River of Hope

Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands

River of Hope

Book Pages: 384 Illustrations: 19 photos, 10 tables, 3 maps Published: January 2013

Chicanx and Latinx Studies, History > U.S. History, Latin American Studies

In River of Hope, Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez examines state formation, cultural change, and the construction of identity in the lower Rio Grande region during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He chronicles a history of violence resulting from multiple conquests, of resistance and accommodation to state power, and of changing ethnic and political identities. The redrawing of borders neither began nor ended the region's long history of unequal power relations. Nor did it lead residents to adopt singular colonial or national identities. Instead, their regionalism, transnational cultural practices, and kinship ties subverted state attempts to control and divide the population.

Diverse influences transformed the borderlands as Spain, Mexico, and the United States competed for control of the region. Indian slaves joined Spanish society; Mexicans allied with Indians to defend river communities; Anglo Americans and Mexicans intermarried and collaborated; and women sued to confront spousal abuse and to secure divorces. Drawn into multiple conflicts along the border, Mexican nationals and Mexican Texans (tejanos) took advantage of their transnational social relations and ambiguous citizenship to escape criminal prosecution, secure political refuge, and obtain economic opportunities. To confront the racialization of their cultural practices and their increasing criminalization, tejanos claimed citizenship rights within the United States and, in the process, created a new identity.

Published in cooperation with the William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University.


“In short, this study is certainly a valuable contribution to the history of the Provincias Internas before and after the Mexican-American war.” — Raymond Buve, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“A first-rate analysis of the dynamic and varied ways that the inhabitants of the Rio Grande borderlands formulated their identities in relation to rapid and volatile geopolitical change.” — Eric V. Meeks, American Historical Review

“...Valerio-Jiménez has added a substantial work to an aspect of transborder history that merits considerably more attention.” — Jesus F. de la Teja, The Americas

“Deeply researched and elegantly written, this book is a required purchase for any border studies collection. Summing Up: Essential.” — J. A. Stuntz, Choice

“Scholars and students of western, borderlands, Native American, Chicana-Chicano, and gender history are the books[‘s] primary audience, but the explorations of identity, state power, individual agency, and gender will benefit scholars from a wide range of fields. … [It] provide[s] valuable insights into the uneven process of incorporation and the ways in which people negotiate their place between and in different empires and nation-states.”  — Alicia M. Dewey, History: Reviews of New Books

"[A]n excellent historical backdrop to Mexican American civil rights history and contemporary discussions of Latina/o citizenship. Valerio-Jimenez's superb study will animate courses and appeal to readers interested in southern, borderlands, and Chicana/o history." — Mark Allan Goldberg, Journal of Southern History

“Overall, this book is a good example of borderland studies that examine state formation and the construction of identity. The author uses a wide array of sources and places the history of the settlers in the region in the context of changing political authorities…. [I]t is a solid contribution to Chicano studies and borderlands history.” — Armando Alonzo, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“In sum, River of Hope provides us with an empirically rich and wonderfully argued examination of an understudied area of the Mexico-U.S. border region.” — Andrae Marak, Western Historical Quarterly

"A valuable regional case study in U.S.-Mexico borderlands history.  Valerio-Jimenez presents a nuanced understanding of the multiple peoples of the Lower Rio Grande Valley from Spanish-colonial to modern times."  — Brandon Morgan, The Latin Americanist

"Wonderfully researched and engagingly written, River of Hope deserves to be read alongside other classic regional case studies of nineteenth-century American political life." — John Mckiernan-González, Hispanic American Historical Review

"A significant contribution to a notable body of work that represents the border through transnational histories." — Lisbeth Haas, New Mexico Historical Review

River of Hope is a timely reminder of the devastating consequences of conquest and the uneven process of incorporation–which remained incomplete…. Further, this study reveals how identity was shaped by racial, gender, and class ideologies, and how inhabitants frequently used such identities to cope with, resist, and negotiate changes in the community.”

— Sonia Hernandez, H-Net Reviews

"River of Hope presents a complex history in a well-researched monograph that demonstrates both the continuities and transformations along the border across time but also the lasting legacy of these changes. River of Hope will be of interest not only to borderlands scholars, but also those interested in Mexican, Texas, and Chicano histories as well as those interested in state-building, identity formation, and gender studies." — Yolanda Chávez Leyva, EIAL

"This monograph delivers a pathbreaking analysis that leaves enough unexplored questions for future generations of scholars to elevate this borderland to one that should prove every bit as rich as the Mississippi River Delta, the Great Lakes, or the middle Rio Grande Valley." — Morgan LaBin Veraluz, Journal of American Ethnic History

"River of Hope not only documents the history of the Rio Grande area in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries but also provides a model for integrating the concerns of Chicana/o studies scholars, historians of the U.S. West, scholars of gender and ethnicity, theorists of state formation, and political scientists who study 'everyday forms of resistance.' An extraordinary contribution, the book opens up a wide-ranging discussion about the interplay between local and national discourses, particularly in places located on the peripheries of power and at times of rapid social, cultural, legal, and political change. This is genuinely original scholarship." — Susan Lee Johnson, author of Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush

"River of Hope tells the complex story of how Spanish colonists settled Texas-Tamaulipas, how they became neglected Mexican citizens, and ultimately, how they were transformed into unwanted American citizens as subjects of the United States. In this rich and nuanced work, Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez illuminates the struggles over land, identity, and love as native nations, Spain, Mexico, and the United States competed for this terrain." — Ramón A. Gutiérrez, coeditor of Mexicans in California: Transformations and Challenges

"A sweeping, path-breaking achievement, River of Hope will stand as a benchmark study of the borderlands for decades to come. It is a compelling political and social history of identity formations, community building, and overlapping conquests from the earliest Spanish colonial settlements to nineteenth-century Euro-American towns. Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez interrogates how the people who called las villas del norte home created meaning in their lives against a backdrop of state formation, disenfranchisement, and violence." — Vicki L. Ruiz, author of From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez is Associate Professor of History at the University of Iowa.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Maps, Figures, and Tables ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1. Constructing Vecinos, Constructing Indios: Complex Interdependence 17

2. Fragmented Communities: Class and Gender Hierarchies 51

3. Opposing Forces: Political Loyalty and Trade 92

4. Bandidos or Citizens? Everyday Forms of Resistance to Political and Legal Changes 129

5. Divorcées, Rancheros, and Peons: Changing Class and Gender Relations 176

6. Contested Citizenship: The Enduring Roles of Race and Class 222

Conclusion 275

Notes 287

Bibliography 333

Index 355
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5185-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5171-9
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