Conclusion: Imagining and Working toward Gringostroika
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

199 Conclusion Imagining and Working toward Gringostroika A Pilgrimage to Pedro It is late February 2015, and I am headed to the Disneyland of antiMexican racialization. South of the Border is a Mexican-themed tourist trap located in Dillon, South Carolina, that lures travelers on their way to Myrtle Beach or otherwise traveling the New York City–Florida corridor . I had heard about South of the Border from Louis Mendoza, who had visited there as part of his 2007 trip across the United States.1 When the opportunity came about to speak at UNC, Chapel Hill about whiteness on the border, I knew that a trip south would be necessary: part research excursion, part pilgrimage to a dystopian fantasyland of Mexicans within the U.S. white imagination. Before my trip, I was assured by Ariana Vigil that many Latinas/os in North Carolina have stories about their encounters with South of the Border. Friends from the area shared their recollections—mixtures of horror and humor—and made sure I would travel the main route via I-95 so as not to miss the racially encoded billboards. On each the image of South of the Border’s mascot Pedro beckoned. For the uninitiated, Pedro is South of the Border’s cartoon Mexican, draped in a serape and donning a sombrero, sometimes standing, but often lounging on a cactus for rest. The signs did not disappoint: “Pedro’s Weather Report: Chili Today–Hot Tamale!,” “You’re always a wiener at Pedro’s,” and “Don’t be a lost injun, make a reservation!” Today, South of the Border is a large complex of attractions deployed to lure in families and separate them from their money. This tourist destination offers a hotel, seven souvenir stores, six restaurants (one shaped like a sombrero), an arcade, amusement rides, a reptile exhibit, and other attractions on several acres. This local tourist empire, however , grew out of a small grocery store. In 1949 Alan Schafer partnered 200 | Conclusion with his father as they took over his grandfather’s store. Because North Carolina had limited how much beer businesses could store at a time, Schafer relocated the family business south of the North Carolina-South Carolina border and emphasized beer sales, under the name South of the Border Beer Depot. Schafer began selling tourist souvenirs only after a road-weary salesman sold him some stuffed souvenirs for cash to get home. Over the years, Schafer became a local political player. He ran behind-the-scenes political campaigns, lobbied for gambling, and spent a year in federal prison for voter fraud. South of the Border diversified and grew over the years as well, playing upon the location south of the North Carolina border to allude to and signify upon the border of the U.S. racial imagination. Pedro became an icon for advertising, but even though he signals the Mexican Other, his naming bears the traces of other forms of racialization. South of the Border had hired several Lumbee Indians to work at the hotel. When an early guest began referring to these Indigenous workers as Pedro—or Pedros—Schafer found the name for his iconic Mexican.2 When I arrive, I am surprised by the size of the destination, the vastness magnified by the emptiness and quiet as it is just opening for the day. One white former Carolinian told me that the place had lost some of its luster over the years. However, I am visiting in the middle of winter , at the start of the day: what must this place look like during peak season? I travel the grounds, see the attractions that are open. Sadly, the tower and sombrero-shaped observation deck are closed, due to high winds, the employee tells me. The gift shops are all open though and increase in activity as lunch hour draws near. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of souvenirs are cheap, Mexican-themed, and made in China: T-shirts, ponchos, back scratchers, snow globes, and much, much more—most adorned with sleeping Mexican Pedros. But not all is Mexican. Capitalism, nostalgia, and white supremacy are rarely so discrete . Small sections of gift shops are dedicated to items invoking Pacific Island exoticism and Native American spirituality for sale. Reminding visitors that there is more than one type of border state in U.S. history, Union and Confederacy souvenirs are readily available as well. At South of the Border, you can one-stop-shop for a Civil War–era hat, a Pedro...


pdf

Subject Headings

  • Mexican Americans -- Race identity.
  • Mexicans -- United States -- Race identity.
  • Whites -- United States -- Race identity.
  • Mexican Americans in popular culture -- United States.
  • Chicano movement.
  • Stereotypes (Social psychology).
  • Racism -- United States.
  • United States -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects.
  • Mexico -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects.
  • United States -- Race relations.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access