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Thread of Blood
Colonialism, Revolution, and Gender on Mexico's Northern Frontier
By Ana María Alonso
303 pp. / 6.00 in x 9.00 in / 1995
Paper (978-0-8165-1574-5) [s]
  - Hegemony and Experience

Related Interest
  - Women's Studies
  - Latin American Studies

This book is about the construction and tranformation of peasant military colonists on Mexico's northern frontier from the late 18th through the early 20th century. Though the majority of the data
This is a most readable volume and would be useful to persons interested in Mexican history and border studies. It would also serve as a good introduction to the study of gender and power relations in anthropology.


A study of violence in its social and historical context . . . The examples and evidence that Alonso uses to support her case are so vivid and telling that the book is sure to intrigue both students and scholars of the Mexican Revolution.

—The Historian

She invites us to observe the dance of war, honor, ethnic and gender fury in the Chihuahuan village of Namiquipa. Central to this work is her insightful grasp of the complex series of equations and oppositions involved in developing a specific version of masculinity.

—American Historical Review

A significant contribution to the historical anthropology of northern Mexico. I learned a great deal of history and was enlightened by the anthropological discourse the author brought to its telling.

—Journal of American History

comes from the pueblo of Namiquipa in the state of Chihuahua, the argument has broader implications for the study of northern Mexico, frontier societies, and our understanding of the northern armies in the 1910 Revolution. The study is rare for its integration of several levels, placing an analysis of gender and ethnicity within a specific historical period.

The author demonstrates that a distinct kind of frontier serrano society was generated in Namiquipa between the mid-18th and mid-19th centuries. In exchange for keeping the Apaches at bay, colonists were provided with arms and land grants. At the same time, they developed a gendered sense of ethnic identity that equated honor with land, autonomy, and a kind of masculinity that distinguished the "civilized" colonist from the "barbarous" Indian. While this identity was itself ordered hierarchically between men and women, and between "Hispanic" and "Indian," it also provided serranos with a sense of pride and dignity that was not directly associated with wealth.

After the defeat of the Apaches, and with increased state control during the last decades of the Porfiriato, the serranos on the frontier were transformed from bulwarks of order to victims of progress. The expansion of capitalism and the manipulation of local political office by men no longer accountable to communal norms eroded the legitimacy of both powerholders and the central state. In response, serranos constructed an ideology of history based on past notions of masculine honor and autonomy. This ideology motivated their confrontations with the Mexican state during the 1890s and also served as the force behind their mobilization in the 1910 revolution.

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