The crash of 1929 and the migration policies of president Hoover forced thousands of Mexicans out of the United States. Deportees found their way back into Mexico, where they reinvented their lives. Post-revolutionary regimes of the time had initiated an ambitious state-led cotton program right on the border between Texas and Tamaulipas. They expanded the threshold of the desert with massive works of water infrastructure, deriving water for agricultural purposes from the Río Grande for the first time, and set the financial basis for national and international investments in the area. To be successful, the cotton program needed expert workers--and the deportees from the United States, with vast experience as cotton pickers in southeastern ranches, came to play fundamental roles here. In this cross-genre creative non-fiction account of the process, I unearth a series of domestic objects to trace the history of my grandparents as they crossed the border, cleared the land, and developed a new life as the brave ejidatarios who created one of the most daring and successful Cardenista programs in the north of Mexico.
Cristina Rivera Garza, 2020 MacArthur Fellow, received a BA (1987) from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and PhD (1995) from the University of Houston. She was affiliated with San Diego State University (1997–2004), ITESM-Campus Toluca (2004–2008), and the University of California at San Diego (2008–2015) prior to joining the faculty of the University of Houston in 2016, where she is a distinguished professor in the Department of Hispanic Studies and leads the graduate Spanish-language creative writing concentration. Her recent publications in Spanish include Autobiografía del algodón (2020), the poetry collection La fractura exacta (2020), and the audiobook Ciudad XY (2020), and additional works translated into English include the essay collections The Restless Dead: Necrowriting and Disappropriation (2013/2020), Grieving: Dispatches from a Wounded Country (2011/2020), and La Castañeda Insane Asylum: Narratives of Pain in Modern Mexico (2010/2020).
Learn more about Cristina's work.
Douglas Massey, Department of Sociology, Princeton University
Michael Wood, Department of English, Princeton University
Javier Guerrero, Spanish and Portuguese, Princeton University
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Co-sponsored by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Program in American Studies, Program in Latino Studies and Center for Migration and Development
Photo: Violette Bule