Reconstructing History Constructing Race
Chapter 1 Notes
Focus of Book Explore the legacy of racial discrimination for Mexican
Americans that was established after the Spanish conquest
and the annexation of the U.S. in northern Mexico; time
period studied 1570 – 1898
Purpose of Read this chapter with the book’s focus in mind and reading associate headings and main ideas to racial discrimination
being established for Mexican American peoples.
Key Words Significance Notes
Textual Due to Anglo Due to mainstream archeologists/anthropologists having Politics of American lack little interest in recovering Mexican American prehistory,
Neglect of interest and social sciences assumed that poverty among Mexican
desire to keep Americans resulted from their dysfunctional culture. It
historical wasn’t until the early 70’s that a group of Mexican
control, history American anthropologists began to recover their culture’s
(text) was prehistory.
written based in
the dominate Octavio Romano-V was a leader in recovering this history,
majority’s charging Anglo Americans scholars for directing attention
political away from Anglo American racism, as well as helping to
interest. dismantle the social-scientific myths that Mexican
Accurate American economic problems was not due to familism,
history was Catholicism, honor, and machismo; instead, these problems
neglected were due to racism which obstructed Mexican Americans’
purely for social, economic, and political mobility.
outcomes, i.e., Since Romano, most social scientists (including
maintaining anthropologists) study Mexican Americans from a historical
power for and (post) structural perspective and examine the impact of
Anglo institutional discrimination on the Mexican American
Americans. family, individual, and ethnic group.
It wasn’t until NOTE: Until the early twentieth century, traditional
late twentieth mainstream scholars neglected to write about Mexican
century that the Americans’ historic roots and contribution in the Southwest.
neglect of According to David Weber, this omission resulted in a
Mexican controlled Anglo American production of U.S. history and
American failed to describe encounters accurately (e.g., situating
history was Mexicans and Spainards as villains and savage overlords of
abated but southwestern Indians).
much still needs
to be researched But, the early twentieth century brought Anglo American
and written. scholars who criticized these historical texts and a new, less
politically motivated, history was introduced (e.g., the
Boltonians generated a new image of the Southwest,
credited Spaniards for the infrastructure, and referred to the
Indians as noble savages). HOWEVER, other complex
social relations between the mestizo (a mestizo is a person
of mixed racial ancestry, especially of mixed European and
Native American ancestry) colonists and the native peoples
was ignored denying mestizos their historical roots.
Weber states that more research needs to be done in this
area in order to write a more accurate history that does not
just focus on the Spanish elite. “Once history is
reconstituted, it can be contested, perhaps revised, and
eventually accepted as historical fact.”
NOTE: Menchaca, the author of this book, agrees with
Weber but due to the racially mixed background of Mexican
Americans, she adds that additional research on Mexican
American’s ancient prehistory in Europe and Africa needs
to be established.
Aztlán: Menchaca Menchaca states that most, not all, Mexican Americans are History, Myth, agrees that the predominately mestizo: their White heritage began in Spain, or Mexican Indian in Mexico and U.S. Southwest, and Black in West Mythologized American Africa.
History? indigenous past
is both in Working class Mexican American college students began
Mexico and the exploring indigenous past and studied race to contest the
Southwest view that Brown people were poor due to being culturally
(originating in deprived and racially inferior.
Aztlan) but she
doesn’t agree Political organizations began to develop most particularly to
the migratory address particular problems in their communities. This was
past (migrating the birth of the self-imposed label of Chicano and The
from Aztlan) is Chicano Movement which resulted in organizations like the
most important; United Farm Workers, Crusades for Justice, and The
instead, she Chicano Youth Liberation Conference.
historic roots At the Chicano Youth Liberation Conference, Alurista read
are “embedded the “Epic Poem of Aztlan” which outlined “Mexican
in a history of American roots in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest and
conquest, when asserted that they were a Brown people with a long history th Mexican in the Americas.” This was based in 16 century Aztec
mestizos, history and meant to give Mexican Americans a source of
Tlaxcalans, pride in their indigenous heritage. He claimed that the
Aztecs, Otomis, ancestors of Mexican Americans left their homeland in
and other Aztlan, a place in the Southwest and migrated southward
Indians from toward central Mexico. It also was an attempt to dispel the
central Mexico myth that Mexican Americans were only an immigrant
joined the group to the United States, but that in fact they had
Spanish in the originated in the Southwest, therefore were indigenous to
conquest of the the area.
Chichimeca and This has been debated as myth rather than fact but it was an
the Southwest. extremely important political development which became
part of the Mexican American oral tradition AND in textual
Menchaca agrees that Mexican American indigenous past is
both in Mexico and the Southwest but she doesn’t agree the
migratory past is most important; instead, she believes
historic roots are “embedded in a history of conquest, when
Mexican mestizos, Tlaxcalans, Aztecs, Otomis, and other
Indians from central Mexico joined the Spanish in the
conquest of the Gran Chichimeca and the Southwest.
The Peoples of This section “The archaeological data found in Mexico and the Mexico and the lists historical Southwest indicate that these areas were populated as early American dates of as 11,000 B.C. Though migration patterns in Mexico and
Southwest migration the Southwest have been difficult to trace and are currently
patterns and the center of archaeological debates, scholars agree that
developments. indigenous groups moved south. The questions of where
(Last paragraph they came from and what relations evolved between
summarizes different groups are under investigation. What is certain is
section – skim that farming first appeared in central Mexico and was later
through section diffused into northern Mexico and finally into the
for examples southwestern United States. Villages were established
and details.) throughout both zones, while urban centers were more
common in Mesoamerica. Long-distance trade developed
between the peoples of Mexico and the Southwest after the
Hohokam appeared there, but it probably was minimal,
because only a few Mexican artifacts have been found in
southwestern villages. The exact kinship connections
between the peoples of the Southwest and Mexico are
uncertain” (pp. 32-33).
The Chichimec Another listing PT: this is where it is historically certain that a group, and the Aztec of historical Chichimec, claimed their homeland was Aztlan.
migration and PT: this is where it is historically certain that the Mexica,
developments one of the 7 Chichimec tribes, became an efficient military,
BUT became respected, and began to marry within royal families.
particularly They became ostracized due to barbaric types of activities
important to the (e.g. the skinning of a royal wife and wearing it) but they
development of continued to flourish, increasing their population and
the Aztec strengthening their military. They attacked and conquered
Empire and the the entire Valley which became the Aztec Empire; then they
appropriation of moved to conquer peoples outside the Valley of Mexico. It
Aztlan. is said that once they rose to power, they appropriated the
account of Aztlan which removed the stigma from their
Aztlan from Author’s PT:
www.dictionaryStill undecided about whether or not Aztlan is mythological
.com: or history. Her brother taught it her as a source of pride; her
“In Aztec parents taught it to her as a story about unity and
legend, the nationhood.
original home To her brother, Aztlan was one of the most important
of the Aztec historical memories that Spain could not erase after
people, held to defeating the Aztec. Her parents did not view the Spaniards
have been in the same way; in fact, they were the White heritage to her
located in family.
PT in notes
Spain: A A breakdown of Historically, Spain’s people are White rather than History of who is Caucasian; White is an “inclusive term applied to the family Whiteness? considered stocks indigenous to Europe and to the Hamitic and Semitic
Caucasian vs. peoples who were also part of these subdivisions, but were
White, as well racially mixed” (p. 37).
as a historical
background of Last paragraph: The defeat of the Aztec Empire: “This event
Spain’s peoples changed the course of history: the Spanish Empire was now
(where they successfully entrenched in building a colony. To do so, it
came from) and was necessary to send thousands of Spaniards and a sizable
the building of slave population. Nearly 200,000 Black slaves from Africa
the Spanish were exported to assist in the restructuring of Mexico. This
Empire ending Black population was comparable to the number of migrants
with Cortes from Spain” (p. 42).
Aztecs. See last This last paragraph further supports the mistizo background
paragraph in of Mexican Americans.
West African Mexican Slave trade in Mexico peaked between 1542 and 1650 with Heritage: The participation in estimated numbers of 150,000 to 200,000. Most slaves were Malinké the slave trade. from Mali.
West Africa Further Historical account of the conquests within Africa and the
information on final fall of Mali in which the Portuguese slave trade took
the arrival of firm hold and converged with Spain’s discovery of the New
Blacks in World. “Spain began to import thousands of slaves for its
Mexico. domestic population and for its New World colonies (p. 47).
Sharon’s The point of this chapter is to establish the Racial Foundation of Mexican Conclusion and Americans. The significance reveals that the racial construction of most
Thoughts for Mexican Americans is indigenous Indian, White, and Black. It’s easy to future chapters associate part of the title of the book, Recovering History, to this chapter
because the author is recovering history; I’m interested to find out how the
author further associates this to Constructing Race. In addition, to understand
the racial foundation of Mexican Americans is a beginning point to understand
how racial discrimination was established against Mexican American peoples;
I expect the author to continue to lead us to understand how racial
discrimination was established.