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New Summer 2017
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How the West Was Juan
Reimagining the U.S./Mexico Border
Steven W. Bender
Paperback: 182 pages
Publisher: San Diego State University Press; 1st edition (July 24, 2017)
$20 Retail--on sale NOW via the SDSU PRESS Amazon store.
How the West Was Juan: Reimagining the U.S.-Mexico Border creatively approaches the current political stalemate over border regulation by imagining a different U.S.-Mexico border, one that returns to the early 1800s U.S.-Mexico border, and before that the same border when Spain controlled Mexico. Now part of the United States, the once Spanish/Mexican terrain, which I call Alto Mexico, encompassed the entire current U.S. states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as well as western and southeastern parts of Colorado, a southern portion of Wyoming, a southwestern piece of Kansas, and a slice of the western panhandle of Oklahoma. Had the Alto Mexico region remained in Mexican control, the United States would be missing California and Texas—its two most populous states and economic leaders, as well as seven of its ten most populous cities (Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose.
Imagining a relocated border separating Alto Mexico from the rest of the United States (what I term the United 44 States) is worthwhile not for purposes of advocating a forcible or even political reconquest of the Southwest, which this book in no way invites, but rather as a novel lens to examine contentious border issues that divide many U.S. residents. In discourse today about Mexico and Mexicans, most discussed are concerns over the undocumented entry of Mexicans, and relatedly the supposed failure of even documented Mexican immigrants to assimilate into the Anglo culture. Moreover, our conceptions of Mexico and Mexicans are marked by fears of illicit drugs crossing the border and the possibility of the cartel violence that erupted in Mexico seeping into U.S. territory. Relocating the border for purposes of discussing U.S. immigration policy serves the dual purpose of disconnecting the heated debate from the current physical border, and allowing exploration of the physical and cultural space of the entirety of Alto Mexico, where most U.S. Mexicans reside today as they always have, as a means of identifying and emphasizing the cultural and historical connections and synergies between the United States and Mexico. Ultimately, this book posits Alto Mexico as a cultural convergence zone between the United 44 States—which especially in the last few decades is increasingly populated by Mexicans—and Mexico, in which Anglo retirees and part-time residents from the United States have begun to arrive in substantial numbers, again mostly in the last few decades. Given its large Mexican population and their presence dating back centuries, Alto Mexico invites study as a timely reminder of the shared legacy of the Americas, and the place from which compassionate immigration momentum and policies may spring, in contrast to the imperatives of recent decades and particularly during the Trump regime to fortify and militarize the physical border between the United States and Mexico, to the symbolic exclusion of the Mexican people and culture.
With Los Angeles as its cultural capital and the locus of national/international cultural influence through motion pictures and the television industry, Alto Mexico is a space for the development of respect and appreciation for a bilingual/bicultural society in which physical borders matter little, or at least less than under our border-centric emphasis of late. Indeed, the question is fairly posed in the book whether U.S. or Mexico ownership fundamentally matters in the everyday lives of most Alto Mexico residents. The rise in Mexican population within Alto Mexico makes locating the physical border less critical. Rather, the ascendancy of Mexican population may ultimately bring with it political influence and culture evolution that make ownership of the Southwest matter less for the everyday lives of its residents. Ultimately, the realization may come that people matter more than borders.
A fresh perspective on immigration and culture wars is needed to break the ongoing political stalemate. Although the longstanding U.S. immigration policy conundrum is broader than just Mexicans, encompassing other migrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, among other locations, the emphasis in this book on residents and immigrants of Mexican origin allows exploration of our symbiotic relationship with the largest immigrant group living and working in the United States today, by comparing how and when the West was Juan.
Steven W. Bender
Professor and Associate Dean for Planning and Strategic Initiatives
Seattle University School of Law
Advance word on HOW THE WEST WAS JUAN
Imagine the United States losing the 1846 war, ending up a federation of 44 states [bordering] Alto México (with an acute accent over the "e"), one of the world's major economies, Spanglish its lingua franca. Its borders? As abstruse as the ones defeating us today. If you think this is a Leibnitzain universe (or perhaps one of Kellyanne Conway's alternative facts), read Steven W. Bender's prescient How the West Was Juan. It might show us the way out of this perverse prison we call "reality."
--Ilan Stavans, author of Quixote: The Novel and the World
and A Most Imprefect Union (with Lalo Alcaraz)
A Pandora's box is opened in the hands of a master of law and cultural studies as well as history. Playful, yet historically and legally researched, How the West Was Juan demarcates a new territory for the physical, psychological, moral, and spiritual borders of our country, as well as deconstructing the inaccuracy of our traditional history books. Bender keeps us entertained with his kneading of geographical facts with history and current events, allowing us to envision a different possible borderlands, and throwing a scholarly wrench into the notion of border and belonging, as well as appropriated spaces.
--Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, author of Word Images: New Perspectives
on Canícula and Other Works by Norma Elia Cantú
[A] tightly packed, state by state review of the history, geography, demography, and economy of a confiscated region, Steven Bender's imagined unwinding of the U.S. seizure of 54% of Mexico's territory is excellent and engaging.
Raymond Caballero, author of Orozco, The Life and Death
of a Mexican Revolutionary, Mayor, El Paso TX (2001-03)
About the Author:
Steven Bender is a national academic leader on immigration law and policy, as well as an expert in real estate law. Among his honors, the Minority Groups Section of the Association of American Law Schools presented him with the C. Clyde Ferguson, Jr., Award, a prestigious national award recognizing scholarly reputation, mentoring of junior faculty, and teaching excellence.
He joined the faculty from the University of Oregon in 2011 and was appointed Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development in 2014. He taught at UO for 20 years and served as the James and Ilene Hershner Professor of Law, Director of Portland Programs, Director of the Green Business Initiative, and Co-Director of the Law and Entrepreneurship Center.
Professor Bender is a well-published author of many law review articles, a casebook on real estate transactions, a national two-volume treatise on real estate financing, and several acclaimed books. His latest book, "Mea Culpa: Lessons on Law and Regret from U.S. History." will be released by New York University Press Jan. 1, 2015.
Among his other books are "Run for the Border: Vice and Virtue in U.S.-Mexico Border Crossings," (NYU Press 2012); "Greasers and Gringos: Latinos, Law, and the American Imagination, " (NYU Press 2003); "One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, Cesar Chavez, and the Dream of Dignity," (Paradigm Publishers 2008), winner of the 2008 Oregon Book Award for General Nonfiction; "Comprende?: The Significance of Spanish in English-Only Times," (Floricanto Press 2008); and "Tierra y Libertad: Land, Liberty, and Latino Housing" (NYU Press 2010). He is co-author of "Everyday Law for Latinos" (Paradigm Publishers 2008).
His research interests coincide with his classroom teaching, which encompasses subjects as diverse as Business Associations, Property, Real Estate Transactions, UCC Secured Transactions, Contracts, Externship Seminars, and Latina/os and the Law.
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