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From Coveralls to Zoot Suits

The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front

Elizabeth R. Escobedo

During World War II, unprecedented employment avenues opened up for women and minorities in U.S. defense industries at the same time that massive population shifts and the war challenged Americans to rethink notions of race. At this extraordinary historical moment, Mexican American women found new means to exercise control over their lives in the home, workplace, and nation. In From Coveralls to Zoot Suits, Elizabeth R. Escobedo explores how, as war workers and volunteers, dance hostesses and zoot suiters, respectable young ladies and rebellious daughters, these young women used wartime conditions to serve the United States in its time of need and to pursue their own desires.
But even after the war, as Escobedo shows, Mexican American women had to continue challenging workplace inequities and confronting family and communal resistance to their broadening public presence. Highlighting seldom heard voices of the "Greatest Generation," Escobedo examines these contradictions within Mexican families and their communities, exploring the impact of youth culture, outside employment, and family relations on the lives of women whose home-front experiences and everyday life choices would fundamentally alter the history of a generation.

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From Scenarios to Networks

Performing the Intercultural in Colonial Mexico

Leo Cabranes-Grant

In this innovative study, Leo Cabranes-Grant analyzes four intercultural events in the Viceroyalty of New Spain that took place between 1566 and 1690. Rather than relying on racial labels to describe alterations of identity, Cabranes-Grant focuses on experimentation, rehearsal, and the interaction between bodies and objects. His analysis shows how scenarios are invested with affective qualities, which in turn enable cultural and semiotic change. Central to his argument is Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory, which figures society as a constantly evolving web of relationships among objects, people, and spaces. In examining these scenarios, Cabranes-Grant attempts to discern the reasons why the conditions of an intensified moment within this ceaseless flow take on a particular value and inspire their re-creation. Cabranes-Grant offers a fresh perspective on Latour’s theory and reorients debates concerning history and historiography in the field of performance studies.

 

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From South Texas to the Nation

The Exploitation of Mexican Labor in the Twentieth Century

John Weber

In the early years of the twentieth century, newcomer farmers and migrant Mexicans forged a new world in South Texas. In just a decade, this vast region, previously considered too isolated and desolate for large-scale agriculture, became one of the United States' most lucrative farming regions and one of its worst places to work. By encouraging mass migration from Mexico, paying low wages, selectively enforcing immigration restrictions, toppling older political arrangements, and periodically immobilizing the workforce, growers created a system of labor controls unique in its levels of exploitation.

Ethnic Mexican residents of South Texas fought back by organizing and by leaving, migrating to destinations around the United States where employers eagerly hired them--and continued to exploit them. In From South Texas to the Nation, John Weber reinterprets the United States' record on human and labor rights. This important book illuminates the way in which South Texas pioneered the low-wage, insecure, migration-dependent labor system on which so many industries continue to depend.

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From the Barrio to Washington

An Educator's Journey

Armando Rodriguez as told to Keith Taylor

Rodriguez recalls his inspirational journey from a short child who was so dark he was nicknamed "Shadow" to being influential in shaping education on district, state, and national levels. Some still call him Shadow, though it is now spoken with respect and admiration for an immigrant who overcame many obstacles to become an instrument of change for his country.

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From the Edge

Chicana/o Border Literature and the Politics of Print

Allison E. Fagan

Chicana/o literature frequently depicts characters who exist in a vulnerable liminal space, living on the border between Mexican and American identities, and sometimes pushed to the edge by authorities who seek to restrict their freedom.  As this groundbreaking new study reveals, the books themselves have occupied similarly precarious positions, as Chicana/o literature has struggled for economic viability and visibility on the margins of the American publishing industry, while Chicana/o writers have grappled with editorial practices that compromise their creative autonomy. 
 
From the Edge reveals the tangled textual histories behind some of the most cherished works in the Chicana/o literary canon, tracing the negotiations between authors, editors, and publishers that determined how these books appeared in print. Allison Fagan demonstrates how the texts surrounding the authors’ words—from editorial prefaces to Spanish-language glossaries, from cover illustrations to reviewers’ blurbs—have crucially shaped the reception of Chicana/o literature. To gain an even richer perspective on the politics of print, she ultimately explores one more border space, studying the marks and remarks that readers have left in the margins of these books. 
 
From the Edge vividly demonstrates that to comprehend fully the roles that ethnicity, language, class, and gender play within Chicana/o literature, we must understand the material conditions that governed the production, publication, and reception of these works. By teaching us how to read the borders of the text, it demonstrates how we might perceive and preserve the faint traces of those on the margins. 
 

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Fulgencio Batista

Volume I, The Making of a Dictator, vol. 1

Frank Argote-Freyre

Pawn of the U.S. government. Right-hand man to the mob. Iron-fisted dictator. For decades, public understanding of the pre-Revolutionary Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista has been limited to these stereotypes, which barely scratch the surface of the complex and compelling career of this important political figure.

            Second only to Fidel Castro, Batista is the most controversial leader in modern Cuban history. And yet, until now, there has been no objective biography written about him. Existing biographical literature either borders on hero worship or launches a series of attacks aimed at rejecting his entire legacy.

            In this book, the first of two volumes, Frank Argote-Freyre provides a full and balanced portrait of this historically shadowed figure. Drawing on an extensive review of Cuban newspapers, government records, memos, oral history interviews, and a selection of Batista’s personal documents, Argote-Freyre moves beyond simplistic caricatures to uncover the real man—one with strengths and weaknesses and with a career marked by accomplishments as well as failures. 

            This volume focuses on Batista’s role as a revolutionary leader and his image as a “strongman” in the years between 1933 and 1939.  Through his study of Batista, the author is able to review an entire era that is frequently ignored by scholars—the Republican period of Cuban history. Bringing together global and local events, he considers the significance and relationship of the worldwide economic depression, the beginnings of World War II, the Cuban Revolution of 1933, the expansion of the Cuban middle class, and the nation’s gradual development of democratic institutions.

Fulgencio Batista and most of Cuba’s past prior to the Revolution of 1959 has been lost in the historical mists.  Cuba had a rich and fascinating history before the Marxist Revolution and the reign of Fidel Castro. This captivating and long-overdue book uncovers it.

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Gender Violence at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Edited by Héctor Domínguez-Ruvalcaba and Ignacio Corona

The U.S.–Mexico border is frequently presented by contemporary media as a violent and dangerous place. But that is not a new perception. For decades the border has been constructed as a topographic metaphor for all forms of illegality, in which an ineffable link between space and violence is somehow assumed. The sociological and cultural implications of violence have recently emerged at the forefront of academic discussions about the border. And yet few studies have been devoted to one of its most disturbing manifestations: gender violence. This book analyzes this pervasive phenomenon, including the femicides in Ciudad Juárez that have come to exemplify, at least for the media, its most extreme manifestation.

Contributors to this volume propose that the study of gender-motivated violence requires interpretive and analytical strategies that draw on methods reaching across the divide between the social sciences and the humanities. Through such an interdisciplinary conversation, the book examines how such violence is (re)presented in oral narratives, newspaper reports, films and documentaries, novels, TV series, and legal discourse. It also examines the role that the media have played in this process, as well as the legal initiatives that might address this pressing social problem.

Together these essays offer a new perspective on the implications of, and connections between, gendered forms of violence and topics such as mechanisms of social violence, the micro-social effects of economic models, the asymmetries of power in local, national, and transnational configurations, and the particular rhetoric, aesthetics, and ethics of discourses that represent violence.

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Genocide as Social Practice

Reorganizing Society under the Nazis and Argentina's Military Juntas

by Daniel Feierstein, Translated by Douglas Andrew Town

Genocide not only annihilates people but also destroys and reorganizes social relations, using terror as a method. In Genocide as Social Practice, social scientist Daniel Feierstein looks at the policies of state-sponsored repression pursued by the Argentine military dictatorship against political opponents between 1976 and 1983 and those pursued by the Third Reich between 1933 and 1945. He finds similarities, not in the extent of the horror but in terms of the goals of the perpetrators.

The Nazis resorted to ruthless methods in part to stifle dissent but even more importantly to reorganize German society into a Volksgemeinschaft, or people’s community, in which racial solidarity would supposedly replace class struggle. The situation in Argentina echoes this. After seizing power in 1976, the Argentine military described its own program of forced disappearances, torture, and murder as a “process of national reorganization” aimed at remodeling society on “Western and Christian” lines.

For Feierstein, genocide can be considered a technology of power—a form of social engineering—that creates, destroys, or reorganizes relationships within a given society. It influences the ways in which different social groups construct their identity and the identity of others, thus shaping the way that groups interrelate. Feierstein establishes continuity between the “reorganizing genocide” first practiced by the Nazis in concentration camps and the more complex version—complex in terms of the symbolic and material closure of social relationships —later applied in Argentina. In conclusion, he speculates on how to construct a political culture capable of confronting and resisting these trends.

First published in Argentina, in Spanish, Genocide as Social Practice has since been translated into many languages, now including this English edition. The book provides a distinctive and valuable look at genocide through the lens of Latin America as well as Europe.

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Give Me Life

Iconography and Identity in East LA Murals

Holly Barnet-Sanchez

Chicanismo, the idea of what it means to be Chicano, was born in the 1970s, when grassroots activists, academics, and artists joined forces in the civil rights movimiento that spread new ideas about Mexican American history and identity. The community murals those artists painted in the barrios of East Los Angeles were a powerful part of that cultural vitality, and these artworks have been an important feature of LA culture ever since. This book offers detailed analyses of individual East LA murals, sets them in social context, and explains how they were produced. The authors, leading experts on mural art, use a distinctive methodology, analyzing the art from aesthetic, political, and cultural perspectives to show how murals and graffiti reflected and influenced the Chicano civil rights movement.

This publication is made possible in part by a generous contribution from Furthermore, a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund.

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Guarding the Border

The Military Memoirs of the Ward Schrantz, 1912-1917

By Jeff Patrick

Ward Loren Schrantz, of Carthage, Missouri, entered the U.S. Army in 1912, at a time when military leaders were still seriously debating the future of the horse cavalry. He left active military service in 1946, after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. Schrantz served capably at a time when the U.S. military was undergoing rapid technological and strategic transformation and, as a journalist and attentive observer, left a vivid personal account of his time in the Army and Missouri National Guard.   Editor Jeff Patrick has woven three undated versions of Schrantz's memoir into a single narrative focused on the sparsely documented pre–World War I period from 1912 to 1917, thus helping to fill a significant gap in the existing literature. Schrantz's memoir is notable not only for the period it covers, but also for its lively evocation of a soldier's life during the U.S.-Mexico border disturbances of the early twentieth century. Schrantz's account demonstrates the perennial contrast between how soldiers were expected to behave and how they actually behaved; it offers colorful and authentic details not usually available from official histories. Patrick also has added an appendix consisting of the letters that Schrantz wrote for publication in his hometown newspaper, the Carthage Evening Press.   These documents yield interesting insights into the attitudes and dispositions of U.S. soldiers during this time, as well as the perceptions and opinions of the "folks back home." Students, scholars, and others interested in military and borderlands history will find much to enjoy in Guarding the Border: The Military Memoirs of Ward Schrantz, 1912–1917.

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