I Have the Honor to Inform You That (Yesterday) the 4th of July, Was Duly Celebrated in This Port

Friday, January 6, 2017: 10:50 AM
Plaza Ballroom A (Sheraton Denver Downtown)
Evan C. Rothera, Penn State University
On July 4, 1853, Edward Everett triumphantly affirmed the permanence of the Fourth of July in United States public and political culture. No one, Everett argued, “who has attended this day’s exercises, or is now present, will be disposed to concur in the opinion, which we sometimes hear expressed, that the interest of the Fourth of July, is on the wane; — that it is a worn-out, old-fashioned affair, which has ceased to have any significance to us.” Everett was right. Interest in Fourth of July celebrations and pageantry; in processions, toasts, barbecues, banquets, and, especially, oratory, remained elevated and intense throughout the United States during the Era of Civil Wars and Reconstructions. However, interest in this holiday was not limited to the United States. Mexican officials proved adept at using Fourth of July celebrations for their own purposes, including as a means to strengthen the ties between the two countries. This paper begins by arguing that Fourth of July celebrations were not casualties of the U. S. Civil War, but continued unabated and saw the participation of new actors including African Americans and Mexicans. It then analyzes Fourth of July celebrations in Mexico. In an era when people in the United States were reforging nationalism and a white republic, historians have overlooked the Mexican contribution to this process. Nationalist festivals, in this case Fourth of July celebrations in Mexico, were a means by which the U.S. and Mexico could be brought into closer alignment. However, if nationalist festivals served international ends, they also threatened the budding rapprochement because of the nativism they could embody. Nationalism, nativism, and commemoration were not exclusively U.S. or Mexican problems. Rather, they were hemispheric issues that are best understood from a transnational perspective.