters on land that rested right up against the Rio Grande River. This, of course, was not the only operation that the company possessed. They also owned mining operations in the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Coahuila, and Michoacán. There was also, of course, the ever present mass migration of workers from Mexico. With ASARCO’s position on the border just outside of El Paso, at least in the beginning, it was in a prime spot to offer jobs to migrants that were passing through and who were willing to take low paying jobs as they were moving through. This gave the company the benefit of high turnover, which lowered the risk of labor problems. Despite this, they did still have labor problems on several occasions. ASARCO also very easily, in violation of federal law, intentionally directed some of this traffic, encouraging people from their Mexican mining operations to stop at the smelters in El Paso on their way into the United States. It would have been fairly easy to point their workers who wanted to migrate to the United States, during events like the Mexican Revolution, towards the smelter in El Paso. The company was even known to assist in the physical process of smuggling people into the county to ensure that their workers would not be turned back at the border checkpoints. This is an open challenge to the United States' sovereign right to control who enters its territory.
So how do these instances show how a corporation can challenge a nation-states’ sovereignty? In the case of CCCC and its violation of Mexico’s property laws, the company challenged Mexico’s ability to control the actions of the people in its country and its ability retain control of its territory. In these property cases, the Mexican government, at the time, sided with the company, as they knew that they did not possess the resources necessary to challenge the companies influence in the region. This led to a loss of territorial control and a lack of confidence from these people, many of whom were later involved in the Mexican Revolution. In the case of the farmers and railroad executives lobbying against the restrictions of the Immigration Acts of 1917, 1921, and 1924, the United States gave concessions as to who was or was not allowed into the country. They gave up their control of the issue, by submitting to the pressure put on by the lobbyists. Though on some occasions, the government did stand firm, they were forced to recognize the fact their resources in the region were limited. Given their limitations, were they to completely refuse the company's requests, they knew that the companies would work to get their laborers into the country anyways, which would encourage even further violations of their border. They surrendered a measure of their sovereign control over the border in order to limit, and possibly reduce, the occurrence of criminal violations of the federal immigration statutes. Needless to say, those concessions did not have the desired effect. They actually helped to reinforce an already existent centuries old migration pattern. Interestingly, and obviously enough, this migration patter is still operating in full force.
As regards CCCC’s use of violence in the Cananea strike, this company and its leadership ordered Americans to kill Mexican nationals in Mexican territory, and later, were able to get armed Americans brought across the border to help kill more Mexicans. These forces challenged Mexico’s ability to keep control over the people within its borders by intervening in a civil conflict that was clearly under Mexican jurisdiction. As regards the company’s theft of resources, this is a challenge to Mexico’s right to benefit from the bounty of its natural resources. Regardless of any fees they may have garnered from the company’s use of the land, the money from the fees paled in comparison to the profits made from the sale of those resources in burgeoning U.S. markets. Finally, when discussing ASARCO, it is clear that their operations in the El Paso region would have served as a draw to the refugees of the Mexican Revolution and later economic depressions. Whether the company was complicit in drawing these workers or not, their being where they were and their connections in Mexico helped to make the problem of undocumented immigration worse. Many people, like the Lujan family, read about in Smeltertown, who came from Mexico, made the choice to immigrate specifically because they knew that it would be possible to get a job with ASARCO once they made into the United States. Most of them came without “authorization,” which weakened the United State’s ability to control who could or could not enter its territory. The fact that the company was complicit just makes the situation all that more egregious, and shows what lengths companies will go to secure cheap labor and bypass federal regulations. The main goal of this, of course, is to secure their bottom line and increase their profit margin. If anything, things like this should serve as proof that the capitalist free market economy is not interested in nation states' ability to secure their interests. In fact, it can actually be taken as a hint that if they could, companies would eliminate the need for borders altogether, at the expense of whichever nations are roadblocking their pursuit of profit.
One might question whether or not undocumented immigration is a challenge to a nation-state’s sovereignty. One should, then, just go back Migrant Imaginaries. Where the author comments on that very fact, “Migrants…troubled the republican ideals of a bounded, regulated population in the United States.” This, of course, imposed on their ability to determine who was or who was not allowed to enter their territory. There is one case in which Mexico was able to reverse the pressure and make demands on the United States. In Braceros, one can see how, During World War II, the United States and Mexico came together to establish the Bracero Program. This program was designed to meet U.S. labor needs in a time when most of their able bodied men were headed off to war. The program had a major side effect, though. It limited who was eligible for the program. Women and children were not eligible, and only very specific categories of males were eligible. Another issue was that for a long time, Texas was barred from participation in the program by Mexico because of the discrimination that Mexicans were forced to endure in Texas. These three circumstances led to increased undocumented immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border, despite there being a legal avenue for migration to the United States during this period. This increased undocumented migration was causing a severe labor shortage for Mexico’s industries. They then, through their government, put pressure on the United States to take steps to remedy the issue, which it later made attempts to do by making concessions to Texas farmers who now found the program more appealing, and who they were more willing to deal with. Mexico would also routinely allow the Bracero Program to lapse if they felt that the workers in the United States were not receiving the benefits guaranteed them by previous agreements. The United States would also regularly engage in mass deportations. Such a ramshackle event were these mass deportations that on one more than one occasion, American citizens were deported to Mexico and then denied reentry.
Now, who suffered from all of this the most, the United States or Mexico? It would not take long for one to see that Mexico clearly suffered from the negative effects of losing their workers to higher wages in the United States, which would later lead to them cooperating with U.S. efforts to stem undocumented immigration. Losing these workers made it more difficult for Mexico to keep their own economic development apace with desired goals. Even earlier, Villa’s actions perpetuated the Mexican Revolution. More battles were fought, more leaders were assassinated, and peace was not achieved until the early 1920s under Alvaro Obregon. The United States’ actions during the conflict did much to perpetuate the problem, as well, causing conflicts between competing factions. Mexico could have very easily lost complete control of its territory, having no way to rapidly re-establish order and peace. This could have, conceivably, led to complete mayhem, in a chaotic winner-take-all situation, which would have led to Mexico remaining in a state of civil war for many more years. As regards the actions of companies like CCCC in Mexico and the challenges to Mexico’s sovereignty that it presented, events like this were contributors to the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution. People across Mexico grew tired of the poor conditions under the “Porfiriarto.” They rose up and took Mexico into a decade long tail-spin that nearly destroyed them and caused a great many of their citizens to seek safety in the United States, a fact that would later hurt Mexico, as it sought to rebuild its economy. Related to this would be the actions of ASARCO. Again, whether they did so intentionally or not, they served as a quasi-magnet for immigrants and contributed to Mexico’s thinning labor force, making it difficult for Mexico to recover from the destruction of the Mexican Revolution.
The Mexican government, if it is not paid off, is in constant conflict with the drug traffickers that inhabit the region, many of whom double as human traffickers. When thy are not running drugs, they move immigrants across the border into the United States. Sometimes, they do these things simultaneously. Either way, Mexico's lack of control, made so dramatic because of chronic U.S. misbehavior in the region, becomes the United States' enforcement problem. The one thing that this all really shows is how truly fluid the U.S. border with Mexico really is, despite efforts by both nations to make it a rigid line of demarcation.
This, however, does not mean that the border is artificial. It is a very real place; it has a face. There are people that live there, work there, and die there. There was drama on the border when it was first created, and there is drama on the border now that continues to make it difficult for the United States to enforce its sovereignty over its border and general territory, as it continues what seems to be its never ending struggle with undocumented immigration. Furthermore, Mexico is struggling to retain control of its side of the border against the might of the drug cartels. For an example of the difficulty that the Mexican Government is having in controlling its side of the border, look to a posting on the website of the news engine The Guardian. In an article entitled “Mexican Vigilantes Take on Drug Cartels - And Worry Authorities,” Joe Tuckman discusses the recent rise of vigilante militias in northern Mexico. The vigilantes have risen up in response to the government’s inability, or unwillingness, to engage effective military force against the drug cartels. However, they are not just a threat to the drug cartels. The government is also worried about the vigilante’s actions and the implications that those actions might have politically. The Mexican government is facing resistance to its national sovereignty from both the drug cartels and the people that have spontaneously risen up to fight them. What is more is that this does not seem to be slowing down. Immigration reform is still a very serious issue in U.S. politics. President Obama, just after the recent partial government shutdown, encouraged the reconvened Congress to take action on Immigration Reform stating, “Rather than create problems, let’s prove to the American people that Washington can actually solve problems.” This clearly shows that immigration and the challenge that it poses to national sovereignty is still alive and thriving on the U.S.-Mexico Border. The President was quoted in a piece by the Associated Press, “Obama Urges Congress to Finish Work on an Immigration Overhaul.”
Also, the border, and in a larger sense, the borderlands, are not a peripheral area. In fact, it is the exact opposite. The border has been at the center of U.S. and Mexican policy making for many years. The story above is an example of the role that Immigration history still plays in the historiography; and furthermore, immigration history is not the only type of history that is played out in the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands in the context of national sovereignty and the cases where that sovereignty can be resisted or challenged. African American history, Asian American history, Economic history, Environmental history, European American history, Labor history, Medical history, Mexican American history, Military history, Native American history, Political history, the history of Revolutions, Social history, and Women’s history, all have a place in the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Of course, United States history and Mexican history are affected, as well, but it is safe to assume that each of the aforementioned categories are related sub-categories of United States history and Mexican history, so the more broad categories do not need to be addressed. Furthermore, these are just the examples that came to mind. There are, of course, one can only imagine, many others that can be considered.
To begin, look to African American history in the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands. The most prominent story that stands out is that of the Buffalo Soldiers. In Militarizing the Border, one can find mention of the Buffalo Soldier’s role in the San Elizario Salt War of 1877-1878. The war broke out as the result of conflict between Mexican and American citizens over access to the local salt licks in El Paso County. After a series of disturbances, Judge James Howard encountered Luis Cardis, a local political boss, in a grocery store, where he preceded to shoot him dead. The murder of Cardis gave rise to a local militia. The militia was made up of Mexican citizens. These men, numbering in the hundreds, searched out Howard. They found him at the home of Sheriff Charles Kerber, where they ordered him turned over and upon receipt of Howard, executed him. Reprisals continued back and forth until the “Buffalo Soldiers,” from Fort Davis, and other surrounding posts were dispatched to the region to reestablish order. This story shows how Mexican citizens threatened the United States' sovereignty by crossing the border and attacking an American citizen, and Militarizing the Border brought them into the historiography of the U.S. border with Mexico.
Ron Field and Richard Hook talk about them further in, Buffalo Soldiers, 1866-1891. The Buffalo Soldiers received their name from Native Americans, who referred to them as “Wild Buffalo.” This referred to the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, and their fierce fighting style; The Buffalo Soldiers engaged in countless battles against Native Americans, at the behest of the United States government. In many cases, they were the sole representatives in battles against the natives. They served as the arm of U.S. National Sovereignty in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands and in many other places throughout the West. It was their job to protect the United State’s ability to control the population within its borders. This shows, in a brief sense, the interactions that they had with other people in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, and how, despite their only, it seems, recent popularity in popular culture, they were an intricate part of the happenings of the border region. What is more is that they made up a full twenty percent of the active U.S. military force toward the end of the nineteenth century. It seems that this would run up against the “white” tide myth as the US spread across the continent of North America in pursuit of Manifest Destiny. The presence of African Americans on the plains, playing such a big role in military engagements, despite the well known fact that they were predominantly commanded by white officers, challenges the destiny story and the glory of the white man. It shows that the era was more so just an “American” thing, as opposed to a victory just won by white men.
For another example of how African Americans played a role in the creation of U.S. Borderlands history. One can look to the story of African American cowboys. In The Negro Cowboys, written by Philip Durham and Everett L. Jones, their role in the history of West is discussed, which involves U.S.-Mexico Borderlands history. The book discusses African American cowboys all over the West, but chapters four and seven speak of their roles in the cattle drives out of Texas and their presence in Tombstone, Arizona, respectively. One might wonder how this relates to the resisting or challenging of sovereignty. Given the well known idea of Manifest Destiny and the “brave” conquest of the frontier by “white” men, the presence of African American cowboys on the frontier also challenges the United State’s right to determine who is counted as a full citizen and who can enjoy the rights of that citizenship. Given the well documented practice of segregation in that era, which was designed to push a certain image of the United States, the presence of African Americans is a direct challenge to this idea. One can also see it in the book itself. It comes off as slightly paternalistic; the title of the book itself can lead one to this assumption. Furthermore, the book was published in the middle of the 1960s, right when shows like Gunsmoke and Bonanza were at the height of their popularity. Despite the book’s paternalistic nature, its publishing in 1965 offered a very different perspective on the West than what was on television. The book, to a degree, perpetuates the challenge started by African Americans working and living in what was supposed to be a “White” man’s sphere.
Next, look to Asian American history. A case of particular interest would be that of the Chinese, in particular the Anti-Chinese movements in both the United States and Mexico. Chinese Mexicans does an excellent job of telling their story. Seeking better economic opportunities, a great number of Chinese nationals, mostly men, immigrated to both the United States and Mexico. In the United States, Chinese immigration picked up dramatically with the discovery of gold in California in 1848. This, however, was swiftly interpreted as a threat by many Caucasians. Eventually, this ire made its way to the federal government. It 1875, the Page Law was passed excluding Chinese prostitutes, and later, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 excluded laborers. By 1888, the Chinese were banned entirely. These laws remained in effect until after World War II. To avoid this discrimination, many Chinese nationals immigrated to Mexico instead. Despite this, some still later crossed the U.S.-Mexico Border as undocumented workers. In Mexico, anti-Chinese sentiment picked up during the Mexican Revolution and lasted until the 1930s. These Chinese were faced by negative legislation, such as Law 31, which barred Mexicans from marrying an ethnic Chinese. Of particular interest was the Chinese Expulsions. Throughout the 1930s, with the help of government personnel and vigilantes, a great majority of the ethnic Chinese in Mexico were removed from the country. They were forced out by mob violence, arrest and deportation processes, and exit deadlines. Many of these people immigrated to the United States, giving the U.S. another wave of undocumented Chinese immigration. Others hid from the government and mobs. Still, others challenged the expulsions in Mexican courts.
In both of these cases, the Chinese faced legal oppression, and violence. These cases show that despite their discriminatory nature, in that they made the Chinese out to be slaves, criminals, and even, enemies of the state, the laws passed and the deportations ordered were supported by the United States and Mexico’s sovereign right to determine who could and could not come to their nation, who counted as a citizen, and their ability to control their borders. They also show that by bypassing these laws, through undocumented immigration, facing them in court, or hiding, the Chinese resisted the sovereignty of the two nations. The American case can double as Women’s history because of the women who were barred from entry by the Page Law, and the fact that law led to a great many Chinese women who were not prostitutes being classified as such. By telling these people’s story Chinese Mexicans makes it known what Chinese immigrants were forced to endure, how they reacted, and shows how their actions and experiences enriched the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.
The Chinese are also mentioned in Imaginary Lines. Chapter One quotes California Senator John Miller, who argued that overpopulated conditions in China had created workers who had become, “by long training and heredity…automatic engines of flesh and blood…with such marvelous frame and digestive apparatus that they can dispense with the comforts of shelter and subsist on the refuse of other men.” It also quoted a memorial to Congress issued by the California State Senate, which stated, “We find one-sixth of our entire population composed of Chinese coolies, not voluntary, but, by the unalterable structure of their intellectual being, voluntary slaves.” These quotes offer an image of the discrimination that lead to the laws that barred the Chinese from the U.S. To get an idea of the discrimination that the Chinese faced, leading up to the expulsions, look again to Chinese Mexicans. On p. 43, one will find a drawing from Jose Angel Espinoza’s, El Ejemplo de Sonora, entitled “Mexicano.” The image is of a Mexican official speaking to a crowd of Mexican workers. The speaker is saying, “Mexican man: Of every peso you spend buying from a Chinaman, fifty cents go to Shanghai and the other fifty keeps you in chains and prostitutes the women of your race!!!” There is also a caption on the drawing credited to Jose Maria Arana, which reads, “…and those who do not hear my words will lament tomorrow the agony of the Motherland we failed to defend.” Reading statements such as these, and seeing such an image, leads one to believe that the Chinese had many good reasons to resist the sovereignty of both the United States and Mexico, as the laws passed against them, the judgments made about them, and the physical actions taken against them were based on paranoia, racism, and economic jealousy, none of which excuse being so crude to a person, let alone an entire group of people. It seems that their successes and resistance were used as the reasons, in both cases, to make them a target. Their ingenuity and good business sense and willingness to press the boundaries would have made for a rigorous competition with both white and Mexican business interests, as well as, with the United States and Mexican governments. The willingness of poorer Chinese laborers to take jobs with very little pay would have undercut both white and Mexican wage laborers. This shows that the Chinese also played a big role in the history of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, despite their relative obscurity in popular culture. These books taking the time to mention their struggles challenges that obscurity.
Next, one can look to Economic History and Environmental history. These two can be combined in their relation to the actions of the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO). This is a second look at ASARCO, but this section will show how ASARCO’s actions relate to these parts of history, how it challenged the United State’s national sovereignty, in a different way than was discussed earlier in this project. It will also show how ASARCO played a role in writing the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. On December 17, 1963, the United States Congress passed the Clean Air Act. Section Two of the Findings Section states that the Clean Air Act recognizes, “…the growth in the amount and complexity of air pollution brought about by urbanization, industrial development, and the increasing use of motor vehicles, has resulted in mounting dangers to the public health and welfare, including injury to agricultural crops and livestock, damage to and the deterioration of property, and hazards to air and ground transportation.” Section One of the Declarations section states that one of the main purposes of the law is, “to protect and enhance the quality of the Nation’s air resources so as to promote the public health and welfare and the productive capacity of its population.” It would be good to note that an amendment was passed to the Clean Air Act in 1970, which increased restrictions on pollution that were in the law passed in 1963. It is also important to note that President Richard Nixon endorsed a proposal to Congress that the Environmental Protection Agency be formed. It began operations on December 2, 1970. There were also amendments passed in 1977 and 1990.
Smeltertown, it is easy to see. In 1970, ASARCO came under investigation for excessive sulfur emissions. Two years later, the Environmental Protection Agency brought them under investigation for lead contamination. They protested that they had done all that was required of them; however, subsequent investigations found that the entire region around El Paso, Texas, the largest city in the Texas border region, had suffered contamination. There is no way to formally prove that ASARCO was lying, but the contamination is a pretty big sign that they were holding something back. This shows that they violated U.S. Environmental Law. They did so in violation of the United State’s sovereign right to pass such laws, and this shows how Environmental history played a role in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. So, one might ask, then, how does this relate the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands and its relationship to Economic history, Environmental history, and resistance or challenges to the United State’s sovereignty. Robert Gottlieb's Forcing the Spring: The Transformation of the American Environmental Movement, offers a great analysis of the Clean Air Act and its impact on industry in the United States.
As regards Economic history, consider what this ordeal did to the residents of Smeltertown, the unofficial company town that was built by ASARCO workers over the years. Look to the text Smeltertown for this tale, as well. They were forced by the city of El Paso to clear out of the area. They were not left out to dry, but they were given no other choice but to commute across town to get to work. This is an economic drain for someone that is already getting paid poorly. Furthermore, ASARCO was not shut down by the government. Despite all of the damage that it did to the environment, it continued to operate until 1999. One can imagine that it was such a large money maker for the City of El Paso that the city did not want to risk losing the income that it provided through taxes, and they did not want a factory worth of workers out of a job. It was finally shut down by bankruptcy and economic failure. These both show the role that Economic history played in the writing of the history of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. Smeltertown tells a very clear story about the economic drain that this placed on the ASARCO workers. It also made note of the widespread damage done to the region in and around El Paso, but tended to give ASARCO too much credit. The story, however, does place Economic and Environmental history in an important place in the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. If one is to gain a truly comprehensive knowledge of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, it would seem that Environmental and Economic history would play a big role. The actions of companies like ASARCO, CCCC, and Phelps-Dodge are important to understand why people and governments acted the way that they did, and the same is true in the reverse. The fact that authors like Perales place such things at the center of their narratives helps to provide permanent record of events that can serve to help prevent similar situations in the future. Perales, along with other authors, shows how the U.S-Mexico Border played a big role in ASARCO’s and other’s actions in the borderlands and how their actions shaped the borderlands region.
To get a look into how Medical history can play into the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands and the resisting or challenging of National Sovereignty, go back to the stories of Carmella Torres and the raids on the Mexican barrios in El Paso in Fevered Measures. Torres and her compatriots were subject to medical inspections in search of Typhus and Typhoid, which was the United States defending its sovereignty by determining who was or was not allowed to enter their nation, and this was, of course, Torres resisting the United State’s sovereignty by refusing to submit to the medical inspection and then starting a riot. The barrio raids in El Paso were also an example of how the United States was defending its sovereignty by determining who was fit to be a citizen or to live within the United State’s borders. By mentioning this particular case Fevered Measures gave a peak into the way that Mexicans and Mexican Americans were treated in the U.S,-Mexico Borderlands. According to the United States, these people did not even have the legal right to control their own bodies. The state, according the United States, in defense of its sovereignty, had every right to violate these people’s bodies. This can be used as a comparison to how things were done at the border when it was first created and how things are done at the border now versus how they were down at the time of the riot and the raids. This can be done in the context of the development of disease treatment, flow of disease across borders and in urban centers, and changes in race relations, along with many other possibilities.
Next, one can consider Native American history. The best case is to look at the actions of the Apaches, outlined in Fugitive Landscapes, who regularly migrated between the U.S. southwest and northern Mexico, after 1860. The Apaches refused to accept the sovereign authority of either Mexico or the United States, thus resisting the National Sovereignty of both nations, and for many years, they successfully evaded both nations by using the border as a buffer. If the United States was pursuing them, they would cross the border into Mexico, and do the same in the reverse. They continued this strategy into the 1880s when it finally no longer worked for them. By that time, the United States and Mexico had signed a couple of mutual assistance agreements that allowed either side’s military to cross the border if they were in pursuit of the Apaches. The last of the most prominent Apache chiefs to be captured was Geronimo, who, at the time of his surrender, stated, “I give myself up to you. Do with me as you please. I surrender. Once I moved about like the wind. Now I surrender to you and that is all.” Dee Alexander Brown tells this story in intricate detail in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West. The Apaches wrote themselves into the history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands by fighting both the United States and Mexico, and by using the border, essentially, as a weapon. The inclusion of their story in Fugitive Landscapes and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee solidifies their place in the historiography of the region. Perhaps such work will lead to more in-depth studies of the Apache’s role in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.
It would be interesting to do an analysis on the National Sovereignty of the Apaches. It is well documented that they had lands that extended well beyond both sides of the U.S.-Mexico Border. Given that it easy to assume that the Apaches were there before both the United States and Mexico, and Spain before them, how did the actions of Mexico and the United States, and Spain before them, affect the sovereignty of the Apaches? The obvious answers is that their actions completely destroyed the Apache’s ability to exercise any semblance of sovereignty whatsoever. However, an event by event analysis would help to better understand how the Apache’s, and other tribes for that matter, worked to maintain their sovereignty, in an effort to protect their culture and their homeland. Such a piece would contribute greatly to the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.
Next, one can look to Labor history and Social history. In Migrant Imaginaries, one can see that on October 17, 1950, Local 890 of the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers struck against the Empire Zinc Company at their mine located in Bayard, New Mexico. They were striking against discriminatory working conditions and a dual wage system, which paid Mexican and Mexican American workers less than Caucasian workers. The male workers picketed the gates for eight months until the Grant County District Court issued an injunction against them, threatening them with jail time. In response to the injunction, the worker’s wives took up their places on the picket line. The women also expanded the demands of the strike to include better living conditions in the company housing. Local police arrested some of the women, and a few of the women even suffered injuries at the hands of the police, police dogs, and strike breakers. While the women were striking, the men took on domestic duties. The women were able to participate in the strike in this manner because they were not formal members of the union. They were, however, members of the Auxiliary, which meant that by the charter of IUMMSW, they could vote on strike actions. This development initially received very narrow support from the men of the union. This strike is also documented in the files of the Global Non-Violent Database operated by Swathmore College. Look for, “Mexican-American Miners Strike for Wage Justice in New Mexico, 1950-1952” in the school's online files.
This, of course, brings in Labor history because of the Union’s strike. It brings in Social history because the strikers were striking against the discrimination of the era, which was a product of De Jure segregation. This was their challenge to the United States' national sovereignty. They were challenging the definition of who deserved the full rights of citizens. It also brings in Social history because the story got to see men and women switch what were considered their traditional roles in the 1950s. Men were the breadwinners and money makers, the ones that would be out defending the picket line for the Union, and women were the ones that were supposed to stay at home in the kitchen, caring for the children and attending to the domestic chores, whether or not it was something that they enjoyed being confined too. For obvious reasons, this can also count as Women’s history. One got to see how Women reacted to being outside their normal sphere. The women who participated in this strike proved well up to the task. Melody L. Miller, Phyllis Moen, and Donna Dempster-McClain tell the story well in “Motherhood, Multiple Roles, and Maternal Well-Being: Women of the 1950s.” This was also a challenge to the United State’s national sovereignty because it reversed accepted gender roles at the time that the United States government had invested a lot of time and money into promoting. Migrant Imaginaries solidified these people’s role in the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands by showing how they defied the accepted norms of their day and how they chose to work outside their “traditional” spheres to get what they felt that they deserved for their hard work, whether it was in their home or in their public lives. Migrant Imaginaries, and the many other books that that have been recently written on this topic, were not the first instances where Empire Zinc was made an important part of the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. The movie Salt of the Earth told these people’s story. Despite it being restricted in many parts of the country upon its initial release, and the admitted alterations to the story line to make the story more cinematic, it opened U.S. Labor and Economic history to a broader audience. One should wonder whether or not the Empire Zinc strike would be as widely known if this movie had not been made.
To get an idea of some of the propaganda that has been used to help engender a certain image of the Woman’s role in the family, one can look to a World War II era propaganda poster designed by Alfred Charles Parker, which is on the website of the University of North Texas’s Digital Library. The poster shows a woman and a little girl working in their kitchen doing some fruit canning. It is encouraging people to save time and money by growing their own fruits and vegetables and then preserving them at home. Notice, though, how there is not a man in the picture. This comes across as an early step towards putting women back in the home environment, once their men come home from the war to go back to work, thus ending the days of Rosie the Riveter that are such a common memory for so many people of the day. The image is entitled, “We’ll Have Lots to Eat this Winter, Won’t We Mother?” To get some back stories on women that were real “Rosie the Riveter” workers, visit the “Rosie the Riveter: Morris County Women During World War II.” Also on the website of the County College of Morris County, New Jersey, one can find the propaganda poster of Rosie the Riveter produced by the War Department's War Production Coordinating Committee with J. Howard Miller doing the art. This will show the image that was eventually suppressed by “the need” to put women back in the home so that their men could work.
Finally, one can take a look into the history of Revolutions. Revolution in Texas tells of the Plan de San Diego, which makes a good example for the role of Revolution in the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. This revolution not only shows how the Tejanos of south Texas resisted the National Sovereignty of the United States, but also how the delegated governmental institution of the region, the state of Texas through the Texas Rangers, chose to defend that sovereignty. It also shows how local Caucasians willingly got caught up in the violence. The Plan de San Diego was an obscure but important part of the history of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, and it shows how Tejanos and the Texas Rangers helped to write the event into the history of the region. The plan was uncovered when Basilio Ramos was captured by local authorities and found to have in his possession a Manifesto that declared the intentions of the Plan de San Diego. The plan had six points: to proclaim the freedom of African Americans, to separate the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and California from the United States, to rejoin these states to Mexico upon the restoration of peace at the end of the Mexican Revolution, to help African Americans to gain control of six more states, and to return the homelands of the Apaches and other native groups to their control in exchange for their support.
It is not entirely sure whether or not this event was really as organized as it sounds, and some of the points seem to be slightly contradictory, given that the Apache’s land is within the states that the revolutionaries wanted to return to Mexico. However, the violence was definitely real. The violence committed by both the “Revolutionaries” and the Texas Rangers was fatal. The Texas Rangers committed atrocious acts, i.e. mass lynchings, shootings, raids on innocent local’s farms, and prideful posings with the corpses of dead Mexican Americans. There were, of course, fighters that took up arms before these actions, but the stories of men like Aniceto Pizana show how many people reacted to the violence of the Texas Rangers and the local Caucasians that were encouraged by their actions. Local officials, using the conflict to their advantage raided Pizana’s ranch. They killed members of his family and seized his land. They failed to catch him, though. He subsequently became a revolutionary. The paranoia was also real. This event, combined with the ever present threat of the Mexican Revolution, led the United States government to deploy the Army National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands region. Militarizing the Border offers an image of the abuses that this generated. Women were raped, men were executed without trial, and many helpless and innocent refugees were turned back at the border, with only the violence of the Mexican Revolution to return to.
For an example of this discrimination, one can look to the website of the Oral History Project at the University of Texas at Austin Library. Nicanor Aguilar, Sr. experienced discrimination upon his return from the war, which he articulated in an Oral History interview conducted by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, "There was the same discrimination in Grand Falls, if not worse. First, we'd work for a dollar a day. After the war, they raised it to $2 for 10 hours. And the whites would get $18 a day in the petroleum field." Another such example during the period was the case of Private Felix Longoria, Sr. Private Longoria died in the Philippines. When his body was returned to the United States, his family was refused service by a Caucasian funeral parlor owner, who was worried that other “Whites” would not like it. It was not until, then, Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson and the founder of the American G.I. Forum, Hector P. Garcia, stepped in on their behalf that the situation was rectified. He was later buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors and a cast of important national figures in attendance. The full story can be found in Lianne Hart's, “Texas Town Remains Divided Over WWII-Era Racial Dispute Controversy is Re-ignited by move to Rename Post Office for Latino Soldier.”
It is essential that stories like this be a part of the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. They do so much to explain the tense nature of the border region. It helps one to understand the well documented caution that Mexicans and Mexican Americans have towards whites, as well as, U.S. state and federal forces in the border region. It also helps to understand the paranoia that was present in both governments and local whites at the time, as well as, the paranoia that exists in those same people to this day. To better understand this paranoia and the fear that immigrants feel towards institutions in the United States, be they government or civilian, one might also take the time to consider the experiences of the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, the Muslims, the Africans, and many more. It is important to make such connections in order to see how historic problems are really not just in history. They are, especially in this country, still a part of our present society. Immigrant's fear of persecution and white's paranoia towards immigrants are still very much alive to this day. For an example of this look to “Ánti-Muslim Violence Spiraling Out of Control in America: Sen was Pushed to Death by a Woman Who “Hated Muslims,” as Anti-Muslim Bigotry in the U.S. Sinks to New Depths,” on Aljazeera.com and read the story of Sunando Sen, a Muslim man, who was pushed off the platform in a subway station in New York City by a woman who, quote, “hated Muslims.” Granted, this was in New York City, but it is emblematic of the problem across the country. There have been accounts of Muslim business suffering damage, Mosques being vandalized, people being beat up in broad day light, and many other things right here in the border region. Accounting for similar occurrences in the history of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands will lead to a better understanding of the present issues. It will also, hopefully, broaden the study of immigrant issues in the United States, the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands specifically, which is, of course, already voluminous, and thus, enrich the historiography of the issue. This will show what a central role occurrences like this have played in the history of the borderlands region. This all, of course, presses home the point made in Revolution in Texas about the Plan de San Diego, and its accompanying issues. A now obscure, but no less important, event was made more visible and has rightfully taken its place in the well documented historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands.
Finally, it is also important to understand how the history of the LGBTQ community intertwines with sovereignty and the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. La Frontera and Entry Denied are both good texts to review to see what role the LGBTQ community played in the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands and how they might have resisted National Sovereignty. The biggest thing to note is that right up until 1973, all people who classified as LGBTQ were considered mentally in the United States. Further, right up until 1990, as per the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (79 Stat. 911), immigrants who classified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or anything similar, when they sought entry into the United States, were immediately denied entry into the United States on the grounds that they would either become a ward of the state or a threat to the public order. After 1990, when this legislation was amended, however, the United States became a sanctuary state for such immigrants. So, how might people have gone about challenging or resisting the sovereignty of the United States or Mexico? In Mexico, just being a member of the LGBTQ community will get a person persecuted. This is a result of the repressive culture of the Catholic church, which still has a strong hold over the citizens of Mexico. Simply put, in the United States, they would just have had to lie about who they were, and then continue to lie to keep from being deported. If they were denied at the border for being a member of the LGBTQ community, undocumented immigration was the next step for them. Until recently, the LGBTQ community still faced laws like the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (110 Stat. 2419), which gave states the right to invalidate gay marriages that were granted in another state if the couple moved to their state. Imagine the challenge that this could have presented to immigrants whose legal status was based on a marriage in a state where gay marriage was legal. If their marriage were to be invalidated, they could have risked deportation. United States v. Windsor, 570 U.S. ___ (2013), limited this by expanding the federal definition of spouse to include gay and lesbian couples; however, the fact that still remained that in thirty-one states, gays and lesbians still could not marry. Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___ (2015) changed this for the good. Gay marriage is now legal in all fifty states, and it is now a fully recognized path to citizenship. This has hopefully eliminated some of the troubles that people have faced in the past, which are enumerated in La Frontera and Entry Denied.
There are some other semi-recent instances where historiographical issues have played out in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. In 1994, roughly seventy-thousand Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans marched through the streets of Los Angeles to protest a proposed amendment to the California State Constitution, Proposition 187. This proposition restricted access to all basic social programs such as food stamps and disability. California felt that this issue was a threat to the United State’s National Sovereignty. The bill was passed in a statewide referendum. Despite it later being overturned by the federal court system, this event showed how Immigration history has remained a part of the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. Patrick J. McDonnell and Robert J. Lopez discussed the issue in, “L.A. March Against Prop. 187 Draws 70,000: Immigration: Protesters condemn Wilson for backing initiative that they say promotes 'racism, scapegoating,” in the Los Angeles Times, on October 17, 1994. A similar, but more recent event, took place in Dallas, Texas. Thousands of Mexicans and Mexican Americans marched in Dallas in support of legislation that would offer clemency to undocumented workers. Here, they did much the same that the people did in Los Angeles in 1994. They were, however, not marching for exactly the the same purpose, but they did march for a program that would offer clemency to people that had violated U.S. immigration law, a threat to the United State’s National Sovereignty, and they were marching for undocumented workers. There is an even more recent example of how Immigration history is remaining a part of the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. Dianne Solis discussed the push for legalization in, “Thousands at Dallas Immigration March Call For Legalization Program,” in the Dallas Morning News on May 5, 2013.
There is also an example of how Environmental history is still playing a role in the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, as it relates to issues of National Sovereignty. In December of 2013, a truck carrying radioactive materials was stolen en route to Mexico City. The truck was later found abandoned. One can only imagine what would have happened if the trucks contents had been released or stolen. The damage to people and the environment could have been costly, and it has not yet been determined whether any of the materials are missing. It is possible for such materials to be used to make deadly weapons. This was a threat to Mexico’s National Sovereignty, obviously because there was no telling what the thieves intent truly was, as they were never caught. With such an issue going on so close to the U.S.-Mexico Border, this was also a threat to the National Sovereignty of the United States. With the thieves never found and the materials, minus some, showing up only after two days of intensive searching, one can imagine that both nations were on high alert. Rafael Romo , Nick Parker, and Mariano Castillo discussed the issue in, “Mexico: Stolen Radioactive Material Found,” for CNN News, on December 4, 2013. This has also been evidenced by reviewing the history of groups like the Buffalo Soldiers and African American cowboys, by reviewing discriminatory laws like the Page Law or Law 31, by looking at the actions of companies like ASARCO and reading up on federal environmental laws, like the Clean Air Act. It is has also been shown by following the Apache people’s struggle to retain their homeland, by understanding the Empire Zinc Strike and how it reversed accepted social roles in the family, by following the actions of U.S. military leaders like General John J. Pershing and Mexican revolutionaries like Francisco “Pancho” Villa, and by seeing how Tejano men, frustrated by their new circumstances caused by the racial discrimination and economic invasion of Caucasians, chose to fight these incursions in the Plan de San Diego.
To end, it would be a travesty to have a discussion such as this without mentioning Frederick Jackson Turner’s work, The Significance of the Frontier in American History. His idea was that the frontier was the outer edge between civilization and savagery. In this piece, he indicates that only American civilization played a significant role in the development of North America and its frontiers/borders, with any other peoples being mere bystanders. This could not be further from the truth. This project has shown that not only is the region not tamed, but it is filled to the brim with people that can influence what goes on there and who can challenge a nation-state’s ability to keep the area under control. Better still, it shows that the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands were, from the beginning, and are still, a centerpiece for the study of sovereignty, and that sovereignty is a good tool by which to review the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. This region could also serve as a test case for other similar sovereignty problems around the world. In the end, after all is said and done, the point that should be taken from this is that the historiography of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, and the role that sovereignty plays in the concept, is much broader than the actual border itself. It is also very easy, as has been shown, to assume that the U.S.-Mexico Border will continue to play a prominent role in U.S. and Mexican national policy and that people will continue to write about it. This will change a lot, but it will enforce some of the same generalities. There will continue to be issues of race, pollution, gender discrimination, violence, labor strife, and many other issues taken up in the writing, as long as the United States and Mexico both continue to treat the region as a peripheral zone, to be legislated but not effectively confronted, despite its persistent claim to the national spotlight.