A Not-So Nuevo Past: Latina Histories in the U.S. South

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:40 AM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton)
Sarah McNamara, Texas A&M University
When white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017 people across the nation watched in horror and questioned: how could this happen here? In theory, the ideas of democracy and notions of a “republic for all,” should overpower the racist rhetoric of the alt-right. But, in many ways our national understanding of the intersections of race and place have obscured our ability to critically explore the longer history of these movements and see the subtle ways race, identity, hate, and nationalism are made.

This paper will connect the past to the present by exploring how race makes place in the U.S. South through the lens of Tampa, Florida. Long before Miami became “little Havana,” Ybor City and Tampa were the Latinx capitals of the U.S. South. From the turn of the twentieth century through the 1950s, political networks and cultural identities formed by immigrants in Tampa connected the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. I argue that within this nexus of the global south, Tampa became a space of transnational connections that influenced the city’s physical shape as well as the political and social consciousness of the people within it. Much like today, the power of difference in Tampa was palpable at mid-century, and Latinas and Latinos originally worked with African Americans to attack Jim Crow laws and vigilante violence to expand the boundaries of what it meant to be Latinx and American. By the late 1930s, however, these interracial alliances began to erode as white Latinas and Latinos defined themselves against blackness, and created a new non-white but non-black identity. Through the investigation of court cases, oral histories, labor union, and urban renewal records, this presentation will illustrate the reciprocal relationship between race and place and explore the lasting repercussions of this history.

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