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Debating American Identity

Southwestern Statehood and Mexican Immigration

Linda C. Noel

Publication Year: 2014

In the early 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt, New Mexico governors Miguel Antonio Otero and Octaviano Larrazolo, and Arizona legislator Carl Hayden—along with the voices of less well-known American women and men—promoted very different views on what being an American meant. Their writings and speeches contributed to definitions of American national identity during a tumultuous and dynamic era. At stake in these heated debates was the very meaning of what constituted an American, the political boundaries for the United States, and the legitimacy of cultural diversity in modern America.
    In Debating American Identity, Linda C. Noel examines several nation-defining events—the proposed statehood of Arizona and New Mexico, the creation of a temporary worker program during the First World War, immigration restriction in the 1920s, and the repatriation of immigrants in the early 1930s. Noel uncovers the differing ways in which Americans argued about how newcomers could fit within the nation-state, in terms of assimilation, pluralism, or marginalization, and the significance of class status, race, and culture in determining American identity.
    Noel shows not only how the definition of American was contested, but also how the economic and political power of people of Mexican descent, their desire to incorporate as Americans or not, and the demand for their territory or labor by other Americans played an important part in shaping decisions about statehood and national immigration policies. Debating American Identity skillfully shows how early twentieth century debates over statehood influenced later ones concerning immigration; in doing so, it resonates with current discussions, resulting in a well-timed look at twentieth century citizenship.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Acknowledgments are often written in a rush as the deadline looms for publication, and this one is no different. Or at least that is my excuse for writing acknowledgments which may forget important folks who helped along the way and do injustice to my friends, family, and professional contacts...

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Note on Terminology

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pp. xiii-2

The United States has appropriated the word American for its citizens. While many people living in North, South, and Central America object to this— and I understand why— I use the word American to signify citizens of the United States because that is the commonly used term in the...

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pp. 3-20

Today’s Americans struggle with the meaning of American identity as they debate how many immigrants to admit, the extent to which civil rights and benefits should apply to newcomers, and whether or not there should be a guest worker program or a path to legalization. To those who study the history...

Part I: The Late Territorial Years, 1898–1912

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1: The Closed Door: Exclusion Reigns

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pp. 23-42

Miguel Antonio Otero Jr. considered himself an American and he was one. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1859 to a father and mother of Mexican and Anglo descent, respectively, Otero moved with his parents to the New Mexico Territory when he was two years old. Well educated, bilingual,...

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2: The Door Swings Inward: Pluralism and Marginalization

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pp. 43-64

Octaviano A. Larrazolo, a naturalized U.S. citizen formerly of Mexico and the Arizona territory, eventually settled in New Mexico during the 1890s. There the teacher turned lawyer ran for office unsuccessfully, several times. Despite his initial electoral failures— he would later become a Republican...

Part II: Transformations: The First World War Era, 1917–1922

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3: Changing Strategies for a New World

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pp. 67-82

Born in Mexico in 1866, Pedro Garcia de la Lama eventually immigrated to the New Mexican territory, becoming an American citizen in 1894. Two years later he moved to the Arizona territory to work as the editor of a Spanish- language newspaper, El Progreso. In 1902 he was called before...

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4: Marginalization Evolves: Image of a Temporary Worker

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pp. 83-100

Carl Trumbull Hayden, born in an adobe home in the Arizona territory in 1877, was reportedly the first Anglo child born in what would become the town of Tempe. He grew up to become one of the longest- serving legislators of the new state of Arizona. Elected as a Democrat in the first year of...

Part III: Immigration Restriction Debates, 1926–1930

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5: Closing the Door?

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pp. 103-118

By the mid- 1920s, Americans and Mexicans well understood how a swinging door for entering and exiting America could work. In 1917 the door swung inward to the United States— allowing Mexicans to enter due to exemptions from contract labor laws and the new literacy and head tax...

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6: Promotion of the Temporary Worker

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pp. 119-138

By the mid- 1920s, advocates for closing America’s borders to those from outside northwestern Europe succeeded in drastically reducing the admission of Asians and many Europeans into the United States. In the process they amassed substantial national influence, overwhelming the voices of...

Part IV: Repatriation, 1930–1935

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7: “To Keep America American”: The Door Swings Outward

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pp. 141-164

Born in Mexico circa 1907, Santiago Lopez grew up near Tucson, Arizona. At some point he returned to Mexico, but in 1925 he crossed the border again. Two years later the U.S. Border Patrol arrested Lopez, ordering him to leave the country. He did so, but within two hours walked back...


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pp. 165-216


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pp. 217-238


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pp. 239-246

About the Author

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pp. 247-247

E-ISBN-13: 9780816598939
E-ISBN-10: 0816598932
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530458
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530459

Page Count: 261
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 868268430
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Debating American Identity

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Southwest, New -- Emigration and immigration -- History -- 20th century.
  • Immigrants -- Southwest, New -- History -- 20th century.
  • Ethnicity -- Political aspects -- Southwest, New -- History -- 20th century.
  • New Mexico -- Politics and government -- 1848-1950.
  • Arizona -- Politics and government -- To 1950.
  • New Mexico -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexicans -- New Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
  • Arizona -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexicans -- Arizona -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexico -- Emigration and immigration -- History -- 20th century.
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