At the turn of the 20th century, revolution was starting to brew in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. A group of Mexican revolutionaries had fled to the United States and were working to overthrow a dictator named Porfirio Díaz in their home country. They were called Los Magonistas, after Ricardo Flores Magón, a Mexican politician, and their leader. Both the U.S. and Mexican governments put all of their efforts to spy on them and suppress their revolution.
Historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez defines herself as a historian of race, immigration, and mass incarceration, but her work doesn’t just look to the past. “For me as a historian, I really am grappling with contemporary issues. I’m trying to figure out how so much of the violence of the state becomes directed at Black, Brown, Indigenous folks,” says Kelly.
In her book Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands, Kelly tells the story of this cross-border insurgency which has been left out of most U.S. history books. “I think it’s really important that we begin to tell these stories, all stories. So we see how connected we are to one another, that we see how entangled our histories and our futures are. […] One of the reasons why there are children in cages at the border is because when you don’t have a history, you don’t have humanity.”
In this episode of Latino USA, Kelly shares how she found this fascinating history in the archives of Mexico and the U.S., and she highlights the ways in which Mexican-American history is part of U.S. history.
Featured collage by Victoria Estrada with images from the Library of Congress