- Nuevo South: Latinas/os, Asians, and the Remaking of Place by Perla M. Guerrero
National anxieties around immigration and race appear to be at a fever pitch, generating frequent claims that racism and xenophobia under the Trump administration are uniquely pernicious. In this context, Perla M. Guerrero's Nuevo South: Latinas/os, Asians, and the Remaking of Place offers an essential historical view into the longevity of racialization and antiimmigrant hostility. Bringing together insights from Latina/o/x Studies, Southern Studies, American Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, and Geography, and blending extensive archival research and policy analysis with in-depth interviews with Arkansans, Guerrero's book serves as a critical guide to the history and geography of racial transformation in Arkansas and beyond.
Nuevo South opens with the premise of understanding the demographic shifts that have transformed the American South, as well as the Midwest and Great Plains regions, over the past three decades, a transformation due largely to the arrival of immigrants from Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala as well as from farther-flung origins like Somalia (Stefanie Chambers, Somalis in the Twin Cities and Columbus: Immigrant Incorporation in New Destinations, Temple University Press, 2017) and the Marshall Islands (Emily Mitchell-Eaton, "New Destinations of Empire: Imperial Migration from the Marshall Islands to Northwest Arkansas," PhD diss., Syracuse University, 2016). This demographic transformation has been particularly dramatic in Arkansas: in the 1990s, the state saw positive Latinx population growth in every county, even those with net population losses (121), and from 1990 to 2000, Arkansas's immigrant population grew by 196%, the fourth-fastest growth rate of any state in the country (R. Capps et al., "A Profile of Immigrants in Arkansas," Urban Institute, http://www.urban.org, 2007). Nuevo South scholars like Helen Marrow in New Destination Dreaming: Immigration, Race, and Legal Status in the Rural American South (Stanford University Press, 2011), Steve Striffler in Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America's Favorite Food (Yale University Press, 2005), Julie Wiese in Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the US South since 1910 (UNC Press Books, 2015), and Jamie Winders in Nashville in the New Millennium: Immigrant Settlement, Urban Transformation, and Social Belonging (Russell Sage Foundation, 2013) have explored how immigration to the South—prompted by the expansion of the poultry industry and playing out against the backdrop of a (presumed) black-white racial binary—has remade the region and altered place-based meanings there. Guerrero's book brings to this field a much-needed focus on Arkansas, a site from which she teases out multiscalar processes of racialization. She asks: "What can the reception of refugees and immigrants in Arkansas tell us about racialization, the process by which institutions and individuals form, invoke, adapt, reformulate, and strengthen racial meanings?" (4). Her answers to this question make up the substance of this book.
Chapters 2 and 3 address this question by looking to the arrival and "processing" of different refugee populations at Arkansas's Fort Chaffee after World War II. Looking first to Vietnamese refugee arrivals in the 1970s and then to the detention of Cuban Marielitos and Haitian "entrants" in the 1980s, Guerrero examines local—mainly white and largely hostile—reception of these populations and the racialized tropes that colored their responses. Local reception was shaped not only by national discourses of "yellow peril," criminality, anti-Black racism, and queer-antagonism, but also by regionally specific discourses of Christian hospitality and by state-federal tensions over racial integration, most famously in 1957, when Governor Faubus mobilized the Arkansas National Guard in Little Rock to resist federal orders to desegregate public schools. These histories form an essential precursor to Latinx immigrants' reception in subsequent decades, Guerrero contends (though her argument could be strengthened in places by showing how, or if, Arkansans made explicit connections between refugee arrivals and Latinx immigration to the state).
Perhaps the book's strongest contribution to Nuevo South scholarship is its thorough exploration of why Latinxs chose to relocate to...