Alexandria Digital Research Library

Monsters of Late Capitalism Along the U.S.-Mexico Border : Legends, Epistemologies, and the Politics of Imagination

Calvo-Quiros, William A.
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Chicana and Chicano studies
Degree Supervisor:
Francisco A. Lomeli and Maria Herrera-Sobek
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Folklore, Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies, and Hispanic American Studies
The Devil
Folklore Studies
Chicano Studies
Juan Soldado
U.S. - Mexico Border
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014

My dissertation examines the U.S.-Mexico border during the 20th century, not only as a socio-political space of conflict and struggle, but simultaneously as a 2,000-mile strip of "haunted" land, inhabited by many imaginary creatures, fantastic tales, monsters, and popular saints. It is through an examination of government proceedings, archival documents, religious artifacts, interviews, and ethnographic visits to border shrines and festival celebrations, that this research engages with the question of how communities utilize the fantastic and the uncanny to disseminate knowledge and inscribe history.

I analyze (a) the myth of the Devil along the border, (b) the Chupacabras, the livestock blood-sucking monster; and (c) the legend of Juan Soldado, a saint of undocumented border crossers. These three entities are used in order to create a genealogy of the effects of capitalism in the region, as each of them correlates to crucial periods of U.S.-Mexico relations. The first chapter begins by studying the legend of El Diablo (the Devil) along the U.S.-Mexico Border, in particular as it is narrated in the novel The Devil in Texas/El Diablo en Texas (1976) by Aristeo Brito. It explores the devil within the context of exploitative capitalism in the region and highlights the interconnection between the events of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the effects of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo (1848), and the emergence of the modern Chicana/o Movement (1960-1970s).

The second chapter traces the apparition of El Chupacabras (1994), or goatsucker within the the context of anti-American sentiments in Puerto Rico, the fears and the anxieties of the U.S. post-cold war years, as well as the dismantling of the welfare state. In particular, it analyzes the Chupacabras as a subversive image, used to unify and address the struggles of small farmers and create a sophisticated polysemic metaphor to illustrate the insatiable appetite and predatory practices of neo-liberalism as implemented by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) during the 1990s. The third chapter continues with the study of Juan Soldado (1930s), one of the saints of undocumented border crossers, within the context of the border transformations created by American Prohibition (1920-1933), the Great Depression (1930s), and the mass "deportation" of Mexican-Americans and Mexican nationals (1929-1939).

This research situates Juan Soldado's conviction for the rape and murder of an eight years old girl, and the subsequent Tijuana riots surrounding this case, as a pivotal event in the long tradition of femicides along the border.

This dissertation explores how the battle for survival along the border is performed in the terrains of the fantastic and the uncanny, and where the real and the imaginary are not always clearly defined but deeply shaped by the socio-political and racial tensions of the region. In particular, it analyzes how these legends and popular saints are never random nor naive, but rather they are sophisticated "in-context" social productions assembled and adapted to respond to specific socio-political and racial-economic transnational realities. This project shows how folklore and pop-culture are useful tools to reconstruct the history of violence along the border and to understand the coping mechanisms developed by Latina/o border communities.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (346 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Wiliam Calvo
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