Natalie Mendoza

Mexican American Historical Thinking in the American Southwest in the Pre-Chicano Period

My dissertation is a study of Mexican Americans and the intellectual networks that shaped their historical thinking (historicity) in the American Southwest. I hypothesize that the historical imagination of Mexican Americans developed in three stages: the post-annexation period (Mexican Cession following the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848), the early twentieth century, and the Chicano period. With annexation, Mexico lost approximately half of its total territory to the U.S., including the historically and racially diverse population living within it. At this time, U.S. racial ideology was premised on black-white constructs of race. Mexican Cession, then, complicated this black-white binary model, creating a racially ambiguous place for Mexican Americans in the historical imagination. This uncertainty suggests the development of identities based on black-white racial constructs, but also by historical constructs. In other words, race matters to my project for the types of historical claims made about a community or individual. Questions central to my research include: How did the black-white binary shape Mexican Americans historical thinking, and how did this influence their self-identification? At this current stage, my research is focused on Mexican American and non-Mexican American intellectuals in early twentieth century Texas and the academic networks that shaped historicity and race identification.