Salvador  Peraza

San Pasqual Battlefield Volunteer Association: An Oral History

My oral history project examines the raison d’être behind the establishment and continuous existence of the San Pasqual Battlefield Volunteer Association. The association is in charge of safekeeping the historical memory of the Battle of San Pasqual (1846). Historians have catalogued the battle as the bloodiest military encounter between Mexican and U.S. armed forces in Alta California during the U.S.-Mexican War (1846-48). The organization engages in commemorating and interpreting the battle through a host of living history activities: educational programs for schoolchildren, docent tours, and an annual historical re-enactment of the battle. Members of the organization, however, harbor conflicting views as to why the battle took place, its outcome, and why and how one should commemorate it. While some view the battle as providing “a martial lesson on what went wrong that day” for the U.S. Army, others hail the battle as a “symbol of resistance against U.S. imperialism.” My investigation examines the politics of commemoration: at stakes are conflicting notions of patriotism, national belonging, citizenship, and historical memory at the intersection of race, ethnicity, and gender. The investigation seeks to contribute to the literatures of U.S.-Mexico Borderlands Studies, Ethnic Studies, Oral History, and History and Memory.