Thresholds and Kin: Mexican Women’s Transborder Domesticity in the Territorial North American Southwest

Saturday, January 4, 2020: 1:30 PM
New York Ballroom East (Sheraton New York)
Katherine Massoth, University of Louisville
Littered throughout the correspondence of Mexican women in the second half of the nineteenth century, there are requests for help with chores, lists of tasks completed, and request to visit kin on the other side of the U.S.-Mexico border. The letters seem mundane. However, when placed in the larger contexts of colonization and territorial acquisition that occurred with the creation of the U.S.-Mexico border, the content of these letters reveals the role of the boundary in women’s lives. My paper rethinks the current image of the U.S.-Mexico border as a barrier dividing families by examining how, between 1863 and 1912, some women of Mexican descent on both sides practiced transborder domesticity. By documenting the daily transborder activities of the Amador and Ruiz families, along with other families, I argue that these domestic networks allowed some middle-class women to sustain kin relationships and their households across the U.S.-Mexico border after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. I argue that the women of the Amador and Ruiz families were not merely crossing the border to complete chores but were preserving close familial bonds within their regional communities. These activities also allowed women to maintain cultural and economic ties that skirted official border enforcement between Las Cruces, New Mexico Territory and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. My paper suggests that the women’s frequent traveling and social visits across the border, for simply canning, housesitting, or cleaning, undermined, in a local manner, the U.S. and Mexico’s attempts at separating the two nations after 1848. In these moments, kin and household thresholds speak to how the border was not a real division but instead a gateway in daily life.
Previous Presentation | Next Presentation >>