Crossing Borders, Erasing Boundaries: Interethnic Marriages in Tucson, 1854-1930
Committee ChairAnderson, Karen
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation examines the interethnic marriages of Mexicans in Tucson, Arizona, between 1854 and 1930. Arizona's miscegenation law (1864-1962) prohibited the marriages of whites with blacks, Chinese, and Indians--and eventually those with Asian Indians and Filipinos. Mexicans, legally white, could intermarry with whites, but the anti-Mexican rhetoric of manifest destiny suggests that these unions represented social transgressions. Opponents and proponents of expansionism frequently warned against the purported dangers of racial amalgamation with Mexicans. The explanation to the apparent disjuncture between this rhetoric and the high incidence of white-Mexican marriages in Tucson lies in the difference between two groups: the men who denigrated Mexicans were usually middle- and upper-class men who never visited Mexico or the American Southwest, while those who married Mexicans were primarily working-class westering men. The typical American man chose to pursue his own happiness rather than adhere to a national, racial project.This study provides the largest quantitative analysis of intermarriages in the West. The great majority of these intermarriages occurred between whites and Mexicans. Though significantly lower in total numbers, Mexican women accounted for large percentages of all marriages for black and Chinese men. The children of these couples almost always married Mexicans. All of these marriages were illegal in Arizona, but local officials frequently disregarded the law. Their passive acceptance underscores their racial ambiguity of Mexicans. Their legal whiteness allowed them to marry whites, and their social non-whiteness facilitated their marriages with blacks and Chinese.The dissertation suggests the need to reassess two predominant claims in American historiography: (1) that Mexican-white intermarriages in the nineteenth-century Southwest occurred primarily between the daughters of Mexican elites and enterprising white men; and (2) that the arrival of white women led to decreases in intermarriages. Working-class whites and Mexicans in fact accounted for the majority of intermarriages between 1860 and 1930. The number of intermarriages as total numbers always increased, and the percentage of white men who had the option to marry--i.e., those who lived in Arizona as bachelors--continued to intermarry at rates that rivaled the high percentages of the 1860s and 1870s.