Saturday, August 4, 2018

Gabriela González's "Redeeming La Raza"

Gabriela González is an associate professor of history at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Redeeming La Raza: Transborder Modernity, Race, Respectability, and Rights, and reported the following:
From page 99:
Leonor Villegas de Magnón had two powerful reasons for getting involved in this conflict. First, she knew that the American soldiers would turn the men over to the Federales in Nuevo Laredo once they had recuperated, after which they would be either imprisoned or executed in Mexico. Second, she was committed to the Carrancista cause. She knew that the rebel army needed survivors to fight other battles.
Page 99 focuses on transborder activist Leonor Villegas de Magnón’s heroic efforts to save the lives of injured Mexican rebel soldiers during the Mexican Revolution. The soldiers, followers of revolutionary general Venustiano Carranza, had been struck down during the 1914 Battle of Nuevo Laredo. Villegas de Magnon’s humanitarian work involved receiving the fallen Carrancista soldiers ferried across the Rio Grande river to the safety of the south Texas community of Laredo; housing them in makeshift hospitals; and with a group of nurses and doctors, nursing these battle survivors back to health.

Federalist officials connected to the regime of Mexican dictator Victoriano Huerta demanded that the United States release these men to their custody, ensuring that they would either be imprisoned or executed upon returning to Mexico. The rest of the page highlights the ingenious ways in which Villegas de Magnón addressed the transnational realities of trying to protect the human rights of the injured men in the face of an international neutrality law that compelled American officials to acquiesce to the demands of the Huerta regime.

This one story, like many others in Redeeming la Raza, encapsulates the main argument that during the first half of the twentieth century, Mexican American and Mexican immigrant activists in Texas and northern Mexico created a transborder political culture that challenged the more exploitative aspects of modernity and sought to build movements for human and civil rights. On the American side, la raza (ethnic Mexicans--both U.S. born and immigrants) needed to be redeemed or saved from white supremacy and all the exploitative systems informed by racialist thinking. In Mexico, modernity had been ushered in by Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz and the American and European investors he made deals with over the course of his thirty years in power. Mexico’s economic development came at a high social cost, leading to revolution.

The work of revolution in Mexico, like the work of civil and human rights activism in Texas fell not just on the shoulders of men, but also many women, including the women of the White Cross, a medical brigade founded by Leonor Villegas de Magnón. For Villegas de Magnón, helping the injured rebel soldiers was both a humanitarian act and a political one, for she supported the revolution’s attempt to redeem la raza in Mexico by ridding the country of anti-democratic, dictatorial forces.
Learn more about Redeeming La Raza at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue