Recovering Aztlan : Racial Formation Through a Shared History (1)
Traditionally history of the Americas and American population has been taught in a direction heading west from Europe to the California frontier. In Recovering History, Constructing Race, Martha Mencahca locates the origins of the history of the Americas in a floral pattern where migration from Asia, Europe, and Africa both voluntary and forced converge magnetically in Mexico then spreads out again to the north and northeast. By creating this patters she complicates the idea of race, history, and nationality. The term Mexican, which today refers to a specific nationality in Central America, is instead used as a shared historic and cultural identity of a people who spread from Mexico across the southwest United States. To create this shared identity Menchaca carefully constructs the Mexican race from prehistoric records to current battles for Civil Rights. What emerges is a story in which Anglo-Americans become the illegal immigrants crossing the border into Texas and mestizo Mexicans can earn an upgrade in class distinction through heroic military acts. In short what emerges is a sometimes upside down always creative reinvention of history and the creation of the Mexican "race (?)".
Mexicans, as constructed by Menchaca, are a predominantly mestizo population whose mixed ancestry she traces to early Latin American civilizations. In 200 BC the largest city in the Americas, Teotihuacán, was founded. Teotihuacán would one day be the site of Mexico City, and by 650 AD there were between 120,000 and 250,000 inhabitants. (2) Groups that inhabited the region fro...
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...e, history, and blood. The specific commingling that emerges, however, has common roots in its very diversity. Throughout her tale Menchaca's allegiance is clearly to her race, and while the bias comes through, the history she traces is never the less compelling. The strongest achievement of this book is that it fundamentally shifts the gaze of its reader by reifying race and celebrating its complexity.
1. Aztlan is the quasimythylogical homeland of the Chichimec people who were expelled by
their god and traveled south
to found civilizations in Mexico. It is theoretically located in present day New
2. Martha Menchaca, Recovering History, Constructing Race: the Indian, Black, and White
Roots of Mexican Americans
(Texas: University of Texas Press, 2001), 29.
3. Menchaca, 47.
4. Menchaca, 50.
5. Menchaca, 199.
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