Symposium Introduction

In his study of the Modoc War of 1872–73, Boyd Cothran describes the nineteenth-century as a period that “perfected” the imperial mythology of American innocence. In an attempt to portray indigenous peoples as criminal threats to the enlightened, civilized, and white settlers of the Republic, he argues, the media succeeded in convincing “white Americans that they were the victims of the Indian wars and not in fact the victorious aggressors.”1 Tragically, these early colonial formations and mythologies still play a significant role in how we construct the other, the savage, and the terrorist. In fact, as both Cothran and María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo point out, it’s no coincidence that the US military’s code name for Osama Bin Laden was none other than “Geronimo.”

Winner of the 2017 John Hope Franklin Prize for the most outstanding book published in American studies, María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo’s Indian Given: Racial Geographies Across Mexico and the United States, examines how the figure of the indio bárbaro still frames our understanding of the “savage other” today. The title of the book, she explains,

is intentionally a play on the derogatory term “Indian giver.” An “Indian giver” is someone who takes back something they have willingly given or sold, and the slur derives its meaning from another popular myth of U.S. history, that the Indians gifted colonists their land, fair and square, and now they unjustly demand its return. By contrast, Mexican historiography openly recognizes the violence and injustice of indigenous dispossession and the hands of Spanish conquistadors. (12)

Drawing on a rich array of sources like laws, maps, novels, billboards, and even the 2007 film No Country for Old Men, Saldaña-Portillo shows “that Mexican and US national geographies are neither natural nor strictly politically derived. Rather, they are the effect of visualizing indios and Indians in landscape” (17). Depending on various spatial and temporal factors, Indigenous peoples were imagined in many ways. They were tame, but also barbaric. They were savages. Saviors. Victims. These varied and oftentimes contradictory views reflect how indigenous representations were constantly in flux, playing essential roles in the formation of space, place, and identity in the US-Mexico border. “In sundry ways,” Saldaña-Portillo writes, “Indians and indios are the condition of possibility for the emergence of the United States as well as Mexico” (11).

In the symposium’s first essay, Jacqueline Hidalgo praises Saldaña-Portillo’s rich methodological approach that includes literature, film, and a “Freudian psychoanalysis of horror and melancholy.” For Hidalgo, it is important that Indian Given draw on these vast resources “because navigating the losses of whiteness in the Americas requires a different sent of analytical tools and approaches than employed in measuring something more empirical.” By helping to contextualize what Hidalgo calls the “racial nightmares of our present,” Saldaña-Portillo exposes the unsettling, uneven, shifting, and oftentimes interrelated notions of race in the Americas. As a religious studies scholar, Hidalgo calls on her fellow colleagues in the field to wrestle with the significant implications of Saldaña-Portillo’s work. “Religious notions and practices around purity and around scriptures as technologies of power have obviously informed racial geographies,” Hidalgo observes. And while religious rhetoric and practices have contributed to its share of “nightmarish” racial violence, Hidalgo reminds us that “so too have religious geographies been used in attempts to broaden our sense of humanity.” With Saldaña-Portillo, then, Hidalgo invites us to “find glimpses of utopian alternatives” that seek to interrupt the violent effects and affects of racial geographies.

In our second essay, Gabriel Estrada similarly notes the substantive contributions made by Saldaña-Portillo’s methodical approach in Indian Given, especially in its ability to influence future researchers in Chicanx/Latinx studies and indigeneity discourses. At the same time, Estrada invites Saldaña-Portillo to consider a few critiques. For one, Estrada questions the privileging of certain theoretical voices like Henri Lefebvre and Sigmund Freud over those of prominent American Indian theorists. “To critique US, Mexican, and Chicano settlerism without critiquing Indian Given’s European male architects of modern and postmodern theory for their cis-heteropatriarchal colonial legacies,” Estrada writes, “creates an uneven analysis.” Ultimately, Estrada invites readers to consider what kinds of conversations might open up if “4th World/decolonial/indigenous methodologies” served as the book’s primary analytical framework instead of Saldaña-Portillo’s “3rd World/post-colonial/post-Chicano Nationalist methods.” In addition, Estrada wonders if Indian Given pays sufficient attention to the intersectional dynamics of race, class, and gender. Estrada proposes, for example, that a more focused gendered critique could contribute to Saldaña-Portillo’s discussion of the “male warrior stereotype as imagined within the male settler imaginary.” One of Estrada’s worries considering this “male settler imaginary” is that it too often oversimplifies the “complex indigenous genders, kinships, and cosmologies” that require our careful exploration and analysis.

Lori Gallegos de Castillo, in the symposium’s final essay, offers the provocative question: “Is there or has there ever been a feminine analog to the indio bárbaro?” Traditionally, she explains, the “barbaric” has often been understood in terms of how one group might threaten the purity, security, or wellbeing of a culture’s “good” women. But what would happen, she asks, if we refuse to “cover over the profoundly complex and historically crucial stories of agency and victimhood of women,” and instead, following Saldaña-Portillo, challenge the numerous “historical narratives that portray indigenous groups as mere resistors to colonial expansion?” “Saldaña-Portillo’s accounts of different indigenous groups’ various political interests, their complex and shifting alliances, their acts of revenge and betrayal, and even their participation in the brutal violence that was a part of political or military strategy,” Gallegos de Castillo writes, “have the important effect of illuminating the agency of indigenous peoples in ways that simpler resistance narratives do not.” As such, Gallegos de Castillo invites us to complicate the dominant male-driven narratives of colonizer (father) and colonized (son), making sure we not only examine the phenomenology of being an “hijo de la chingada” but also that of “being la chingada, or la que chinga.” After all, Gallegos de Castillo asks, how are we as scholars “able to tell the stories of mass miscegenation and of the birth of a nation without telling the stories of actual women who were mothers, lovers, victims, contributors, and resistors to colonialism?”

Whether we’re talking about terrorists in the middle East or the drug cartels in northern Mexico, Saldaña-Portillo shows that that our understandings of the “savage other” cannot be fully grasped without interrogating the early colonial perceptions of indigenous peoples—both real and imagined—in the U.S. and Mexico border region. So what if Bin Laden is nicknamed Geronimo? What’s the harm in a seemingly innocuous codename? Saldaña-Portillo argues that “this naming gesture” turns both Al Qaeda and the Apache into “relics of a past long fought and forgotten.” In addition, it “frees the imperial U.S. citizen equally from her responsibility in the U.S. genocidal past against indigenous peoples and from her responsibility over the U.S. genocidal present in the Middle East.” In short, Indian Given forces us to examine the colonial ideologies that have us view the violence of Bin Laden and Geronimo as “barbaric,” while the imperial, racial, and genocidal violence of the West is seen as “civilized.” “Naming bin Laden Geronimo clears him and Al Qaeda out of the way of the United States’ imperial, triumphal march toward instituting democracy everywhere,” Saldaña-Portillo concludes, “precisely as the indio bárbaro heterotemporally haunts the theater of war in the Middle East” (258).


  1. Boyd Cothran, “Enduring Legacy: U.S.-Indigenous Violence and the Making of American Innocence in the Gilded Age,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 14 (2015) 570.

Jacqueline Hidalgo

Response

The Costs of Whiteness

Rethinking North American Racializations with Indian Given

Although I was looking forward to taking a break from Aztlán, I am grateful for the opportunity to converse with María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo’s ambitious and complex tome, Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States. The book is a difficult and unsettling project (and I mean unsettling in a good way), tracing the lines that have been drawn, have intersected, and have conflicted amid the spatio-racial visualizations of both Mexico and the United States. Her work unsettles the settler colonial histories of both nations, troubles those maps we tend to hold in our minds. Given her commitment to unsettling us, this book is unsurprisingly “heterotemporal” (her word) and interdisciplinary, reading historically, reading literarily, reading psychoanalytically, traversing spaces and eras from the 1550 Valladolid debates in Spain to contemporary representations of narcotraficantes in northern Mexico and the US Southwest.

In my response I want to dwell paradoxically in the unsettling effects and affects that she charts, to think about the striking “uncanny persistence” (21) of racial nightmares that we in the United States perhaps better recognize now than when No Country for Old Men debuted (2007), now that these racial geographies have been brought back to the spotlight through the efforts of #BlackLivesMatter, the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, and—perhaps unintentionally—through the myriad terrifying choices of the Donald J. Trump administration (which threatens to end DACA as I write). It is unsurprising then that Saldaña-Portillo does not just craft a history for us. She also draws us into cinema, literature, and Freudian psychoanalysis of horror and melancholy, because navigating the losses of whiteness in the Americas requires a different set of analytical tools and approaches than employed in measuring something more empirical. Although she is concerned with the “wages of whiteness,” she also seeks to understand what these wages cover over and elide.1 She must bridge Freud and social theory, because, as she reveals, our individual nightmares are also bound up with deep structural conflicts between multiple imaginations that co-constitute our individual psyches and the spaces of our nations.

What I find so admirable about Saldaña-Portillo’s book—what makes this book a work you must read carefully and more than once—is her commitment to the complexity of race in the Americas. There are no straight lines to follow in explaining the racial nightmares of our present. Her book is precisely about the way that we must cultivate a “spatial understanding of time” (24) that does not seek neat causes and effects. Indian Given focuses on the figure of the “Indian”; real Native peoples matter to this book, but she mostly examines the unreal, the representations of “Indians” and indigeneity, and the ways that these representations have created the United States and Mexico as nations.

Saldaña-Portillo refuses to constrain our understanding by assuming the neat dominance of only one racial geography; rather she offers us “heterotemporality and racial geography as a theory of the present,” a way of seeing that focuses on “the clash of the multiple racial epistemologies of coloniality and postcoloniality transpiring in one region, one citizen-subject at a time” (25). We have for too long thought that Mexico’s racial geographies are distinct from the United States’; she shows how race is different in different places and times, but race in the Americas is also interrelated, developing in concert, in resonance, and in conflict. She frequently draws both national imaginaries together in each chapter, making every piece of this book a worthwhile and complex read.

The Costs of Whiteness

Saldaña-Portillo’s title, Indian Given, intentionally signifies on a racialized insult in the English-language. Her project reveals how settler colonists and their descendants have created figural Indians and laid them at the foundations of their colonial projects, burying real Indians and trying to violently refute indigenous survivance.2 Thus her book depicts the stagings and restagings of whiteness across US and Mexican histories by examining how whiteness (and mestizaje) has made itself through figuring and representing Indians. She draws on Cheryl Harris’s work on “whiteness as property” in order to explicate the ways that racial regimes have been graphed onto US territories, but also Mexican territories, in order to protect the rights of some at a great cost to others.3

Her work does more than elucidate the makings of whiteness, however. Saldaña-Portillo also helps us to see how even proximity to whiteness is always already a loss. Ethnic Mexicans in the United States were compelled to be “white by law” in order to access the privileges of citizenship, even as they were often refused many of the privileged properties of whiteness in practice.4 This proximity to whiteness (being made almost, but not quite, white)5 exacted great costs, some of which were literal but others were more psychological. Saldaña-Portillo compellingly labels these costs as “the trauma of possibilities foreclosed” (28). I would be fascinated by a sustained conversation between Saldaña-Poritllo and Hector Amaya’s work, Citizenship Excess, which considers the costs that citizenship has exacted on those ethnic Mexicans with access to it as well.6

As a student of the Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s, I was sucked in by the complex way Saldaña-Portillo accounts for and critiques Chicanx nationalist imaginaries, particularly the uncanny mobilization of the mythical Aztec homeland, Aztlán, and the racial melancholia coursing through Oscar Zeta Acosta’s Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (1972). As she shows, Aztlán, in its 1970s iterations among Chicanxs, too often restricted itself to the US borders, refusing a connection with Mexico even as it erased Native geographies in the United States’ southwestern lands. Although many ethnic Mexicans in the United States were/are also Native peoples, many of whom in the 1960s and 1970s also had ancestral ties to the Native peoples of the southwestern United States in particular, Aztlán awkwardly relied on a particular Aztec imperial imaginary.

For many ethnic Mexicans who turned toward Aztlán in the 1960s and 1970s, they found within it some resonance of home, often complexly imagined and negotiated; the tensions of Aztlán as a utopian imagination that appeals to experiences of displacement is something I chart in the second chapter of my book. Like Saldaña-Portillo, I want to avoid the “overly optimistic” readings of Aztlán, ones that always fall into a “Romantic emplotment of anticolonialism” (225). I interviewed Chicanx activists who saw Aztlán as appealing not because they were interested in the specific Aztec past but because it provided a shared language for grounding the United States as indigenous space; some specifically identify with and are affiliated with particular Native peoples in the United States and Mexico. Others, however, are critical of Aztlán now in hindsight, seeing it as too imperial, too limited.7

Of interest, to me, however, is how Saldaña-Portillo examines appeals to Aztlán as a practice borne of loss. Her chapter is titled “Losing It!” for many reasons, but one of them is because she examines how ethnic Mexicans in the United States were forced to sacrifice their indigenous connections on the altar of citizenship in the United States, a citizenship that forced them to choose “whiteness” even when other social circumstances taught them they were not really white. Author and playwright (one who is notably mixed, with an Anglo father and ethnic Mexican mother) Cherríe L. Moraga directly recognizes how Aztlán responds to a melancholic register of loss when she states, “Aztlán gave language to a nameless anhelo [yearning] inside me. To me, it was never a masculine notion. It had nothing to do with the Aztecs and everything to do with the Mexican birds, Mexican beaches, and Mexican babies right here in Califas.”8 Moraga’s Aztlán does not quite sound like the restrictive one Saldaña-Portillo describes, perhaps because Moraga is interested in a “queer Aztlán,” one that defies some of the heteropatriarchal inscriptions of the 1960s and 1970s. Moraga’s Aztlán is about loss that is racial, gendered, and familial, and thus her Aztlán directly connects her to Mexico in ways that the Aztlán found in some 1960s literature does not. She also uses it to express fraught and awkward senses of indigenous solidarity.

Moraga’s Aztlán can be made more pliable precisely because it speaks to an anhelo; her Aztlán is a utopian no place ever in motion. I agree with Saldaña-Portillo’s description of Aztlán’s limits in much movement-era discourse. However, I wonder about Aztlán’s persistent appeal, and I wonder what Saldaña-Portillo might say about some of the other articulations of Aztlán, articulations that are filled with both longing and disgust for Aztlán’s own heterotemporal resonances.

Regardless of the diverse readings of Aztlán, an inscribed proximity to whiteness also yielded, among some ethnic Mexicans, a desire for some of whiteness’s properties. Pursuit of white enfranchisement, however, came at great costs. What I would love to read some day is a dialogue between Saldaña-Portillo’s Indian Given and Allyson Hobbs’s A Chosen Exile (2014).9 Hobbs explores different racial geographies than Saldaña-Portillo because Hobbs focuses more on the interaction of black-white racial dynamics solely within US borders; with a few limited exceptions, Hobbs mostly focuses on African Americans who have passed as white in US history.

Like Saldaña-Portillo, Hobbs draws on Harris’s notion of “whiteness as property” while showing how such a property has great cost. Whereas previous histories of African Americans passing as white emphasized what people gain when they pass as white, Hobbs charts a history of what legal whiteness has cost, and she is particularly interested in the loss of kin, the loss of familial connections, the loss of history, losses for which no white property could compensate. According to Saldaña-Portillo, the demands of US citizenship that forcefully separated ethnic Mexicans from indigeneity, forced them into “an engagement with lost indigenous identity . . . rather than an engagement with contemporary indigenous peoples” (232). As with Hobbs, we find another sort of scrambled kinship, a loss of kin as a cost of proximity to whiteness, with the consequence that Chicanxs such as Acosta approached indigeneity as something they had lost rather than as a connection to living Native communities. It is again a loss that cannot be compensated for; Acosta’s biography tracks the failures of psychological compensation (melancholia).

The Trauma of Foreclosed Possibilities and Religious Imaginaries

My own unsettled affects in reading both Saldaña-Portillo and Hobbs yields a desire to complement their work with an attention to that space where ethnic Mexicans and African Americans have often exorcized racial geographies, for good and for ill. Here I mean that the histories Hobbs and Saldaña-Portillo narrate have been informed by religious rhetorics, and responses to these histories have been staged and restaged in religious practices, however tenuous our definitions of religion here. I do not fault these scholars for not foregrounding something our own field refuses to define. I think they have undertaken work that now requires that we scholars of religion take up the freighted ways that the “religious” might have informed and might transpire as effects of these racial geographies.

Religious notions and practices around purity and around scriptures as technologies of power have obviously informed racial geographies. Indeed, Saldaña-Portillo’s first chapter shows how particular readings of Christian scriptures were mobilized in creating and debating early modern notions of the “human” in both Spanish and English colonialisms. Religious notions and religious practices have thus always been implicated in racial geographies and the nightmarish violence that inscribing race on the US landscape has effected; so too have religious geographies been used in attempts to broaden our sense of humanity. Saldaña-Portillo’s attention to “geo-graphy” as “earth writing” is also consonant with Vincent L. Wimbush’s attention to scripturalization as a technology of power and to José Rabasa’s work on writing as violence. Wimbush focuses on Olaudah Equiano’s responses to English colonialism and enslavement while Rabasa examines Spanish violence in northern New Spain, but both attend to the relationship between Christian scriptures and the violent practices and effects of settler colonialism and slavery.10

Given Saldaña-Portillo’s careful exegesis of Acosta’s autobiography, I wonder what her Freudian attention to melancholia might reveal about seemingly resistant religious practices and notions in the history of the Americas. In Charles H. Long’s examination of “The Oppressive Elements of Religion and the Religions of the Oppressed,” he elucidates how religious spaces and practices can be places where distinctive actors under the regimes of colonialism and enslavement have negotiated the traumas of these heterotemporal racial geographies. Through an examination of W. E. B. Du Bois’s writings, but also throughout the essays in Significations, Long articulates how oppressed religious practitioners have found their humanity in religion and this experience of humanization is their definition of religion, rather than a turn to oppressive forces, the mysterium tremendum that certain European and Euro-North American religious practitioners lay at the root of what we term the “religious.” Precisely in their engagements with “an-other world” the oppressed can find a world other than the oppressive one of the present.11

Long’s approach redirects our attention to the import of utopian religious practice and vision because the utopian is the terrain of the good and no place, of “an-other world” that responds to and disrupts this one. Thus, for Long, oppressed religious practices are precisely the terrain where worlds beyond the constraints of racial geographies may be encountered. As a scholar of religion, I wonder what happens if we look more closely now at different religious practices in the Americas with an eye particularly to how they manage heterotemporal registers of diverse and conflicting racial geographies (rather than neatly singular registers of racialization). How have religious terrains been spaces for working out conflicting racial traumas and melancholia? Perhaps we might also find glimpses of utopian alternatives that interrupt racial geographies’ “violent effects,” just as Saldaña-Portillo hopes to do in her work (31). I hope that, as future religion scholars chart the workings out of racial geographies within religious imaginaries, they maintain the astounding breadth and complexity Saldaña-Portillo upholds in her work. We must recognize that there are no straight lines, or linear answers as we unfurl racial and religious cartographies; instead there are complicated and conflicted heterotemporal resonances calling for careful analysis but refusing simple answers. One finds neither total hope nor total despair here.


  1. David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York: Verso, 1991).

  2. Gerald Vizenor, “Aesthetics of Survivance: Literary Theory and Practice,” Survivance: Narratives of Native Presence, ed. Vizenor (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008), 1–24.

  3. Cheryl I. Harris, “Whiteness as Property,” Harvard Law Review 106.8 (1993) 1709–91.

  4. For fuller arguments, see both Saldaña-Portillo and Ian Haney López, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 2006).

  5. Here I am playing a little with Homi K. Bhabha’s construction in “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,” in The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 86.

  6. Hector Amaya seems similarly interested in charting citizenship as a kind of capital that also has costs on those who try to access it, particularly those of ethnic Mexican descent in the United States. See Hector Amaya, Citizenship Excess: Latino/as, Media, and the Nation (New York: New York University Press, 2013).

  7. For a more elaborate sense of the diverse and dynamic articulations of Aztlán among different California activists, see Jacqueline M. Hidalgo, Revelation in Aztlán: Scriptures, Utopias, and the Chicano Movement (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 29–74.

  8. Cherríe L. Moraga, “Queer Aztlán: The Re-formation of Chicano Tribe,” in The Last Generation: Prose & Poetry (Boston: South End, 1993), 150–51.

  9. Allyson Hobbs, A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

  10. Vincent L. Wimbush, White Men’s Magic: Scripturalization as Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); José Rabasa, Writing Violence on the Northern Frontier: The Historiography of Sixteenth-Century New Mexico and Florida and the Legacy of Conquest (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000).

  11. Charles H. Long, Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion, Charles E. Winquist Series in Philosophical and Cultural Studies in Religion (Aurora, CO: Davies Group, 1995; reprint of 1986 Fortress ed.), 151.

  • María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo

    María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo

    Reply

    Response to Hidalgo

    First, I am grateful and honored by Jaqueline Hidalgo’s generous engagement with Indian Given. Dr. Hidalgo distills the questions I pose and seek to answer with eloquence and clarity. Indeed, to see my project reflected in Hidalgo’s words illuminates unintended aspects of Indian Given. Hidalgo refers to the indio bárbaro as the stuff of “racial nightmares.” While at several points in Indian Given I focused on the trace of indigenous peoples and the history of genocide as the stuff of nightmares for Mexican American and Anglo American characters in novels, memoirs, and films—and indeed submit such dreams to psychoanalysis—I did not set out intending to excavate the stuff of the national racial fears that grip the United States today, so focused was I on the locale of borderlands for the historically specific genealogy of the indio bárbaro. Although, as Hidalgo points out, the current conjuncture makes evident the terrifying consequences of enacting national policy solely on the basis of a fear of the indio bárbaro-cum-Mexican rapistcum-foreign terrorist-cum-Maras gangbanger. Similarly, while I was clearly interested with the formation of the settler-colonial subjectivity around literal and figural Indians, with the geographic carving out of colonial and national landscapes in accordance with foundational representations of the indigenous other, I did not understand the indio bárbaro as a necessary psychic precursor, facilitating what Roediger aptly calls “wages of whiteness” in the United States. Again, I was so focused on the geographic staging of the indigenous other across North America, that I was not always aware that I was also staging and restaging “whiteness across US and Mexican histories.” Hidalgo offers a bird’s-eye view of Indian Given that sees the indio bárbaro as photographic negative that defines white space, including, perhaps especially, the psychic space of whiteness.

    Moving on to Dr. Hidalgo’s important challenge to my analysis of Aztlán as a “practice borne of loss” that nevertheless fails to account for “Aztlan’s persistent appeal” in spite of its oft-critiqued heteronormativity, and less often critiqued erasure of indigeneity. I always tell my students that “good writing is rewriting,” meaning that with every draft one’s argument is sharpened and clarified, especially for oneself. Alas, I am destined to write and revise my critique of Aztlán until clarity prevails for myself and for my audience. In 2001, I published “Who’s the Indian in Aztlán? Re-Writing Mestizaje, Indianism, and Chicanismo from the Lacandón.”1 This was one of the earliest critiques of mestizaje, as it is expressed in the invention of Aztlán, to have emerged in the field of Chicanx Studies. With the confidence and brashness of which only a young, unwitting scholar is capable, I argued forcefully that Gloría Anzaldúa’s proposal of a mestiza consciousness—as an answer to both Anglo-American feminism and heteropatriachal Chicanismoerased contemporary indigenous peoples by invoking mythic Aztec goddesses as Chicana’s spiritual foremothers. Eighteen years later, I am still trying to get my argument in that article right. Not my critique of Anzaldúa’s appropriation of state sponsored Mexican indigenismo, I stand by that, as well as my critique of the indigenous erasure this entails. What my critique of Anzaldúa failed to take into account was the power of her reinvention of Aztlán, for after all, her mestiza consciousness of the borderlands is a feminist, queer reinvention of Aztlán, perhaps not as a physical geography but certainly as a psychic space. Anzaldúa and Moraga both offer us the terms for a queer reappropriation of Aztlán, but beyond this (or rather through this) they offer us the terms of psychic repair for the forms of racial violence to which Mexican Americans have historically been subjected.2

    The psychic repair offered by Anzaldúa and Moraga’s queer Aztláns is never more evident than in the classroom. Students are transformed as these queer theorists of color elucidate for them the crippling effects of racism and homophobia in their own lives, especially as experienced in their families and communities. Indeed, I will never forget the day, so many years and university positions ago, when I had to throw out my prepared lecture on Anzaldúa at the start of class, after a burly, biracial, straight football player stood up and testified, with tears in his eyes, how he finally recognized his experience in Anzaldúa’s “La Prieta”: the shame of being seen as lesser-than his lighter-skinned siblings despite his considerable academic achievements cut deep.3 Anzaldúa explained the source of his pain, allowing him to understand and forgive his parents. In a profound way, I researched and wrote Indian Given in part for that student, to explain for him and myself the psychic splitting that leads to the kind of racial violence that Anzaldúa and Moraga capture so poignantly. Aztlán, in its traditional or queer iterations, provides undeniable psychic healing for victims of racial denigration. Indeed, I chose psychoanalysis as my theoretical approach in Indian Given because it enables us to see loss and melancholia as reparative in themselves, rather than as pathologies to be overcome. Freud, in his conceptualization of the Ego, attributes all identifications to losses accumulated as mnemic traces in the unconscious.4 David Eng and David Kazanjian, in the introduction to their edited anthology Loss, provide us with a rigorous argument for the generative and productive aspects of melancholia, as “apprehensions of and attachments to loss and its phantasm never simply dwell in the past, for the very process of narrativizing loss orients an impulse toward the future.”5 If Aztlán is the phantasm of a collective loss of indigenous heritage occasioned by US conquest, then can it be a phantasmic impulse toward a utopic no-place futurity? When I suggest in Indian Given that Aztlán is borne of loss, I mean it precisely in this way, as a generative and productive narrativizing of a collective loss that points toward a collective future.

    For all these reasons, Aztlán cannot be dismissed because of its theoretical pitfalls, which are many, or its equally undeniable indigenous erasure. The psychic repair offered by Aztlán (even a queer utopic no place in motion) inevitably entails the fraught reclaiming of an indigenous ancestry from which most—though by no means all—Chicanxs have been severed in the ways outlined in Indian Given. It is an appropriation of indigenous identity that will understandably perturb Native Americans, but must this identification stand in the way of coalition with indigenous peoples for greater democratic inclusion and economic justice, or can it be a conduit toward coalition? That is the question for our times, especially as a growing percentage of Mexican immigrants are indigenous peoples who maintain active ties to their indigenous communities in their pueblos and who demand recognition as such from Chicanxs and US Native Americas alike. Of course, as indigenous Mexicans with roots in their sending communities, these new immigrants and their children will probably have no use for Aztlán, but as the United States has no metrics for accounting for their indigeneity, the racial violence suffered by them psychically continues to pivot on the legally-required severance of their identifications from their immediate indigeneity as an effect of US citizenship. These Mixtec, Zapotec, Chol, Tojolabal (the list goes on) indigenous Mexicans can only be recognized as Mexican American by US law, but might the collectivity gathered under queer Aztlán recognize their indigenous sisters and brothers along a different political axis of racial visibility?

    Finally, I could not agree more with Hidalgo’s assertion that “religious geographies [have] been used in attempts to broaden our sense of humanity” in ways that not only helped create the indio bárbaro and racial violence, but perhaps more significantly, in ways that enabled indigenous and enslaved peoples to negotiate and navigate “the traumas of these heterotemporal racial geographies.” This is an undeniable reality for any student of Latin American revolutionary or social movements. From the talking crosses that instructed Mayans to revolt against Creole exploitation in the Yucatan peninsula in 1847 to the liberation theology that led indigenous migrants in the Lacandon jungle to start the Zapatista revolution in 1994, Catholic and evangelical hermeneutics have provided indigenous peoples with the interpretative tools to transform their losses and oppression into world-altering moments of freedom in Mexican history, but also in the history of humanism.6 However, in a less spectacular way, might we consider the syncretic religious practices that developed across North and South America (spawned from oppressed indigenous religious practices), as the ways in which indigenous peoples “manage[d] heterotemporal registers of diverse and conflicting racial geographies”? Syncretic religious practices are reparative of loss because they enable the convergence of meaning systems, of cosmologies, beyond the trauma of the event of indigenous and Spanish encounter; syncretic religiosity is the quintessential example of Nestor García Canclini’s “hybrid culture,” staging the intrusion of modern time into the multivalent time of indigenous peoples, but also allowing for the partial reconstruction of indigenous cosmovisions.7 I would like to urge religious scholars, with Hidalgo, to consider the multiple ways in which the religious practices of the repressed have provided reparation of indigenous humanity. However, I would also urge religious scholars to consider how indigenous practice of religion has in turn altered the Eurocentric geo-graphing of the world. How did the encounter of Christianity with indigenous peoples of the American continent alter the philosophy of the religion itself? How have indigenous people shaped the gospel with their practice of Catholic and evangelical expressions of Christianity? We assume that the introduction of Christianity fundamentally transformed (to the point of destroying) indigenous religions, but how did indigenous peoples transform Christianity with their religious traditions? How did indigenous religious practice transform Christianity? I am not the scholar to take on this research, but such a study might transform the way in which we envision and historicize the conquest.


    1. Saldaña-Portillo, “Who’s the Indian in Aztlán? Re-Writing Mestizaje, Indianism, and Chicanismo from the Lacandón,” in The Latin American Subaltern Studies Reader, edited by Ileana Rodríguez and María Milagros López (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 402–23.

    2. For queer Aztlán, see Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1987), 1–25, 77–101; Cherríe Moraga, “Queer Aztlán: The Re-formation of the Chicano Tribe,” in The Last Generation: Prose & Poetry (Boston: South End, 1993), 29–74, and Loving in the War Years: Lo que nunca pasó pur sus labios (Boston: South End, 1983), 18–47, 90–145.

    3. Gloria Anzaldúa, “La Prieta,” in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings of Radical Women of Color, edited by Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga (New York: Kitchen Table, 1981), 198–209.

    4. Sigmund Freud, The Ego and the Id, translated by Joan Riviere (New York: Norton, 1960), 3–21.

    5. David Eng and David Kazanjian, eds., Loss (Berkeley: University of California Press), 13.

    6. For an analysis of how the Yucatec Maya of the nineteenth century reinscribed the terms of their humanity and theorized liberal concepts of freedom, see David Kazanjian, The Brink of Freedom: Improvising Life in the Nineteenth-Century Atlantic World (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), part 2, “Yucatán: Una Guerra Escrita,” 133–237.

    7. Nestor García Canclini, Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity, translated by Christopher L. Chiappari and Silvia L. López (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995).

Gabriel Estrada

Response

Commentary on Indian Given

As I complete my book manuscript, Two-Spirit Film Spaces: Trans* Indigenous Media from Seven Directions, I am struck by the transborder indigenous spatiality conversations that my own work could have with the important publication Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States, by Dr. Saldaña-Portillo. I begin this review with a positive evaluation of the Post-Colonial, Chicano, Race, Settler Colonial Studies, anti-NAFTA and anti-war implications of Indian Given. However, my real contributions here are to open discussions about how indigenous borderlands spatiality could be differently situated within methodologies of American Indian Studies, Religious Studies, Gender Studies, Media Studies, Xicana Studies, and California Indian Studies in complementary and contrasting ways. As a major point of spatiality analysis divergence, I mostly use fourth world / decolonial / indigenous methodologies in difference with Dr. Saldaña-Portillo, who centers postmodern third world / post-colonial / post-Chicano Nationalist methods in Indian Given.

To the credit of Indian Given, Saldaña-Portillo’s blending of historical research, contemporary media/literature, and future policy outcomes could assist future researchers interested in cartography, transborder, cultural, and indigeneity issues. Lefebvre is the guiding postmodern theorist who helps deconstruct Indian Given’s post-colonial indigenous mappings of the US/Mexican borderlands. As I understand it, Indian Given traces the settler trope and images of the indio bárbaro within the palimpsest territorial imaginary of the 1700s–present Spanish/Mexican Norte, the 1850–present US Southwest, and the 1970s–present Chicano Nationalist Aztlán. Saldaña-Portillo only rarely considers Southwest American Indian perspectives on their own shifting territories that overlap these settler claims. Indian Given’s nuanced tracing of Spanish and English Renaissance intellectual approaches to defining American land rights are important to understand how the subsequent post-colonial United States and Mexico carried on those intellectual colonial legacies in divergent ways. Dr. Saldaña-Portillo emphasizes how three territories invoke the savage Indian / indio bárbaro across mixed post/colonial time frames, especially within the settler border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California and in overlapping reference to La Comanchería and La Apachería indigenous spaces. She concludes that legal and cultural racialization of Chicanos and Mexicans hinges upon ambivalently embodying this historical frontier savagery. The book succeeds in following settler tropes of indigeneity across historical narratives entwined with contemporary ones. This approach ultimately invigorates colonial and post-colonial Borderlands Studies with historical implications on present-day policy and representations. One politically understated policy implication of the historical section is that the current legal separation of Native American sovereignty from Southwestern Mexican-American/Chicano ethnicity holds up under historical scrutiny although both groups have some shared roots in the same indigenous populations of the Greater Southwest. Indian Given’s emphasis on Apache, Pueblo, and Comanche historical presence and mixing in Chicano populations is the most thorough critique of the Chicano Nationalist mappings of the Southwest as a place of migratory Aztec origin and continued Aztec occupation. The coda that finally links the indio bárbaro with new permutations of drug traders in the Texas film No Place for Old Men (2007) and Mexican/US drug war politics is especially cogent. Here, the ending of the North American Free Trade Agreement and its related transnational War on Drugs is the most direct policy outcome that Saldaña-Portillo advocates.

I note four intradisciplinary Chicano Studies-related critiques on the book. First, Dr. Saldaña-Portillo could use more contextualization for Lefebvre, Freud, and others from secondary Chicanx/Latinx theorists before applying their ideas (23, 221). To critique US, Mexican, and Chicano settlerism without critiquing Indian Given’s European male architects of modern and postmodern theory for their cis-heteropatriarchal colonial legacies creates an uneven analysis. Later, I will advocate for more inclusion of American Indian theory at length. Second, the implicit separation of racialized Chicanos from politically sovereign American Indians is the Latino Studies and American Indian Studies disciplinary policy point of the book that needs more emphasis. Many enrolled American Indian scholars will find it a relief that Indian Given does not advocate for a wholesale Chicanx spiritual and political appropriation of American Indian cultures as Chicano 1800s detribalization is an endgame struggle in Indian Given. I appreciate that rather than opting for a Hispanic conclusion of Spanish culture inevitability, assimilation, and superiority, Indian Given returns to post-Revolutionary Mestizaje rhetoric, but in a more critical, non-evolutionary, and regionally-nuanced way.

Third, greater intersectional attention to race/class/gender is needed as well. That a gendered interrogation does not occur marks a deliberate difference with previous Chicana feminist intellectual legacies and Saldaña-Portillo’s earlier gender work. Ending the book with a 1972 cis-heteropatriarchal Chicano Nationalist literary work excludes the subsequent Chicana gendered critiques and differently indigenized subjectivities of the early 1970s. For example, Indian Given does not engage the kinds of Xicana/Indígena reclaimed indigeneity as represented by Facio and Lara’s 2014 Fleshing the Spirit: Spirituality and Activism in Chicana, Latina, and Indigenous Women’s Lives and by over three decades (if not centuries) of Chicana/Latina/Indígena women’s writings. Again, I believe Indian Given could have been more forthright in its purpose of critiquing the growing trend of Xicanx and Chicano indigenous identification rather than simply avoiding the topic of post-Nationalist Chicana/o indigeneity and important post-1960s Chicana feminist discourses. The subsequent lack of gendered critique creates noticeable gaps in the analysis.

A fourth area in which Indian Given lacks a critical edge is in its erasure of California Indians, including those not federally recognized. As I teach from Long Beach situated on the unceded Tongva village and ceremonial center of Puvungna, I am reminded of the need to include enrolled and unenrolled California Indian voices in order to talk about indigenous spatiality in California. Since Indian Given’s Westminster legal case situated on Tongva (Gabrielino Mission Indian) land and An Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo California settings in San Francisco/Oakland, Riverbank, Alpine, and Los Angeles, I query, “How might California Indian reclamation of identity of land and identity complicate Indian Given’s discussion of hegemonic Plains/Southwest Indian stereotypes in California?” The prevalence of Plains/Southwest indigenous imagery is obvious cause for Indian Given to primarily address Comanche and Apache Texas-centric representations as indios bárbaros, even in California. However, given that Saldaña-Portillo maps how Cherokee removal impacts local pre-1830 Removal Act Osage and other local indigenous Nations in Oklahoma Territory, (228) it makes sense to investigate further how the image of the savage Plains Indian masks the California Mission Indian / Ranchería / reservation / urban community presence throughout California history. (As an aside, the ambiguous Chicano reading of white Okie migration to California paralleling the Trail of Tears is either unclear or inappropriate, [228] but I suppose that in any book, some areas will always appear more opaque than others.) The 2017 UCLA web-linked Tongva/Gabrielino- and Fernandeño/Tataviam-authored spatial narratives available at https://mila.ss.ucla.edu/story-maps/ could help future scholars who consider indigenous Los Angeles to further decolonize California settler spatiality.

Despite these four critical points, I still believe the book logically succeeds within its own Chicana/Latino-related discourse. I would definitely recommend Indian Given as a Mexican/US Borderlands resource for Chicanx/Latinx Studies as an introduction to identifying the settler narratives of the indigenous people of New Mexico and Texas. I would also urge American Indian, Settler Studies, and Indigenous Studies scholars to take stock of the ways in which Indian Given deconstructs transnational US/Mexican transborder settlerism and anti-Indian racism from 1492 through the 1800s in the first half of the book. Having traced the considerable strengths and evolutions of Indian Given within the field of Chicanx/Latinx, Borderlands/Geography, and Literary/Film Studies, I move on to consider larger conversations within transborder Indigenous Studies.

The first major conversation I open is that Indian Given leaves a lot of room to discuss contemporary, tribally-specific, non-Chicano indigenous self-representations that resist the settler Indian stereotypes. Because the book only intends to discuss American Indian representations in order to establish the legal and cultural difference between Southwestern/Plains American Indians and Chicanos, it too follows a trajectory of leaving Plains/Southwest American Indians status for Mexican/Chicano status across the centuries. In fact, the latter twentieth- and post-millennial-century part of the book focuses on Chicano and Mexican representations to the exclusion of contemporary American Indians. In documenting the evolution of hegemonic Spanish/English/US/Chicano/Mexican Indian tropes, the book does not attempt to relate historical and contemporary Comanche and Apache senses of spatiality, resistance, literature, film, sovereignty, spirituality. The continued existence of transborder indigenous nations such as the Yaqui, Tohono O’odham and more newly migrated Maya/Southern Mexican Indians across US/Mexican territorial claims is also mostly absented from the book.

Toward a more comparative Chicano and American Indian methodological approach, I would advocate for future researchers to complicate Indian Given’s arguments with the incredible work of American Indian Movement activists, subsequent Native American scholars, filmmakers, and indigenous methodologies. Indian Given is predicated upon Eurocentric postmodernism and geography, although I appreciate key footnoted nods to Philip Deloria and other Native scholars and the key Chicano complications to landscaped indigeneity. Moreover, indigenous voices are largely absent in all epochs that Indian Given considers. Although inclusive of some American Indian law and policy history, Indian Given is mostly limited to using first and third world post-colonial racialized theory to look at fourth world indigenous representations. I miss the Maya and Zapatista testimonio methodology of Saldaña-Portillo’s 2003 The Revolutionary Imagination in the Americas and the Age of Development that was more successful in expressing contemporary decolonial Maya political voices of Rigoberta Menchu and Zapatistas in contradistinction with post-colonial Latino Marxist perspectives of Mario Payeras and Che Guevara. After finishing the book, I am left wondering, “Where is the visual, spatial, and theological sovereignty of existing US/Mexico borderlands area indigenous peoples that resists the historical and contemporary settler tropes of savagery?” This is an interesting question given that Saldaña-Portillo seems to initially promise to address both “American Indian” as well as “indio” representations equally. (18) In many newer American Indian/indigenous writings, widely cited journals, and intellectual movements, resistant indigenous methodologies are often cited to ground analysis; purely non-Native theory is no longer inherently preferable. More comparative work is needed to bridge the settler and Native gazes, methodologies, and narratives in the future.

The second conversation I invite is in regards to gender and spirituality analysis. Implicitly, Indian Given is a book about the Borderlands Plains male warrior stereotype as imagined within the male settler imaginary. This implicitly gendered masculinity of the “male Indian warrior” has more often provoked stronger gendered framing, feminist commentary, and even two-spirit/transgender interrogation. For example, Ford’s classic Western The Searchers (1956) foregrounds the captivity narrative of the white settler female as motivation for hypermasculine white settler retaliations against Comanche “raiders.” From a gendered Religious Studies and Inés Talamantez-inflected view, I would add, “How is space/land envisioned by indigenous people as a ceremonial place of origin and renewal within directional and kinship (Mother Earth) frameworks and how do indigenous women, men and other-gendered people see their own land and relationships to land?” In fact, a discussion of earth as creatrix or as a living being would open up a foundational reason to explore complex indigenous genders, kinships and cosmologies that Indian Given leaves simplistically defined by male settlers. This conversation would easily become more accessible by considering the first conversation about including Native voices and methodologies in reimagining transborder indigenous geographies. A more geocentric cosmology would also critique the settler Enlightenment narratives of Christian land tenure in interesting ways.

A third conversation for future transborder indigeneity writers to consider is to complicate the manner in which Indian Given mutes or critiques the reclaimed indigeneity of Ch/Xicanxs. I would suggest that Xicana-Indígenas and Mexica cite and respond to Indian Given since its legal arguments regarding who is an American Indian in the United States are hegemonic. In addition, Indian Given cannot account for shifts some make from presumably Hispanic/Chicano communities to tribally-specific identities and vice versa. To make this point clear, the 2009 Texas state recognition of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas as well as the 2017 state recognition of the Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands-Mount Tabor Indian Community complicate Indian Given’s rather static 1800s recognition sense of who is and is not an American Indian in Texas. These dynamic trends of federal/state and even community recognitions and ongoing cultural activism without these recognitions needs more careful, dynamic, and contextual considerations in future work. It is not a simple ethical binary matter of exposing the “not so innocent” Chicano in contradistinction from the supposedly “innocent” American Indian as Saldaña-Portillo rhetorically concludes. (153) Rather, the political value of federal recognition sparks heated academic and shifting community debates that reflect violent fluctuations in both federal law and policy over the decades.

Here, I take space to explain how Indian Given can inform aspects of my own manuscript, Two-Spirit Film Spaces: Trans* Indigenous Media from Seven Directions. I can certainly utilize Indian Given’s emphasis on the settler gaze that includes Mestizo settlerism in my own work. For example, Indian Given’s settler gaze commentary can inform my Afro-Red-Polynesian transracial sci-fi chapter that critiques viewing transraciality as the post-utopic solution to millennia of racial oppression in the Wachowski Trans*Sisters’ Cloud Atlas (2012). I also consider the transracial Dos Almas (2013) by L. Danielle Villegas as it conjuncts settler Mestizaje with Red-Black Northwest indigeneity through problematic two-spirit/Dos Almas transman eroticism. Here, Indian Given can assist in politically differentiating between Dos Almas’ queer/two-spirit Mestiza and Native two-spirit aesthetics and visualities. However, Indian Given’s hegemonic reading of federally recognized indigeneity cannot explain why a Hopi-identified urban Native director chose to feature a diasporic Mexica-identified artist as part of an all-Native two-spirit online animation called Two-Spirit: Injunuity (2013), a film I consider in my Mexican American Indian two-spirit/trans* chapter. In addition, Indian Given cannot account for the increased Tongva activism that arose from superficially Californio/Mexican communities that includes federal recognition attempts and cultural production. My two-spirit/trans* Tongva chapter begins the book and is essential in unsettling Hollywood usurpation of Tongva and other California Indian geographies and narratives. In this light, Indian Given’s historical identity rigidity and Plains/Southwest-centrism causes it to sometimes lose relevance in shifting contemporary, California Indian, and urban American Indian cultural activism contexts.

In conclusion, Indian Given offers important evolutions that balance out Chicano indigeneity discourses. I also envision a time when Chicano Studies scholarship can draw upon more comparatively indigenous theories and methodologies as a key part of creating new knowledge. I urge American Indian Studies scholars to take notes from Chicano and transborder Indigenous Studies by rethinking the colonial construct of the US/Mexico border and critiquing the transnational nature of US and Mexican settler colonialism. My intention here is to let readers appreciate Indian Given’s strengths and to understand the indigenous methodology, gender, federal recognition, and Californian Indian implications of its choices. Finally, I trace where future scholarly conversations on transborder indigeneity may likely lead in terms of indigenous methodologies, spiritualities, genders, and political recognitions now that one reading of historical Chicano racialization is well established through Saldaña-Portillo’s ambitious work.

  • María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo

    María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo

    Reply

    Response to Estrada

    Again, I am honored and engaged by Prof. Gabriel Estrada’s appreciation of the successes and failures of Indian Given, as well as his expressed admiration for my first book The Revolutionary Imagination in the Americas and the Age of Development. Prof. Estrada is certainly correct in identifying postcolonial studies as a primary theoretical orientation for Indian Given, as it was for The Revolutionary Imagination, though in both books I ranged broadly in terms of the theory I applied in my analysis, opting always for the theoretical approach that best illuminated a particular issue or problem. The journey one takes from the first book to the second is always specific to the author, but in my case The Revolutionary Imagination did lead me directly into Indian Given. My experience with the 1994 Zapatista Revolution, one of the case studies of Revolutionary Imagination, left me facing the great divide in political subjectivity that exists among indigenous peoples on either side of the US-Mexico border. Sovereignty and autonomy are expressions of different ideas of indigenous futurity and subjectivity, and as such I wanted to understand the particular colonial histories that led to the development of such distinct political visions in the United States and Mexico.

    I was also an early critic of Chicanx uses of mestizaje to appropriate indigenous identity, another topic I touch upon in Revolutionary Imagination, particularly as this related to the Zapatista re-visioning of indigenous difference. I was particularly critical of Chicana feminist reclaiming of selective indigenous cosmovisions, as in the work of Gloria Anzaldúa. Nevertheless, the profound sense of loss that motivated such reclaiming was also patently evident to me, as was the reparative work of such reclaiming. Just I wanted to get to the bottom of how different colonial legacies may have led to such different indigenous visions of political futurity, so too did I want to understand what in colonial history had led to the profundity and productivity of loss in Chicanx psychic and social life. Just as the subject of development discourse and of revolutionary movements shared an epistemological origin across geographical boundaries, I found that the disappearing, savage Indians of the Anglo-American colonial archive shared certain traits with the indios bárbaros of the Spanish colonial archive. And just as the hegemonic subject of revolution/development was a masculinist subject, so too were the figurations of the Indian/indio in colonial imaginations gendered male. A feminist analysis does not, and most certainly should not, be limited to the study of female bodies or feminine troupes, in the contemporary moment or through time. Indeed, without an analysis of masculinity, any analysis of gendered relations remains incomplete.

    These combined research interests, among others, guided me in choosing my objects of study and my methodology, in choosing which pivotal moments in colonial histories to examine, which discursive practices to interrogate, which legal cases to study, which films, novels, and letters to analyze, including the novel by a cis-heteropatriarchal lawyer who not only played an outsized role in legally transforming Mexican Americans into a racial minority, but who also recorded a poignant sense of longing for indigenous identification in all his writing. What one finds in the archive also shapes one’s research, and my recovery of close to three thousand pages on the colonization of Texas from the Archivo General de las Indias in Seville, Spain, shaped my geographic focus. The previously unpublished documents on the Apache and Comanche were worthy of significant attention, consisting, as it did, of documents on their Rancherias and cultural practices; on their relations with each other, with other indigenous peoples, with Spanish, French, and British colonizers; with the establishment of missions and presidios for the Apache and for various other indigenous nations. This eighteenth-century archive inevitably shaped my focus in the nineteenth century.

    As I make clear in my introduction, Indian Given is not a history of indigenous resistance, nor is it an anthropological study of the specific indigenous geographies or cultures and their survivance alongside emerging racial geographies and cultures. It is a study of competing, hegemonic colonial and imperial ways of seeing indigenous peoples through time and across two different national geographies. While I frequently engage with historical events to frame my research questions, Indian Given is not a study of the history of resistance (or cosmovisions) of actual indigenous peoples, from Texas, New Mexico, or California. It is the history of an idea, the idea of the indio bárbaro and its afterlives. Again, as I suggest in both the introduction and conclusion of Indian Given, ideas travel far afield from the geography of their inception, as the book documents. Thus, while it is an interesting thought experiment to consider how a “California Indian reclamation of identity of land and identity” approach might have complicated my “discussion of hegemonic Plains/Southwest Indian stereotypes in California,” Indian Given’s project is not about the reclamation of indigenous identity or territory by indigenous peoples in California or elsewhere. There are several excellent, revisionist histories of the California mission and reservation system, some of which I cite in my book, but again, in the section that Estrada refers to (chapter 5), I am interested in the lost Indian of Aztlán’s imagination, which, in California or Texas, is not a Chumash, Tongva, Luseño, or Juaneño, just as it is not an actual Apache or Comanche. The indio bárbaro is figural, but because the loss of indigenous ancestry to which Mexican Americans have been subjected is historical and real, the psychic loss and longing are profound and lasting. And thus, I would suggest that any “Xicana/Indigena reclaimed indigeneity” is itself expressive of this loss. Examining how feminist Xicana/Indigena scholars and activists reclaim and queer indigeneity for reparative purposes is another most worthy project—especially in ways that might repurpose Aztlán for Chicanx and indigenous coalition—but this was not the project of Indian Given. That said, the formation of the indio bárbaro—a racial nightmare, as Hidalgo suggests—required a representational violence whose purpose was to erase actual, living indigenous peoples in the territories annexed from Mexico after 1848. This was true from Washington to Texas, as indigenous dispossession by Anglo-American settlers depended on it. It is the intended effect of the figure of the indio bárbaro to obscure and confuse previous indigenous identities and territorialities on both sides of the US-Mexico border, including the Yaqui and Tohono O’odham (though Yaqui and Maya nineteenth-century wars against Mexican liberalism put both nations solidly in the indio bárbaro camp from the perspective of Mexican governmentality).

    Rather than answer Prof. Estrada’s issues with Indian Given one-by-one, I believe it would be more useful to respond to them collectively by addressing one area in which we agree. Prof. Estrada identifies my approach as centering “postmodern 3rd World/post-colonial/post-Chicano Nationalist methods” in my book, while suggesting that a “4th World/decolonial/ indigenous” method would have produced more exhaustive results in his view. I would never have classified myself as such, but I do see my approaches reflected in each of the terms he chooses for me, and indeed not in the alternatives he offers me. As I said, I use theorists who best suit the needs of my analysis at any given point, including theorists of space-making such as Lefebvre (who, as a Marxist, would likely be offended by the postmodern label), but also of Jeanie O’Brien; including the psychoanalytic theorizing of Freud, but also the deconstructivist theorizing of Jodi Byrd.

    More importantly, I would place myself in the postcolonial, rather than decolonial camp, for two reasons. First, postcolonial theory and critique is within the Western philosophical tradition, I would argue. Postcolonial theory is a descendent, a fecund offshoot, of that alternate strand of Western philosophy that emerged equally from within the Enlightenment, but always in a position of critique of Western philosophy’s supremacist, dispossessing, racist, exploitative, expansionist reason. Postcolonial studies—Marxist or poststructuralist, feminist or queer—critiques the devastating consequences of European and US colonial and imperial reason in the global south. However, it does so with the critical reason of the counter-Enlightenment: Las Casas, Rousseau, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Althusser, Fanon, Fernández Retamar, Robinson, Gilroy, Foucault, Lefebvre, Derrida, Butler, Silverman, Spivak, Bhabha. And I would add, also Vizenor, Deloria, O’Brien, Williams, and Byrd. It is not only mistaken but counterproductive to dismiss Lefebvre and Freud as “European male architects of modern and postmodern theory for their cis-heteropatriarchal colonial legacies.” Such a diagnosis misapprehends Lefebvre and Freud’s profound contribution to the critique of the very modernity Estrada wants to decolonialize. Indeed, postmodern theory was an urgent critique of modernity’s destructive philosophical reason in the interest of decentering European knowledge/power. To not appreciate this is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps Audre Lorde was right in insisting that the master’s tools would never dismantle the master’s house. Perhaps. However, as long as those tools help unhinge the windows and knock down the doors of the house, to shed bright light on what is going on inside the house, in its basement and attic, I will continue to use them, just as so many anti-colonial scholars did in their day, and decolonial scholars continue to do today.

    Frankly, I am wary of the enthusiasm for “the decolonial” because it remains entirely unclear to me how a decolonial approach differs from a postcolonial—or for that matter anti-colonial—approach. Does a decolonial approach decenter European perspectives in order to center indigenous philosophies, territorialities, and histories? In Latin America, would a decolonial approach privilege, indeed champion, the autonomy of indigenous peoples from Patagonia to the northern border of Mexico? Would it entail unlearning the prejudices and biases of European ways of seeing? All of these things would, in my view, be entirely in keeping with a postcolonial approach as well. They would also be in keeping with the critique of Western reason that the critical philosophical tradition has itself facilitated. Does it mean something deeper than this, some more profound way of decolonizing the mind? If so, then we must account for the fact that three of the principal architects of cultural decolonialization—Walter Mignolo, Enrique Dussel, and Anibal Quijano—arrived together at their theory through the circuitous route of critical Western philosophical thinking, including its religious variant (Dussel). Mignolo, Dussel, and Quijano certainly did not arrive at decolonial theory in spite of Western thought, as one can easily locate Marxist and poststructuralist turns at every stage of their arguments about decoloniality. While I am not averse to the introduction of new theoretical approaches—indeed I celebrate them when they bring genuinely new insight—I would caution against pronouncing any approach, including the decolonial, as somehow free of contamination from Western knowledge/power, at least as they unfold within the academy.

    One final word on interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinary scholars like myself might interrogate and critique the boundaries and barriers of knowledge production, but we nevertheless have a deep appreciation of the rigor of disciplinary research. I appreciate just how much technical expertise, research time, and linguistic ability it requires for a historian or an anthropologist to produce a rigorous study of even one contemporary or historical indigenous peoples. Years of ethnographic or archival research are entailed, just as they are entailed for rigorous interdisciplinary work. It took ten years to research and write The Revolutionary Imagination, twelve for Indian Given. If Indian Given had concerned itself strictly with the representations of indigenous peoples in literature and film in the present, the scope of the project might well have allowed for the consideration of indigenous perspectives offered by indigenous filmmakers and literary authors. It may have allowed for the 4th world, indigenous methodologies called for by Estrada. Such a study is urgent, it is necessary, and one that I am anxious to read. Indian Given does not offer the reader such a project, but I am thrilled to know that in some small way it enables it.

Lori Gallegos de Castillo

Response

Colonial Legacies of Visibility-Invisibility

Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States is a book that traces a history of ways of seeing racialized geographies along the Mexico-US border. In response to a book that is about what is seen, this essay wonders about what is unseen, or rendered invisible. I want to begin by homing in on just two of the many achievements of the book. The first central achievement is that María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo shows that geographies are produced, and that colonial and national concerns have had a substantial (though not uncontested) influence upon the ways in which people and spaces have been perceived in Mexico and the United States. The text demonstrates to readers that the apparent given—the objects and characteristics of the world we grasp through perception—is to a large extent constituted by particular constructing gazes. Descriptions of the geographies of Mexico and the United States are not unmediated renderings of a world that simply is. Rather, they are “meticulously produced” representations that reflect the sensibilities, prejudices, and political interests of various agents/interpreters in colonial encounters with indigeneity (6). Saldaña-Portillo points to key articulations and interventions in the construction of racial geographies. For example, she shows how the 1738 petition of Antonio Ladrón de Guevara to the Spanish Crown both revealed and actively mapped ways of seeing indigenous peoples and lands as the Spanish sought to populate the US Borderlands. Nearly two centuries later, following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, we find identities and spaces contested and reconstructed in a series of court cases in which Mexican Americans attempted to claim their rights in the recently expanded United States.

The effects of these mappings, or ways of seeing, are far-reaching: To the extent that these constructions reflect colonial interests, they facilitated the conquest of indigenous territories, as well as facilitating their ongoing dispossession (15). Furthermore, Saldaña-Portillo proposes that contemporary cultural phenomena like the “Muslim jihadist” and the “narco-terrorist” can only be properly understood within the context of racial geographies that are shaped by colonial legacies. What makes Saldaña-Portillo’s project so important, on my view, is that by revealing the ways in which these geographies are racialized and constructed, Saldaña-Portillo does the critical work of denaturalizing taken-for-granted representations of people and spaces along the Mexico-US border, revealing their production in the context of colonial enterprises. That is, Saldaña-Portillo is practicing decolonial geography insofar as she identifies how our ways of seeing people and spaces are shaped through colonial legacies. This critical work of bringing into sight the very narratives and tropes that frame our vision of the borderlands resists and paves the way for future resistances of these colonial legacies. It gives us leeway to imagine and to envision what we have not yet been able to see.

In addition to showing how geographical representations are constructed in ways that reflect colonial concerns, a second major achievement of Indian Given is the way in which it challenges historical narratives that portray indigenous groups as mere resistors to colonial expansion. Indeed, we find that indigenous groups were actively engaged in working towards their own political interests, which sometimes undermined and sometimes aligned with those of various colonizing actors. Furthermore, the identities of various indigenous groups were not merely produced by Spanish colonizers. Rather, the historical scene was one in which “everyone is busily emplotting others and themselves on the basis of where perceived interests and advantages may lie” (92). Saldaña-Portillo describes, for instance, the way in which “el Indio Sanchez,” an Indian spy for the Spanish, seems to betray his own ambivalence over his allegiance by repeatedly reporting to the Spaniards his observations about the military strength of various indigenous nations, presumably in order to dissuade the Spanish from going to battle with them. Elsewhere, Saldaña-Portillo describes how Comanche attacks on Spanish settlements were not merely acts of resisting the Spanish colonial order but rather a blow directed to the Spanish because of their support of the Comanche’s traditional enemy, the Apache (84). Readers also learn that “U.S. expansionists worked in concert with Apache and Comanche political interests” in order to take northern Mexican territories (126). While highlighting these histories does not fully decenter the colonial perspective, it challenges overly simplistic narratives about colonial expansion as simply involving the progressive force of Europeans against the impotent, resisting Indians. Instead, the contravening interests of the various indigenous and colonial groups “attest to a lived heterotemporality” that challenges that progressivist narrative (85). On my view, Saldaña-Portillo’s accounts of different indigenous groups’ various political interests, their complex and shifting alliances, their acts of revenge and betrayal, and even their participation in the brutal violence that was a part of political or military strategy have the important effect of illuminating the agency of indigenous peoples in ways that simpler resistance narratives do not.

The two achievements I have described here are significant because they bring into awareness that the unseen is often eclipsed by that which is visible. More specifically, they hint at the possibility of centering the worlds of indigenous peoples that are all-too-often rendered peripheral by colonial geographies and narratives, and by the transmutable and dehumanizing figure of the indio bárbaro. In light of this gesture, I turn now to a group of people who are also covered over by the idea of the indio bárbaro and whose invisibility is sometimes, even in this revelatory book, itself invisible. In the remainder of this response essay, I briefly recall some of the key themes of Indian Given and raise a series of questions about how these themes may have related to the lives of women, in particular. Although Indian Given is about racial geographies, I wonder what insights the additional lens of gender might reveal.

El indio bárbaro

We learn that the figure of the indio bárbaro does not refer to any particular historical actor, yet has stood in for many, as a way of demarcating “the boundary between the ‘good people’ of a nation worth defending and the barbarous inhumanity of those who must be excluded, excised, eliminated at all costs” (235). The word indio is ambiguously gender-neutral or masculine, and the word Indian is nondescriptive with regard to gender. The figure of the indio bárbaro, however, seems to evoke images of dangerous men, such as when it is used to characterize Apache or Comanche warriors, Muslim jihadists, or narcos. Is the indio bárbaro gendered, or has it included men and women indiscriminately? Is there or has there ever been a feminine analog to the indio bárbaro?

In a different vein, in what way have gender norms and values been used to substantiate the elicitation of the figure of the indio bárbaro at different points in time? For instance, the way women of a given culture are treated is sometimes used as evidence of a group or culture’s inhumanity. Sometimes fear of a group’s barbarity is couched in terms of the threat the group poses to the wellbeing, purity, and security of “good” women. In these cases, it seems, the figure of woman is being used to as a basis for the deployment of the figure of the indio bárbaro.

Assimilation

Another theme that arises in the book is the differing practices of assimilation carried out by Spain, Mexico, and the United States. Miscegenation was a key component of Spanish conquest. Saldaña-Portillo explains that “the Spanish administration officially promoted intermarriage and childbearing as a form of governmentality” and “as a form of physically transforming the landscape, from one of indigenous territorial control to one of Spanish dominion” (116). This approach was not central to US governmentality, where a “shifting and shifty” notion of whiteness has been a condition of political belonging (171). This ethic of purity and exclusion of the non-white other stands in contrast with what Saldaña-Portillo describes as the Spanish enthrallment by the other. More than a mere strategy of conquest, Spanish engagement with the other was driven by a “desire to know the other intimately, in a manner akin to love” (93).

Mexico, we learn, comes to identify itself as the “pueblo mestizo,” the result of the violence and suffering of indigenous people at the hands of Spanish conquistadors (12). Saldaña-Portillo notes that in Octavio Paz’s famous chapter “Hijos de La Malinche,” the terms of becoming Mexican are portrayed in a gendered way. She writes, “Malinche, mother-as-territory, is ripped open by the masculine agency of the Spaniard, and the products of this rape are consequently engendered as humiliated, enraged, and brutish male subjects (sons)” (14). Saldaña-Portillo argues that this narrative has the effect of generalizing indigenous injury to all Mexicans, so that “all Mexicans are equally injured by / responsible for / born of colonialism” (14). The dispersal of injury renders contemporary indigenous claims more difficult to make in Mexico.

I find that the narrative also has the effect of centering the male perspective as both the past perpetrator (father) and the current victim (son) of colonization. If being an “hijo de la chingada” has a profound psychological impact, worthy of our healing attention, what about being la chingada, or la que chinga? In the critically revelatory spirit of Indian Given, I ask: How are we able to tell the stories of mass miscegenation and of the birth of a nation without telling the stories of actual women who were mothers, lovers, victims, contributors, and resistors to colonialism? To what extent are our accounts of colonial miscegenation obfuscating the agency and decentering the experiences of indigenous women? Just as the figure of the indio bárbaro covers over the subjectivity of flesh and blood people, the figure La Malinche—the indigenous mother—and the metaphor of rape cover over the profoundly complex and historically crucial stories of agency and victimhood of women (including that of the actual Malinche, or Malinzin).

Immigration

Finally, I want to consider one of the “afterlives of the indio bárbaro”—Mexican and Central American immigrants to the United States. In a profound passage, Saldaña-Portillo describes the “specific if unconscious fear of the Mexican as the indio bárbaro, of the indio bárbaro as indigenous foreign terrorist” (239). In addition to violating borders, taking jobs, and trafficking drugs, Mexicans are an “uncomfortable reminder” of “the terrorizing truth of a racial geography made through violent dispossession and repression: the Indians did not die, they did not willingly cede their sovereignty to more capable white sovereignty” (242). It strikes me that this fear of the indio bárbaro illicitly among us, lurking in the shadows, helps to explain the fervor with which many white US citizens insist on immigrants’ cultural and linguistic assimilation: that dark-skinned foreignness is a reminder of the Indian, a blatant refusal to disappear or to become white, a rejection of US superiority, and a denial of total US sovereignty. This foreignness is also the threat of the returning dispossessed to the white world in which many US citizens feel at home.

How does the figure of the Indian manifest in the experience of women migrants? Contrary to the Mexican context in which racial mixedness became central to national identity, in the US context, one of the reasons that the Latina immigrant is a threat is because she might give birth, anchoring her and her family’s presence through her US citizen child. Some people in the United States are angry at the Latina immigrant because she might claim resources for her family—resources that they feel should belong to other kinds of members of the community. The latest “immigration crisis” began in the Spring of 2014, when tens of thousands of women and unaccompanied children from Central America came to the United States to seek asylum. Most of these women and children were put into unsanitary detention centers where many have received inhumane treatment and inadequate medical care.1 Three years later, the Trump administration has asked Congress to allocate $2.7 billion dollars to put a daily average of 51,279 immigrants into for-profit detention facilities.2 Could we frame the massive locking up of women immigrants as the United States’ efforts to fashion them into the figure of the disappeared Indian?

In Indian Given, Saldaña-Portillo weaves together archival research and literary analysis to trace the history of the production of racial geographies in Mexico and the United States. In this response essay, I have wondered what we might discover if we were to pursue Saldaña-Portillo’s line of analysis while also focusing on the lives of women. I am not proposing that making women more central to the inquiry would challenge any of Saldaña-Portillo’s central claims. Rather, I think that focusing on women would contribute to the two central achievements I highlighted at the start of this response. First, I noted that Indian Given reveals how the ways of seeing people in the borderlands are largely produced by colonial interests, hinting at the promise that there is more than meets the eye. Focusing on the lives of women in the borderlands may reveal the intersecting features of colonial conceptions of race and gender, as well as indicate how the figure of woman and the absence of women in colonial narratives is produced through colonial concerns. Second, I argued that Indian Given begins to decenter colonial perspectives by challenging a simplistic resistance narrative and highlighting indigenous peoples’ agency throughout the history of colonialism. Attending to women would no doubt reveal that, like other racialized subjects in the borderlands, they were more than mere victims of colonial violence or a mere means to colonial expansion. Illuminating this obscure history would be a way of carrying forward Saldaña-Portillo’s important project of interrogating what is seen and unseen in the construction of national spaces.


  1. Ben Norton, “Privatized, For-Profit Immigration Detention Centers Are a ‘Living Nightmare,’ Investigation Shows,” Salon.com, May 16, 2017, https://www.salon.com/2017/05/16/privatized-for-profit-immigrant-detention-centers-are-a-living-nightmare-investigation-shows_partner/.

  2. Department of Homeland Security, Fiscal Year 2018 Budget in Brief, at p. 4.

  • María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo

    María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo

    Reply

    Response to Gallegos de Castillo

    Once again, I am thankful and honored by Lori Gallegos de Castillo’s insightful engagement with Indian Given; by her pithy summary of the book’s main goals and accomplishments. Gallegos de Castillo discerns one of the fundamental aspirations of Indian Given: to render all subjects present at the scenes of colonial and national remapping of indigenous geographies as agents expressive of complex and interested political action. In setting out to write Indian Given as a postcolonial scholar, I was always clear that this was a study of hegemony—of the hegemonic discursive practices of Spanish and Anglo-American colonizers that reified into determinant “ways of seeing” indigenous actors.1 As such, my purpose was to stay on the trail of colonial renderings of indigenous peoples, rather than on the actual indigenous actors who confronted and engaged Spanish and Anglo-American conquistadors as coevals. I wanted to represent the racial geographies that palimpsestically remapped indigenous geographies as spaces alive with possibility, filled with indigenous agents who approached Europeans and mestizos (and each other) with capacious senses of their own historical belonging, survivance, and futurity.2 Though not a historian myself, in this regard I followed the example of new, revisionist historians of the borderlands who revisit the archive from a Subaltern Studies perspective (though they do not identify as such), searching for traces not of Spanish and Anglo-American conquest, but of indigenous intervention.3 This is, of course, made considerably easier by the copious and multisite Spanish archive, which contains tens of thousands of documents and maps on the “conquest” of New Spain’s northern frontier (today’s US borderlands), with plentiful references to Spanish interactions with indigenous peoples. Because of the nature of the archive, of the fact that we are always limited and subjected by it, I would hesitate in categorizing my scholarship as “decolonial,” though I am happy if my own knowledge production contributes to “provincializing Europe,” to the decentering of Europeans in the historiography of the Mexican and US borderlands.4

    Gallegos de Castillo provocatively poses the question, “is the indio bárbaro male?” The answer is undeniably yes; especially as a demarcation of the boundary between acceptable humanity and barbarous inhumanity, the indio bárbaro is necessarily male. As Gallegos de Castillo correctly points out, in Indian Given “the figure of the indio bárbaro does not refer to any particular historical actor.” Nevertheless, when analyzing the gendering of the indio bárbaro, it is necessary to consider the genealogical relationship that pertains between figural representations of the “Indian” as part of the racial geography of the borderlands, and actual indigenous peoples who resisted colonial governmentality of all sorts. Spanish colonizers found the women of the equestrian nations who refused Spanish governmentality equally irredeemable to Christian unity. This is due, unsurprisingly, to the sexism of European patriarchy. The political condition of indigenous women and children followed the condition of men as their fathers, brothers, guardians, and leaders. Hence the Requierimiento, as an early iteration of the requirement of indigenous submission, is directed solely at the men of the communities, assuring them that their submission would guarantee the protection of their wives and children in perpetuity. It never occurred to Spanish (or British) colonizers that the indigenous peoples they encountered organized their political communities according to other principles than gender, or at least that gender did not exclude indigenous women from positions of consequential decision-making.

    Similarly, with regard to the indio bárbaro, Gallegos de Castillo rightly ascertains that European “gender norms and values” were “used to substantiate the elicitation of the figure of the indio bárbaro at different points in time,” in ways that excluded indigenous femininity from this figuration. This is true even though Comanche women did participate in raiding parties in auxiliary roles, were responsible for disciplining Comanche boys into warriors, and were integral to the ritualized celebration of raids upon the warriors’ return.5 In other words, contrary to the documented roles played by Comanche women in the practice of raiding, indigenous femininity, while perhaps figured as barbarous in other ways, was not figured as the indio bárbaro in the archive, as the terroristic principle traversing the landscape in search of captives.6 Rather, because indigenous women also often became captives of enemy nations, it was incumbent on Spanish settlers to ransom them as part of their Christian obligations, and to bring them into their own homes as “creadas.” Indigenous women were not represented in the archive as posing a physical threat to Spanish and British settlements, or to the women in these settlements whose virtue and purity, as Gallegos de Castillos surmises, did emerge as a principle of femininity that had to be defended from the indio bárbaro.7 Indian Given certainly could have given more focused attention to the construction of femininity (both white and indigenous) against which the figural indio bárbaro is congealed as racial nightmare, although I may have assumed that much of this feminist analysis was implicit.

    Nonetheless, I am excited about another aspect of Gallegos de Castillo’s focus on invisibility in Indian Given, the feminine analog to the indio bárbaro. This is a moment of sheer revelatory brilliance for me, and I thank Gallegos de Castillo for it. Certainly, a more sustained attention to indigenous women in the archive of the borderlands is called for, and will give fruit regarding the afterlives of barbarous Indians in the cruel racial landscape of today’s Southwest. With Gallegos de Castillo, I am especially curious about how a sustained focus on this feminine analog might elucidate the contemporary representation of the Central American refugees crossing our borders: the women and children who come in caravans seeking asylum, whose sheer presence demands a response from us to the situation of criminal violence in the Northern Triangle (for which US neocolonialism and deportation policies are largely responsible). These women are instead met with the threat of indefinite detention by the Trump administration. Gallegos de Castillo is spot on in assuming that the rage induced in some sectors of the US population by these asylum seekers, these victims of contemporary violence and dispossession, is deeply historical, enlivened by an unconscious racial geography that must keep histories of indigenous rape, genocide, and dispossession hidden for the purposes of ongoing settler colonialism. Motivated by Gallegos de Castillo’s generative readings of gendered aspects of colonialism that remain invisible in Indian Given, I ask with her, is the feminine analog of the indio bárbaro “la india fecunda” / the fecund Indian? From the perspective of a borderlands racial geography, is she la india chigada who, like Malintzin, continuously gives birth to a mongrel race? If so, then as a figural Indian, one could say that “la india chingada te chinga / the fucked Indian fucks you up.” Through her, with each child she births, la india chingada/fecunda proliferates an indigenous difference that refuses to disappear. If the feminine analog of the masculine indio bárbaro is this india chingada/fecunda, then the Central American women seeking asylum move across the landscape in the shadow of her afterlife. She endangers the tenuous racial geography of the United States with her progeny because she and her children are the living evidence of ongoing colonial violence against indigenous peoples, whether or not the individual Central American refuge is indigenous or mestiza.

    La india chingada/fecunda threatens the health of the nation with her perpetual impurity. Thus, as Gallegos de Castillo so beautifully puts it, it is in the interest of psychic national security “to fashion them into the figure of the disappeared Indian” by placing them in indefinite detention. It is not only that “people in the United States are angry at the Latina immigrant because she might claim resources for her family,” it is also that the Latina immigrant is the cause of great psychic distress because she belies the continued practices of indigenous dispossession and the continued survivance of indigenous presence. Of course, this is all speculative. I await the feminist scholar who will retrieve this analog to the indio bárbaro from the archive of the borderland, as well as those feminists who might tell the story of “mass miscegenation [in both the United States and Mexico] and the birth of a nation” from the perspective of the women who were “mothers, lovers, victims, contributors, and resistors to colonialism.” This crucial task to the larger history of racial geographies was, alas, beyond the discrete scope of Indian Given.


    1. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin, 1972).

    2. Gerald Vizenor, Manifest Manners: Narratives on Postindian Survivance (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994). See also Vizenor, “The Ruins of Representation: Shadow Survivance and the Literature of Dominance,” American Indian Quarterly 17.1 (Winter 1993), 7–30.

    3. See Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); Ned Blackhawk, Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006); Brian Delay, War of a Thousand Deserts: Indian Raids and the U.S.-Mexican War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008); Lisbeth Haas, Saints and Citizens: Indigenous Histories of Colonial Mission Indians and Mexican California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013); Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008); Karl Jacoby, Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History (New York: Penguin, 2008).

    4. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provencializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

    5. For role of Comanche women in raiding, see Delay, War of a Thousand Deserts, 114–38.

    6. The Spanish record on the conquest of New Spain’s northern frontier is prolific, however, the archive primarily documents negotiations of war and peace among men, thus indigenous women are rarely represented. Julianne Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman, has offered an account of the role of women as peacemakers in Texas on the basis of this sparse record. Even in Barr’s account, however, indigenous women’s agency as peacemakers is difficult to discern, and too often women appear as mere objects exchanged among men for the accomplishment of peace.

    7. European and indigenous uses of gender and sexuality clashed spectacularly along the border, contributing to the gendering of the indio bárbaro. Comanche and Kiowa raiders kidnapped tens of thousands of Spanish, mestiza, and indigenous women and children from the pueblos and settlements, whom they either sold as slaves, employed as labor, or took on as wives. This gave indigenous, Spanish, and mestizo men in the borderlands a material reason to defend their families that went beyond a mythic principle of women’s virtue. Moreover, when a captive’s release was successfully negotiated, Comanche warriors were known to rape captives publically before returning them to their families. These actions only have meaning in the greater context of colliding cultures, expanding empires, betrayal and vengeance described so thoroughly in Hämäläinen’s Comanche Empire and Delay’s War of a Thousand Deserts, and out of context further barbarizes them. Nevertheless, the clash of gender norms among the Comanche, the Kiowa, and the European did lead to the formation of the indio bárbaro as masculine.

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