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Border Visions: by Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez


From pre-European times to the present day, anthropologist Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez explores the movement of people and ideas from Mesoamerica to the southwestern United States in his new book published by the University of Arizona Press.

Border Visions: Mexican Cultures of the Southwest United States, focuses on "the way in which various versions of Mexican culture have taken root in what is now the Southwestern United States and how these formed the basis of cultural identity over time, despite incredible odds," said Vélez-Ibáñez , who is dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and professor of anthropology at UCR.

Blending his own family's long history, which criss-crosses the border between the present states of Arizona in the U.S. and Sonora in Mexico, with an analysis of the migration from Mesoamerica to the Southwest United States of people and ideas beginning from pre-European periods, Vélez-Ibáñez uses archaeological, historical, ethnographic, demographic, epidemiological, artistic and literary materials to document the "search for cultural space and place" of ancient and contemporary Mexicans. He also explores the dynamics of that cultural "bumping" between Native American, Spanish, Mexican and Anglo-American cultures.

"All human populations move from one area to another for the same basic reason -- to subsist. In so doing, they bump into each other and the way in which these processes unfold becomes crucial to understanding the formation of regional and subregional cultural identities," said Vélez-Ibáñez .

"This 'bumping' process continues to this day with new versions of ancient populations from the south facing great institutional opposition, economic disadvantage and political exclusion," he added. Mexicans of the "Greater Southwest" have created innovative cultural systems, such as cross-border households with Icin living in the U.S. and Mexico and clustered households, a series of nuclear families bound to each other by kinship and social connections, to help them survive in the face of these economic and political barriers.

In Border Visions, Vélez-Ibáñez documents the "distribution of sadness" -- the toll that poor and culturally biased education, crime, illness, poverty and war takes on Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the Southwestern U.S., but also how this is balanced by the literature and mural art that they create to carve their own cultural "space and place."

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