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  • The Border Crossed Us: Rhetorics of Borders, Citizenship, and Latina/o Identity by Josue David Cisneros
  • Margath A. Walker
The Border Crossed Us: Rhetorics of Borders, Citizenship, and Latina/o Identity. Josue David Cisneros. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2014. 229 pp. $49.95 cloth (ISBN 978-0-8173-1812-3); $49.95 electronic (ISBN 978-0-8173-8723-5).

The field of border studies is increasingly crowded, a logical outcome given that material and metaphorical borders are everywhere. Josue David Cisneros sidesteps the daunting task of reviewing this massive literature by entering into a more specific debate around the linkages between bordering and citizenship in the context of Latina/o immigration and border security. The book's provocative title is drawn from immigrants' rights movements and refers to the ways in which the borders of US citizenship have "multiply crossed, cut across, and have been crossed by Latina/o communities since the nation's inception" (p. 11). Using the rhetorical device of antimetabole, The Border Crossed Us inverts the common notion of who belongs and who doesn't. Cisneros explores the possibilities of vernacular discourse to remake borders through case studies in different historical epochs including the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, Chicana/o activism of the 1960s, and contemporary immigration activism. From the broad perspective of rhetoric—here taken to mean written, spoken, visual, and embodied acts—borders and citizenship are mutually constituted rather than simply a cause or an effect of one another. Or as the author states, drawing on Kent A. Ono: "borders go beyond borders and so does their function" (p. 4). Geographers will be very familiar with such a position and so the more interesting argument is Cisneros's finding that Latina/o immigrant groups have used language to simultaneously claim belonging and challenge aspects of national identity.

The Border Crossed Us traces the intricacies of rhetorical battles in detailed case studies across four chapters along with an introduction and a concluding chapter. Chapter 2, "Negotiating the Border," takes up nineteenth-century debates about Mexican-American citizenship focusing on the California Constitutional Conventions of 1849 and 1879. The former took place not even a year after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and would determine the conditions for California's acceptance into the United States. Cisneros' analysis of this early contestation between dominant and vernacular forms of citizenship is especially enlightening because it clearly shows how race, coloniality, and gender were negotiated and integrated into the Union. Cisneros argues that vernacular rhetorics were ultimately unsuccessful due to the internalization of colonial power relations. Chicana/o activist groups of the 1960s are the subject of Chapter 3. Analysis centers on the discourse of the Alianza Federal de Mercedes during the Civil Rights Era, an organization lobbying for the return of Mexican and Spanish land grants guaranteed by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Amidst rumors that the group would be coordinating resistance in a small New Mexico town in June of 1967, the local district attorney arrested several Alianza members. Subsequent actions between Alianza and authorities resulted [End Page 187] in a violent confrontation where two policemen were shot. While the events are perhaps well-known, Cisneros elucidates the discursive mechanisms employed by the group, which enacted citizenship while embracing separatism. The demand for equal rights within calls for revolution represents what Chela Sandoval calls an "oppositional consciousness" (p. 78) making this chapter required reading for an introductory course on Chicana/o Studies.

Fast-forward nearly 40 years and it is interesting to see some of the similarities and disjunctures between events of 1967 and La Gran Marcha of 2006. In Chapter 4, Cisneros analyzes protests and demonstrations over immigration policy like the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. Recognizing the deep ambivalence about immigrants' role in US society, La Gran Marcha problematized essentialized notions of what it means to be a migrant. It did so by fusing multiple citizenship traditions to embrace transnationalism and by positioning the solidarity of documented and undocumented bodies. The final empirical chapter, "Beyond Borders?" extends the arguments of the previous chapter though ethnographic analysis of the Boston protests in response...


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