Unspeakable Violence

Unspeakable Violence: Remapping US and Mexican National Boundaries
Nicole M Guidotti-Hernández
2011, Duke University Press
375 pages, plates

THIS IS a courageous book by taking a candid approach to the violence committed by Mexicans and Chicanos alongside that against them by Anglos in the US-Mexican borderlands in an effort to explore the broader role played by narratives of resistance and victimisation in the construction of identity. Guidotti-Hernández argues that violence was fundamental to Mexican and Chicano nationalism as well as that of the US. She explores a number of case studies of violence within and between communities in the border region – including the lynching in California of a Mexican woman in 1852, the 1871 Camp Grant Indian Massacre and the attempted ethnocide of the Yaqui Indians between 1876-1907 – to consider how these events have been recounted in narratives that produce particular versions of nationhood. Guidotti-Hernández is making an important point: the threat of violence against ethnic others is at the heart of some forms of nationalism and, although Mexicans have often been on the receiving end of Anglo-Saxon violence, their nationalist narratives are in essence no different at this level. However, whether these similarities break down if violence is then examined as part of a broader study of anti-imperialism poses a different set of questions entirely. – GO’T