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Border Citizens

The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona

By Eric V. Meeks

Publication Year: 2007

Borders cut through not just places but also relationships, politics, economics, and cultures. Eric V. Meeks examines how ethno-racial categories and identities such as Indian, Mexican, and Anglo crystallized in Arizona’s borderlands between 1880 and 1980. South-central Arizona is home to many ethnic groups, including Mexican Americans, Mexican immigrants, and semi-Hispanicized indigenous groups such as Yaquis and Tohono O’odham. Kinship and cultural ties between these diverse groups were altered and ethnic boundaries were deepened by the influx of Euro-Americans, the development of an industrial economy, and incorporation in the U.S. nation-state. Old ethnic and interethnic ties changed and became more difficult to sustain when Euro-Americans arrived in the region and imposed ideologies and government policies that constructed starker racial boundaries. As Arizona began to take its place in the national economy of the United States, primarily through mining and industrial agriculture, ethnic Mexican and Native American communities struggled to define their own identities. They sometimes stressed their status as the region’s original inhabitants, sometimes as workers, sometimes as U.S. citizens, and sometimes as members of their own separate nations. In the process, they often challenged the racial order imposed on them by the dominant class. Appealing to broad audiences, this book links the construction of racial categories and ethnic identities to the larger process of nation-state building along the U.S.-Mexico border, and illustrates how racial differences can both fuse cultures together and drive them apart.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona began as a dissertation at the University of Texas at Austin, where I had the pleasure of working with an extraordinary group of scholars. I wish to thank Neil Foley, my dissertation supervisor, for engaging me in hours of discussion as I developed my ideas, conducted...

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pp. 1-14

In the mid-1960s a group of Yaquis in the Tucson barrio called Pascua took the first steps toward seeking federal acknowledgment of their status as American Indians. In part they hoped to obtain access to federal resources and an area of land outside the city. Since World War II, Tucson’s warehouse district had enveloped Pascua, and the mechanization of agriculture had dramatically reduced the number of jobs on nearby...

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Chapter 1. Desert Empire

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pp. 15-43

Shortly after the Mesilla Treaty (also called the Gadsden Purchase) transferred what would become southern Arizona from Mexico to the United States in the mid-1850s, hundreds of Americans moved into the territory to improve their fortunes.1 Among them was Sylvester Mowry, a lieutenant in the army. Mowry was stationed at Fort Yuma when he began to dream about the potential that the new territory held for...

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Chapter 2. From Noble Savage to Second-Class Citizen

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pp. 44-70

In the 1880s the government of the United States reformed its well-worn policy of concentrating Indians onto reservations into a new campaign designed to assimilate them into the nation. Federal officials allotted reservation lands for private property and strove to educate and detribalize Indians in government schools, to integrate them economically as farmers, ranchers, and wageworkers, and to pave the way for...

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Chapter 3. Crossing Borders

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pp. 71-97

Rosalio Moisés Valenzuela and his older sister, Antonia, both of them Yaquis, were born in Colorada, Sonora, where their father worked as a miner in the mid-1890s. Their parents and grandparents had fled the Yaqui River to escape the ongoing war with the Mexican army. In his memoirs Rosalio recalled how “many friends and relatives from the Rio Yaqui worked in the Colorada and Suviete mines or at the Minas...

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Chapter 4. Defining the White Citizen-Worker

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pp. 98-126

As the Great Depression descended on south-central Arizona in June 1930, the Arizona State Federation of Labor (ASFL) called for new restrictions on Mexican immigration to protect “white citizen-workers of Arizona and other Southwestern states.”1 Such explicitly racial calls for shutting the border were nothing new, dating back to the early part of the century. Arizona’s trade unions had long conflated...

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Chapter 5. The Indian New Deal and the Politics of the Tribe

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pp. 127-154

In 1902 Peter Blaine was born to a Tohono O’odham mother and a mestizo father (part O’odham) in South Tucson. In the early years of his life, his mother, like many other urban O’odham women, supported her family by cleaning houses. When Blaine was six his mother died, and he moved into the home of his aunt Josefa and her husband, a Yaqui. He grew up speaking both Yaqui and Spanish, only later becoming...

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Chapter 6. Shadows in the Sun Belt

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pp. 155-179

Phoenix Mayor Samuel Mardian Jr. testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1962 that ethnic minorities in Phoenix faced little or no discriminatory treatment. “Indians are not discriminated against in employment, services, or housing,” he said, and offered an even more sanguine assessment of Mexican-American prospects: “These people hold high positions in the city government, in industry, and...

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Chapter 7. The Chicano Movement and Cultural Citizenship

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pp. 180-210

At the end of World War II, Mario Suárez returned from serving in the U.S. Navy to find that the barrios of Tucson where he had been born and raised had barely changed. In a short story he wrote in 1947, Suárez compared the El Hoyo barrio to capirotada, a traditional Mexican dish made with a base of “old, new, stale, and hard bread.” One could add any number of ingredients, including “raisins, olives, onions, tomatoes...

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Chapter 8. Villages, Tribes, and Nations

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pp. 211-240

An editorial in the Arizona Daily Star in 1960 proved that old notions about Indians being incapable of full and equal citizenship were alive and well. Pointing to factionalism on the Tohono O’odham reservations, the writer suggested that Anglo-Arizonans, “who have had the job of working with warring Indian Tribes and more recently working with the reservation Indians, should have some idea of what a task...

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Conclusion: Borders Old and New

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pp. 241-247

Vivian Juan-Saunders and Herminia Frías, chairwomen of the Tohono O’odham and Yaqui nations in Arizona, traveled to Sarmiento, Mexico, in November 2004 to participate in the Ninth Annual Assembly of Indigenous Women. There they met up with O’odham and Yaquis from Mexico, along with other indigenous peoples from Arizona, California, Sonora, and Sinaloa, to discuss their future. The meeting...


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pp. 249-300

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 301-312


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pp. 313-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780292794993
E-ISBN-10: 0292794991
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292716988
Print-ISBN-10: 0292716982

Page Count: 342
Illustrations: 6 maps, 6 figures
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 646761185
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Border Citizens

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Arizona -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 19th century.
  • Ethnicity -- Arizona -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- Arizona -- Ethnic identity -- History.
  • Arizona -- Ethnic relations -- History -- 20th century.
  • Mexican Americans -- Arizona -- Ethnic identity -- History.
  • Whites -- Race identity -- Arizona -- History.
  • Ethnic barriers -- Arizona -- History.
  • Social structure -- Arizona -- History.
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