National Appropriations: Yaqui Autonomy, The Centennial of The Mexican Revolution And The Bicentennnial of The Mexican Nation

Publicado: febrero 16, 2012 en Articles on English, General, Historia, Los Yaquis: Espiritu Indomable
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Nicole M. Guidotti-Hernandez
The University of Arizona

Abstract

2010 marks the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and the bicentennial of the independent Mexican nation-state. As an opportunity to critique the role of national history and nationalism in producing mythologies that serve particular interests, this paper argues that certain historical flashpoints demonstrate how vehicles for national commemoration consolidate and suture the modernity embodied by the state on the one hand and the pre-modern objectification of the Yaqui on the other to foment state formation.

In contrast, Yaqui enactments of historical memory consistently work against the Mexican state in multiple ways. To do so, the essay first, examines the ways in which Yaqui struggles for autonomy, pre and post revolution (1901-1910 and 1920-1935) were, and continue to be, written out of the history of the Mexican nation. Secondly, the essay examines the erasure of the violence enacted by the U.S., Mexican-American and Mexican state actors against the Yaqui peoples as part of multiple national projects that glorify mestizaje without a material attentiveness to histories of state violence (physical, epistemic and discursive).

Thirdly, I examine how the state and transnational corporations deploy the image of the Danzante del venado (deer dancer) as both an object of nationalism and the site of epistemic violence. I demonstrate these points by presenting the counterpoint evidence of Yaqui struggles for autonomy.

2010 marks the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and the bicentennial of the independent Mexican nation-state. As an opportunity to critique the role of national history and nationalism in producing mythologies that serve particular interests, this essay argues that certain historical flashpoints consolidate and suture the modernity embodied by the state on the one hand and the pre-modern objectification of the Yaqui on the other.

In contrast, Yaqui enactments of historical memory consistently work against Mexican state appropriations in multiple ways. First, the essay examines the ways in which the Yaqui struggles for autonomy, pre and post revolution (1901-1910 and 1920-1935) were, and continue to be, written out of the history of the Mexican nation. Secondly, the essay examines the erasure of the violence performed by the U.S., Mexican-American and Mexican state actors against Yaqui peoples as part of multiple national projects that glorify mestizajewithout a material attentiveness to histories of state violence.

Thirdly, it examines how the state and transnational corporations deploy the image of the Danzante del venado (deer dancer) as both an object of nationalism and the site of epistemic violence.

I demonstrate these points by presenting the counterpoint evidence of Yaqui struggles for autonomy.

Since the nineteenth century was crucial to Mexican formations of national identity, given the French occupation, wars of reform, and US annexation of the now American Southwest (Beezley, viii), I historicize how the materials from this period were produced in a highly masculinist discourse.

This reinforces the relationship between gendered forms of power and nationhood. Because gender dynamics elucidate national history and because such history further complicates a Chicano and Mexican nationalist depictions of the past that unproblematically claim indigenous origins and lionize indigeneity as a catch-all category for that which is not Spanish or Anglo-American, I center the celebratory nature of discourses of revolution and the bicentennial.

They are read as a similar kind of discursive and epistemic violence because the celebration requires a forgetting: Yaqui participation in the revolution is obviated as are/were mass deportations, lynching and genocide directed at masculine subjects. What followed the revolutionwas a series of fights with the state over autonomy and land rights.

Taken together, the erasure from national meta-narrative history and forgetting of state-sponsored violence is supposedly remedied through Sonorense and Mexican national usage of the image of the danzante del venado. It is precisely the masculinized and eroticized body of the Danzante del venado that is appealing as a site to cement national consolidation; it serves as a synecdoche of the parts that stand for the whole.

As Sydney Hutchinson has argued, “state refashionings of the Deer dance have transformed it into the representation of the melancholy noble savage” and masculine athleticism instead of an ethnic-specific ritual history (212).

While the sweep of 120 years might seem unsatisfying to some historians, the essay connects several historical moments that create an arch of signification. That is, if we examine these flashpoints (the glimpses or flashes of history that capture the fleeting, elusive nature of memory) 1 in relation to each other in terms of state-formation, we see how discursive violence is at the core of nationalism and that nationalism is dependent upon a particular imagining of Yaqui Indians as objects and not as subjects of their own making.

Ultimately, the lack of critical selfreflexivity contributes to a knowledge production that results in epistemic violence where the very idea of national histories as they are appropriated by Chicanos and Mexicans in nationalist rhetoric of mestizaje, nation, and revolution efface Indigenous subjects and history.

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Reference: onlinelibrary.wiley.com

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