Telling the Difference between the Border and the Borderlands

Materiality and Theoretical Practice
  • Manuel Luis Martinez


The international border between the United States and Mexico has served many purposes in its history. Its role in defining the American nation and its economy are but two of its functions. In the postwar period alone the borderlands have been figured as a magical space, a transformative site, the birthplace of la nueva mestizo, (the Chicana/o subject), the bracero (guest worker), and the “new American hero of the western night.” It is in crossing into Mexico near the end of the quintessential postwar American novel, On the Road, that Jack Kerouac’s “countercultural” figures Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty finally become archetypal Americans as they muse that the torch of martial spirited American individualism has been passed down to an increasingly anti-communalist postwar generation. Indeed, the torch has been passed by the American soldiers of the Mexican War who “cutting across with cannon” have provided the new generation of American adventurers with a road that “goes all the way to Panama,” a road that “eventually leads to the whole world” (230). As the variety of postwar narratives about the border show, disconnected from its material location and its history of repression, exploitation and displacement, the borderlands can as easily function as the site of a New American Frontier as the site of the New Chicano Homeland, Aztlán.


Migrant Worker Guest Worker Migrant Farmworker Undocumented Worker Movement Discourse 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Claudia Sadowski-Smith 2002

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  • Manuel Luis Martinez

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