Race and Place: The Role of Geography and Space in Latinx Identity and Resistance Movements

AHA Session 254
Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Salon 12 (Palmer House Hilton, Third Floor)
Michael Innis-Jimenez, University of Alabama
Paul Alexander Kramer, Vanderbilt University

Session Abstract

The three papers proposed here consider the role of geographical setting, or simply “place,” in the development of various Latinx identities and examine the ways in which these places—California, El Paso, and Ybor City, Florida—and the contexts and circumstances in which they existed at various times in the twentieth century transformed the identities of the ethnic people who inhabited them over time. Eladio Bobadilla argues that California’s role as the “new Ellis Island” in the 1980s and 1990s made it a place where both nativists and immigrants’ rights activists sought to experiment with new tactics and movements, both for and against immigrants’ rights. Dr. Sandra Enríquez explores the ways in which El Paso, as an urban border town, produced fierce struggles between ethnic working-class people who had long called the region home and middle-class (usually white) city leaders who sought urban revitalization at the cost of established communities. Dr. Sarah McNamara examines the ways in which Ybor City and Florida’s Cuban diaspora, Puerto Rican citizens, and Mexican immigrants created a truly transnational community, and who negotiated their place, first as Latinxs, then as non-black, in the process creating complex social relations and raising questions about social relations, while simultaneously revealing the importance of transnational and supranational perspectives on race and identity. Together, these three scholars and their presentations argue that the role of place matters when discussing and historicizing ethnic identities and movements. They also call for an examination of ethnicity that looks beyond the local and even the national, in order to best understand how international relations, immigration and refugee policy, and emerging discourses of civil and human rights have shaped the identities and struggles of Latinx peoples in the United States.
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