The history of Mexican Americans is a history of the intermingling of races--Indian, White, and Black. This racial history underlies a legacy of racial discrimination against Mexican Americans and their Mexican ancestors that stretches from the Spanish conquest to current battles over ending affirmative action and other assistance programs for ethnic minorities. Asserting the centrality of race in Mexican American history, Martha Menchaca here offers the first interpretive racial history of Mexican Americans, focusing on racial foundations and race relations from prehispanic times to the present.
Menchaca uses the concept of racialization to describe the process through which Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. authorities constructed racial status hierarchies that marginalized Mexicans of color and restricted their rights of land ownership. She traces this process from the Spanish colonial period and the introduction of slavery through racial laws affecting Mexican Americans into the late twentieth-century. This re-viewing of familiar history through the lens of race recovers Blacks as important historical actors, links Indians and the mission system in the Southwest to the Mexican American present, and reveals the legal and illegal means by which Mexican Americans lost their land grants.
This volume is an examination of the history of Mexicans in the territory of the present-day United States, emphasizing the role of legal systems in restricting racial groups and establishing a second-class political, economic, and social level for the Mexican American minority population. Using the theoretical framework developed by Michael Omi and Howard Winant in Racial Formation in the United States, Menchaca (anthropology, Univ. of Texas, Austin) suggests that the dominant white populations in colonial Spanish America, independent Mexico, and the United States have used the rule of law to discriminate against those descended from African and Indian populations. One significant contribution of the book is an attempt to examine the mostly forgotten role of Mexicans of African descent in the Mexican American population of the United States. The author's focus on this population is important if overemphasized. This volume will be of interest to academic libraries and public libraries with Latino collections. Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.