“I Do Not Know at Times What To Do, Everything Turns Out Wrong": Mixed Children Negotiating Anglo and Californio Worlds in Post-Conquest California

Friday, January 4, 2013: 10:30 AM
Cornet Room (Sheraton New Orleans)
Erika Perez, Loyola Marymount University
In the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, young people of mixed ethnic backgrounds and their parents responded to assertions of Anglo-American power in California in a variety of ways.  Some adapted by increasing their business or social contacts with newcomers.  Others embraced new educational opportunities for mixed children in English-predominant schools or by employing tutors.  Mixed children in transitional California exhibited a spectrum of behaviors and choices from maintaining Catholic practices such as compadrazgo (godparenting), speaking and writing in Spanish and English, or adopting Anglicized names alongside Hispanic ones.  This paper demonstrates how Californio cultural influences persisted among some mixed children while others increasingly assimilated themselves into Anglo-American culture.  Mixed women encountered greater opportunities for integration into Anglo-American circles as the wives of immigrant businessmen, civil servants, and farmers than their male siblings.  By contrast, ethnically mixed males faced narrowing options in terms of land ownership, marriage, and employment options due to competition from foreign-born men, thus pointing to a gendering of post-conquest experiences for mixed peoples and families in early American California. 

This paper argues that mixed children negotiated competing cultures with varying success.  I look at several examples of individual mixed females and males to demonstrate their aspirations and frustrations from middle to late nineteenth century American California.  I argue that some mixed children began asserting a sense of individualism that occasionally conflicted with the concerns of their parents and extended families, while other mixed children tried desperately to remain loyal to parental desires, but with tremendous difficulty.  What emerges in this paper is an indication of new generational conflicts and declining parental authority due to the economic misfortunes of some families, but also the continuity of Californio culture well into the late nineteenth-century.

Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>