Several processes of racial retrenchment are explored in my first book, as well as in my current and next book projects. They focus on civil rights efforts resulting from the U.S. government’s failure to enforce the citizenship rights of Mexican Americans.
As the first Latinos incorporated into the nation, Mexican Americans were offered U.S. citizenship by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (which ended the U.S.-Mexico War in 1848). Because the 1790 Naturalization Act declared whites solely eligible for citizenship, the treaty pronounced Mexican Americans to be legally white, and also entitled for naturalization. While their incorporation as citizens appeared to be an example of racial justice and a diversification of the electorate, the reality experienced by Mexican Americans demonstrated a retrenchment in racial progress. Stymied by the legacies of conquest, Mexican Americans have struggled to exercise their rights as United States citizens since the mid-nineteenth centur
In my first book, River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands (Duke University Press, 2013), I demonstrate that Mexican Texans attempted to vote, serve in the military, maintain property rights, and fight against their criminalization during the second half of the nineteenth century. However, they experienced setbacks and losses as electoral, military, judicial, and law enforcement officials prevented their exercise of citizenship rights.
My current book project, “Remembering Conquest: Mexican Americans, Memory, and Citizenship,” explores the collective memories of the U.S.-Mexico War as a motivation for civil rights campaigns among several generations of Mexican Americans throughout the U.S. Southwest during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It analyzes efforts by mutual aid societies, journalists, and civil rights organizations to desegregate public schools, curb lynchings of ethnic Mexicans, and expose criminalization despite incremental racial gains in the electoral, public school, and judicial systems.
In my next book project, “Challenging Exclusion in Education: Mexican Americans and School Reform,” I explore textbook reform and archive preservation efforts by Mexican American scholars and activists in the early twentieth century. Despite limited regional victories in school segregation lawsuits, most Mexican Americans continued attending segregated schools. Activists believed Eurocentric history textbooks were not only biased, but helped justify contemporaneous discrimination against Mexican Americans, including the denial of suffrage, non-representative jury service, the lack of Mexican American elected officials, segregated schools, and limited access to public places