American Studies ETDs

Publication Date



In North from Mexico: the Spanish Speaking People of the United States, Carey McWilliams asserts that "more Mexicans were lynched in the southwest between 1865 and 1920 than blacks in other parts of the south." The hundreds of unrestrained murders of Mexicans throughout the southwest have gone largely unrecognized in U.S. and Chicano/a histories. Previous work on lynching has focused on the murders of African Americans in the South. Those works that have discussed violence against Mexicans in the southwest in this period conflate lynching murders with generalized stories on "frontier violence" and "vigilantism." In addition, no work has been published that considers "modern" southwestern lynchings of Mexicans. Why has the lynching of Mexicans been largely unwritten and the losses of these lynching victims unvalued?

I examine how nation building and the consolidation of national belonging have been constructed through ritualized, performative violence. Brutal murders of Mexicans have been replicated for over a century in the southwest--today by vigilante groups in San Diego County, at the Arizona state border, and throughout the southwest. I suggest a larger look at the lynching of Mexicans in the southwest as coupled with expansionism and colonialism--historically and in the present.



Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

A. Gabriel Meléndez

Second Committee Member

Michael L. Trujillo

Third Committee Member

Kirsten P. Buick