Mexican by Any Other Name: The Hispano Homeland Debate and the Racial Currents of Hispanidad

Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:30 PM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park)
John Nieto-Phillips, Indiana University
In the 1980s, geographer Richard Nostrand sparked controversy by presuming to map “the Hispano homeland” as a discrete cultural region spanning northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. Nostrand argued that "Spanish Americans" possessed a distinctive subculture that had endured since Spanish colonial times. Since the 1980s, scholars and activists have vigorously contested whether Spanish Americans are "Spanish" at all. While many New Mexican families embrace their language, land, and culture as emblems of their hispanidad (Spanishness), some critics denounce Spanish-American identity as a “fantasy heritage” rooted in racial whitening, self-deception, and in the oppression of Native Americans. The Hispano Homeland controversy lays bare longstanding ideological currents and scholarly ideas about race, language, and land. Those currents and ideas have their origins in the first half of the twentieth century, when regional identity politics and the tourist economy converged with elements of a global movement known as Hispanism, which entailed a popular and scholarly fascination with the Spanish language, and with Spanish history and culture. This talk will retrace the contours of global Hispanism and suggest its impact on contemporary Latina/o/x identities in New Mexico, and in the United States, more broadly. The Hispano Homeland debate can be understood as a chapter in the evolution of U.S. racial ideologies and identities during course of the twentieth century.
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