Citizenship and Squatting in Historical Romances of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands
Though the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) ostensibly extended American citizenship to the Mexican landed class at the conclusion of the Mexican American War and ensured their property rights despite the transfer of land to the U.S., they were nonetheless stripped of formal claims to their property and forced to enter into lengthy and costly legal battles to regain possession of these ranches. Hidalgos had to compete with Anglo agricultural settlers (or squatters), as well as with the railroad barons looking to expand railways in the newly annexed territories. Women are able to best navigate the unstable political economy of the borderlands through the act of squatting, understood broadly to mean the settlement of “unoccupied” land. Read alongside the significant historical events including various land laws and pre-emption acts of the mid-nineteenth century, hidalgo women perform forms of ownership that upend the racialized and gendered logics of citizenship, and the intimate ties between property and rights. The Squatter and the Don recasts the “problem” of Mexican land occupation as U.S. anxiety over territorial expansion and colonization made more complex by the presence of differently racialized populations along the borderlands.
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