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Domestic Negotiations

Gender, Nation, and Self-Fashioning in US Mexicana and Chicana Literature and Art

Marci R. McMahon

Publication Year: 2013

This interdisciplinary study explores how US Mexicana and Chicana authors and artists across different historical periods and regions use domestic space to actively claim their own histories. Through “negotiation”—a concept that accounts for artistic practices outside the duality of resistance/accommodation—and “self-fashioning,” Marci R. McMahon demonstrates how the very sites of domesticity are used to engage the many political and recurring debates about race, gender, and immigration affecting Mexicanas and Chicanas from the early twentieth century to today.

Domestic Negotiations
covers a range of archival sources and cultural productions, including the self-fashioning of the “chili queens” of San Antonio, Texas, Jovita González’s romance novel Caballero, the home economics career and cookbooks of Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Sandra Cisneros’s “purple house controversy” and her acclaimed text The House on Mango Street, Patssi Valdez’s self-fashioning and performance of domestic space in Asco and as a solo artist, Diane Rodríguez’s performance of domesticity in Hollywood television and direction of domestic roles in theater, and Alma López’s digital prints of domestic labor in Los Angeles. With intimate close readings, McMahon shows how Mexicanas and Chicanas shape domestic space to construct identities outside of gendered, racialized, and xenophobic rhetoric.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

I owe an enormous debt to the many mentors who have encouraged, supported, and shaped this project and my academic career. The underlying goals of this book— the analysis of Chicana history through literature and visual art— has its roots in San Antonio, Texas, where as a high school student at Incarnate Word, I became active in social justice and literary arts movements in the city....

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A Note on Terminology

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pp. xv-xviii

Given the historical breadth and variety of local contexts in this study, I use distinct terms throughout this book to refer to women of Mexican descent living and working prior to, during, and after the Chicano/a Movement of the 1960s and 1970s in various regions of the US Southwest. In the chapters where I dis-cuss authors and artists of the early and mid- twentieth century, that is, prior ...

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pp. 1-24

In her six- photo series María’s Great Expedition (1995– 1996), the artist Christina Fernandez recounts the personal history of her great- grandmother María’s migrations between the United States and Mexico by posing as her great-grandmother. In each of the sepia- toned photos and in the final chromogenic photo, the artist depicts the distant and recurring circumstances of her great-grandmother’s ...


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The Chili Queens of San Antonio

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pp. 27-48

In April 1938, Atlee B. Ayres, an architect known for commercial and residential projects in San Antonio and throughout Texas, held Fiesta Mexicano, a night of music and performance sponsored by the Fiesta San Jacinto Association at the Municipal Auditorium in San Antonio.1 As an active director of the Fiesta Association, Ayres staged La Noche de Fiesta events annually from 1936 to 1943. ...

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Claiming Domestic Space inthe US-MexicoBorderlands

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pp. 49-74

In an important scene of the historical romance novel Caballero (1930s– 1940s),1 mid-twentieth-century Tejana author and folklorist Jovita González and coauthor, Anglo American writer Eve Raleigh, depict Padre Pierre, a French priest who lives in a Spanish Mexican land-owning community in nineteenth-century rural South Texas, advising the families to gain Anglo American sympathy and approval of ...

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Domestic Power across Borders

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pp. 75-100

In her essay “New Mexican Diets” in the Journal of Home Economics, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca recounts her visit to northern rural New Mexico in 1929 and her surprise at being served fried potatoes with canned corn beef and white bread by a family of Mexican descent who invited her to dinner (1942).1 Cabeza de Baca was visiting the family as part of her home extension service work for the ...


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Postnationalist and Domesticana Strategies

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pp. 103-129

In summer 1997, the now well- known “purple house” controversy ignited in the King William District in San Antonio, quickly spreading throughout the city and the nation. At issue was acclaimed author Sandra Cisneros’s choice to have her late- Victorian cottage, built circa 1903, painted purple, or more precisely Sherwin Williams Corsican Purple, in 1997. With headlines such as the “King William ...

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Patssi Valdez’s “A Room of One’s Own”

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pp. 130-155

As traffic sped by on Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles in 1974, Gronk, a member of the Chicano art collective Asco, taped fellow member Patssi Valdez to the exterior of a liquor store.1 On Valdez’s left, and not shown in the most popular photo- documentation of this performance piece, Instant Mural, is Asco affiliate Humberto Sandoval, whose body was also bound to the wall by Gronk ...

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Redirecting Chicana/Latina Representation

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pp. 156-180

In December 2003, Home and Garden Television (HGTV) featured director and actor Diane Rodríguez’s home in Echo Park, Los Angeles, in a segment titled “Mexican Holiday Décor” for their annual program Handmade Holiday with Kitty Bartholomew.1 In the episode, the host, Kitty Bartholomew, guides audiences on a multicultural tour of twelve houses, spotlighting homeowners who ...

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pp. 181-188

Nativist and anti- immigration policies, as exhibited by the passing of SB 1070, or the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, in Arizona in 2010 and similar calls to enforce such legislation nationally, recycle and extend the racialized binaries of domestic/foreign and legal/illegal, which have framed the dominant narrative of Mexicana, Chicana, and Latina domesticity that I have ...


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pp. 189-214


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pp. 215-228


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pp. 229-240

About the Author

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pp. 241-242

E-ISBN-13: 9780813560960
E-ISBN-10: 0813560969
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813560946

Page Count: 260
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 857769859
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Domestic Negotiations

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • American literature -- Mexican American authors -- History and criticism.
  • American literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Identity (Psychology) in literature.
  • Mexican Americans in literature.
  • Mexican American women in literature.
  • Mexican American arts.
  • Mexican American women artists.
  • Nationalism and literature -- United States -- History.
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