Linking US and Mexican Histories of Violence: Extralegal Justice on Both Sides of the Border

AHA Session 125
Friday, January 6, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Room 605 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Michael J. Pfeifer, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
William D. Carrigan, Rowan University

Session Abstract

The aim of this panel is three-fold. First, it aims to pluralize the history of lynching and extralegal justice in the United States by expanding our understanding of its geographical, ethnic, and racial underpinnings. It does so by bringing to the fore the multiple instances of collective and vigilante violence that impacted Mexicans in the U.S.-Mexico borderland as well as in various states of Mexico. Secondly, it seeks to analyze the role that extralegal forms of violence played in U.S.-Mexico’s tense and contentious relationship during the second half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century.  Thirdly, and building on the theme of the 131 AHA meeting, it seeks to link the experiences, power dynamics and representations of extralegal violence in-between US and Mexico’s histories.

Nicholas Villanueva Jr.’s paper traces the rise of Anglo-American collective violence during the early years of the 1910s. Set against the background of the Mexican Revolution and of the Anglo Texan racial stereotypes towards Mexicans, Villanueva Jr. analyzes two different instances of mob violence marked by impunity and by the rise of an injurious racial order. José Ángel Hernández’s work, in turn, looks at three episodes of collective violence in the town of La Ascension, Chihuahua, all underpinned by both political turmoil and social unrest. The three cases, situated in the years 1871, 1892, and 2010, offer a window into the violence that has long characterized the U.S.-Mexican border. Going beyond a linear understanding of history, Hernández seeks to identify the potential patterns and commonalities linking these three events. Gema Santamaría’s paper brings to the fore the role that public understandings and representations of U.S. lynching had in 1930s Mexico.  It furthermore highlights the similarities between those discourses that sought either to justify or to legitimate lynching and extralegal forms of justice on both sides of the border. Taking together, the papers in this panel contribute to pluralize and expand our understanding of collective and extralegal violence in Mexico and the U.S. as well as to establish new historical and analytical linkages between the histories of these two countries. As such, the panel aims at fostering a comparative dialogue between historians working in Mexico and the United States. We expect the panel to be of interest for students, professors, and professionals working in the fields of U.S. and Latin American history.

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