From hispanophobia to hispanophilia: travel writing, tourism and politics in late 19th- and early 20th-century New Mexico

Title: From hispanophobia to hispanophilia: travel writing, tourism and politics in late 19th- and early 20th-century New Mexico
Author: Zazula, Piotr
Source document: Brno studies in English. 2014, vol. 40, iss. 2, pp. [123]-146
  • ISSN
    0524-6881 (print)
    1805-0867 (online)
Type: Article
License: Not specified license

Notice: These citations are automatically created and might not follow citation rules properly.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries New Mexico's Hispanic intellectual elites, supported by Anglo-American enthusiasts of the Southwest's Spanish colonial past, launched a cultural campaign postulating the existence of New Mexico's "Castilian" nation, separate from the Mexican people south of the Rio Grande and free of local Pueblo Indian cultural infiltration. The campaign overlapped with the efforts of local politicians attempting to attain statehood status for the Territory of New Mexico. Applying Benedict Anderson's and Ernest Gellner's theories of collective identity-building and nations as "imagined communities," the paper points out to a similar nation-building pattern at work in late 19th-century New Mexico. In a broader context, in the case of the New World's Spanish-speaking nations the same identity-building mechanism can be seen operating in otherwise highly divergent national ideologies. Thus, contrary to their early 19th-century Latin American predecessors who attempted to construct interracial identities, New Mexican Hispanists consistently relied on the trope of "purity" in their descriptions of the racial characteristics, the language, and the folklore of Hispanic New Mexicans. The concept of racial purity resonated well with the fear of miscegenation, prevalent among American Congressmen ever since the US annexation of New Mexico. The very same concept, however, in a long run spelled out the demise of New Mexicans' "Castilian" identity, unable as it was to cope with the demographic and cultural changes in the area, resultant from a steady influx of Mexican immigrants. It seems that the Southwest's Hispanics' emphasis on their Spanishness is being replaced these days by their celebration of mestizaje and the resultant Chicano identity. The current trend, the paper argues, is not a foregone conclusion, however, and, in fact, could have been avoided had New Mexico's Hispanists shifted their semiotic emphasis from "Spanishness" understood along narrowly ethnic lines to hispanidad conceived solely in cultural terms.
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