In her new book, released Oct. 5, UNM Law Professor Laura Gómez traces the origins of Mexican Americans as a racial group in the United States, paying particular attention to shifting meanings of race and law in the 19th century.
Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican-American Race, explores the paradox of Mexican Americans' legal racial status as "white" with their non-white position in American society.
The 288-page book, published by New York University Press, spans the disciplines of law, history and sociology, revealing how the construction of Mexicans as an American racial group proved central to the larger process of restructuring the American racial order from the Mexican War (1846-48) to the early 20th century.
"Many Americans view Manifest Destiny as a moment of national triumph before the dark years of conflict over slavery that culminated in the Civil War," says Gómez. "But the truth is considerably more complicated. Manifest Destinies, as used in the book's title, is at once a reference to the ideology of Manifest Destiny as wrapped up in race and racism and is, at the same time, about how the competing destinies of many groups — including Pueblo Indians, other Indians, Euro-Americans, African Americans and Mexican Americans — came together to ultimately produce the Mexican American race."
Manifest Destinies focuses a great deal on New Mexico history, since two-thirds of all Mexican Americans in 1850 lived in present-day New Mexico (the remaining one-third was divided between California and Texas). Gómez draws on her expertise in the fields of law, history, and sociology to explain why New Mexico remained in political limbo as a federal territory for so long before gaining statehood in 1912.
In addition to serving as associate dean for faculty development at the UNM law school, Gómez is appointed to the College of Arts and Sciences' American Studies Department, the only UNM professor who serves on both faculties.
Nov. 1, 3:30 p.m., UNM Bookstore
Dec. 6, 6 p.m., National Hispanic Cultural Center
Dec. 14, 5:30 p.m., Collected Works in Santa Fe
Professor Gómez will present the UNM Center for the Southwest's 2007 Richard Etulain Lecture at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 5 in the UNM Student Union Building, Santa Ana rooms A and B. Her topic will be, "Manifest Destiny's Legacy: Race in America at the Turn of the Twentieth Century."