Mexico Seminar: La Reconquista: Indigenous Migrants and Their New Geographies of Mestizaje in the US


Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 12:00pm to 1:15pm

For a recording of this event, click here.

Speaker: María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis, New York University
Moderated by: Gabriela Soto Laveaga, Professor of the History of Science and Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico, Harvard University

Tens of thousands of indigenous peoples from Latin America have migrated to the United States since 1994, the vast majority of those from Mexico and Mesoamerica traveling as family units. As a consequence, according to the 2020 US Census, the Native American population in the US increased by 86% since 2010. Zapotec is now second only to Navajo as the most-spoken indigenous language in the United States, while Mixtec is taught as part of the bilingual education curriculum in New York City. This is challenging how we define indigeneity in the United States, our official categories of recognition. Latin American indigenous people in US cities and towns not only bring into sharp relief different hemispheric modes of defining indigenous identity, they also challenge the ongoing biopolitical function of mestizaje and indigenismo in Latin America. How does the mass migration that we are witnessing of indigenous peoples require a hemispheric rethinking of indigeneity? Of mestizaje? Of who gets to sing the nation-state now, and in what languages?

María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo is a professor in the Department of Social & Cultural Analysis & the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. Her book, Indian Given: Racial Geographies across Mexico and the United States (Duke UP 2016), received the 2019 Casa de Las Americans Literary Prize in Latino Studies; the 2017 ASA John Hope Franklin Book Prize; and the 2017 NACCS Book Award. With over thirty articles, in English and Spanish, on revolution, subaltern politics, indigenous peoples, racial formation, migration, narco-economies, and Latin American and Latinx cultural studies, her most recent include "Indians Have Always Been Modern: Roma, the Settler Colonial Paradigm & Latinx Temporality" (Aztlán, Fall 2020), which rethinks decolonialism from a Latin American perspective; and "The Violence of Citizenship in the Making of Refugees: The U.S. and Central America" (Social Text, Fall 2019), which explores the integral role gendered labor and violence play in the drug economy. She is Chairwoman of the Coalición Mexicana, an immigrants' rights organization, and an expert witness for Central American asylum cases with legal aid agencies internationally.

Gabriela Soto Laveaga is Professor of the History of Science and Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at Harvard University. Her research and teaching interests include modern Latin America, the intersection of science and culture, public health, and scientific and medical exchange in the Global South. Her first book, Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects and the Making of the Pill, won the Robert K. Merton Best Book Prize in Science, Knowledge, and Technology Studies from the American Sociological Association. Her second monograph, Sanitizing Rebellion: Physician Strikes, Public Health and Repression in Twentieth Century Mexico, examines the role of healthcare providers as both critical actors in the formation of modern states and as social agitators. Her latest book project seeks to re-narrate histories of twentieth century agriculture development aid from the point of view of India and Mexico. She has held numerous grants, including those from the Ford, Mellon, Fulbright, DAAD, and Gerda Henkel Foundations. Most recently she was a member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, 2019-2020.

See also: Virtual, Mexico