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Border Identifications

Narratives of Religion, Gender, and Class on the U.S.-Mexico Border

By Pablo Vila

Publication Year: 2005

From poets to sociologists, many people who write about life on the U.S.-Mexico border use terms such as “border crossing” and “hybridity” which suggest that a unified culture—neither Mexican nor American, but an amalgamation of both—has arisen in the borderlands. But talking to people who actually live on either side of the border reveals no single commonly shared sense of identity, as Pablo Vila demonstrated in his book Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders: Social Categories, Metaphors, and Narrative Identities on the U.S.-Mexico Frontier. Instead, people living near the border, like people everywhere, base their sense of identity on a constellation of interacting factors that includes regional identity, but also nationality, ethnicity, and race. In this book, Vila continues the exploration of identities he began in Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders by looking at how religion, gender, and class also affect people’s identifications of self and “others” among Mexican nationals, Mexican immigrants, Mexican Americans, Anglos, and African Americans in the Cuidad Juárez–El Paso area. Among the many fascinating issues he raises are how the perception that “all Mexicans are Catholic” affects Mexican Protestants and Pentecostals; how the discourse about proper gender roles may feed the violence against women that has made Juárez the “women’s murder capital of the world”; and why class consciousness is paradoxically absent in a region with great disparities of wealth. His research underscores the complexity of the process of social identification and confirms that the idealized notion of “hybridity” is only partially adequate to define people’s identity on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Inter-America Series


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pp. v-v

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pp. ix-x

This book has been made possible by the help of numerous people. Without the enthusiastic participation of the hundreds of interview-ees who participated in the group discussions about the photographs, completing this book would have been inconceivable. Without their agreeing to share with me their narratives about themselves, none of ...

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pp. 1-20

In my previous book in the Inter-America series, Crossing Borders, Reinforcing Borders, I tried to show how the categories and interpellations, the metaphors, and the narratives people use to address themselves and the “others” on the border have a basically regional logic in Juárez and an ethnic/racial one in El Paso (while national logics work on both sides of the border)...

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Chapter 1: Catholicism and Mexicanness on the U.S.-Mexico Border

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pp. 21-56

In most Latin American societies, Catholicism and national identity (in this particular case, Mexicanness) have become highly intertwined (Fortuny Loret de Mola 1994). According to Bowen (1996, p. 4)...

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Chapter 2: Mexican and Mexican American Protestants

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pp. 57-109

If, as I have tried to show in the previous chapter, on the border there is a close relationship between being a Mexican and being a Catholic, the process of identity construction among Protestants of Mexican descent is, to say the least, complicated.1 They are something that is “unexpected” from the commonsense point of view of the region. We have already seen some strategies developed by several...

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Chapter 3: Regionalized Gender Narratives on the Mexican Side of the Border

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pp. 111-141

This statement is plainly acknowledged by women of color theorists in general and Chicanas in particular. As a matter of fact, it is the cornerstone of their debate with what they call white, middle-class, Western feminism. As Patricia Zavella (1991, p. 312) points out: “Women-of-color theorists have argued that race, class, and gender are...

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Chapter 4: Gender, Nationality, and Ethnicity on the American Side of the Border

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pp. 143-168

Many of the images in Ju

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Chapter 5: The Problematic Class Discourse on the Border: The Mexican Side

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pp. 169-189

As I have pointed out in previous chapters, the regional, ethnic, and national logics we have found that are used in the process of classifying, creating metaphors, and narrating identities are so strong in the Ciudad Juárez–El Paso area that they overdetermine other ways of understanding the process of identity construction. In the chapter on Catholicism we saw how what is considered for many people to...

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Chapter 6: The Problematic Class Discourse on the Border: The American Side

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pp. 191-228

On the American side of the border, any discussion about social in-equality (or any discussion about identity, for that matter) also has to deal with the widespread commonsense discourse that establish-es that “all poverty is Mexican.” Therefore, for many people in El Paso (above all, Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans), the...

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Chapter 7: Conclusion

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pp. 229-258

This book is the culmination of more than ten years of research and thinking about the U.S.-Mexico border, in particular, the border between Ciudad Ju


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pp. 259-281


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pp. 283-292


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pp. 293-302

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797130
E-ISBN-10: 0292797133
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292702912
Print-ISBN-10: 0292702914

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 25 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Inter-America Series
Series Editor Byline: Howard Campbell, Duncan Earle, and John Peterson, series editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 61501260
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Border Identifications

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ciudad Juárez (Mexico) -- Social conditions.
  • Group identity -- Texas -- El Paso.
  • Group identity -- Mexican-American Border Region.
  • El Paso (Tex.) -- Social conditions.
  • Group identity -- Mexico -- Ciudad Juárez.
  • Mexican-American Border Region -- Social conditions.
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