Latin America in the Civil War Era: A working bibliography and research memo

This evolving list is the first of many steps of an intellectual process to comprehend the scope of relevant literature in this field. It is a very broad initial attempt to identify important books, essays, articles, memoirs, archival collections and other primary and secondary sources.

 

The U.S. Civil War sent economic, political and social shockwaves around the world. My great objective is to understand how they were felt primarily throughout Latin America, specifically throughout the republican and imperial governments, the intelligentsia, the diplomatic circles, the street-level multiracial societies, and the military commands.

I intend to illustrate these histories through biography whenever possible and through narrative history in general. I may be fashionably late to the transnational party, but I definitely intend to earn my place among its best scholars.

This evolving list is the first of many steps of an intellectual process to comprehend the scope of relevant literature in this field. It is a very broad initial attempt to identify important books, essays, articles, memoirs, archival collections and other primary and secondary sources.

A second, sharpened, edited version of this bibliography will follow in the coming months. The third step will be an annotated bibliography. That will then lead to a comprehensive review essay analyzing the evolution of the literature, the conversations and the debates. The essay will also identify potential avenues of future research and the challenges of traveling down those avenues. That essay will, in part, guide my future scholarly ambitions and plans.

I have a very long and very beautiful intellectual journey ahead of me. I certainly welcome corrections, comments and suggestions as this self-introductory process continues. You may reach me at this address: remembrance_@hotmail.com.

WORKING BIBLIOGRAPHY (by region)

MEXICO

Aldis, Owen F. “Louis Napoleon and the Southern Confederacy,” North American Review 129 (October 1879): 342-362.

Bacha-Garza, Roseann, Christopher L. Miller and Russell K. Skowronek. The Civil War on the Rio Grande, 1846-1876. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2019.

Barker, Nancy N. “Monarchy in Mexico: Harebrained Scheme or Well-Considered Prospect?” The Journal of Modern History 48, no. 1 (March 1976): 51-68.

Brettle, Adrian Robert. “The Fortunes of War: Confederate Expansionist Ambitions During the American Civil War.” PhD diss. University of Virginia, 2014.

Callahan, James Morton. Evolution of Seward’s Mexican Policy. West Virginia University Studies in American History ser. 1, Diplomatic History, nos. 4, 5, and 6. Morgantown, W.Va.: West Virginia University, 1909.

Downs, Gregory P. “The Mexicanization of American Politics: The United States’ Transnational Path from Civil War to Stabilization.” American Historical Review 117 (April 2012): 408.

Frazier, Robert W. “Latin American Projects to Aid Mexico during the French Intervention,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 28 (August 1948): 370-386.

Gonzalez-Quiroga, Miguel Angel. “Conflict and Cooperation in the Making of Texas-Mexico Border Society, 1840-1880” in Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories, 33-58, edited by Benjamin H. Johnson and Andrew R. Graybill. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010.

Hanna, A.J. “The Role of Matthew Fontaine Maury in the Mexican Empire,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 55 (April 1947): 105-125.

Hanna, Kathryn Abbey. “The Roles of the South in the French Intervention in Mexico,” The Journal of Southern History 20, no. 1 (February 1954): 3-21.

—. Napoleon III and Mexico: American Triumph over Monarchy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1971.

Hardy, William E. “South of the Border: Ulysses S. Grant and the French Intervention.” Civil War History 54, no. 1 (March 2008): 63-86.

Hart, John Mason. Empire and Revolution: The Americans in Mexico since the Civil War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

Irby, James. Backdoor at Bagdad: The Civil War on the Rio Grande. El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1977.

McAllen, M.M. Maximilian and Carlotta, Europe’s Last Empire in Mexico. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2014.

Martin, Percy F. Maximilian in Mexico: The Story of the French Intervention (1861-1867). New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1914.

Miller, Robert Ryal. “Matia Romero: Mexican Minister to the United States during the Juarez-Maximilian Era,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 45 (May 1964): 230.

—. “Arms across the Border: United States Aid to Juarez during the French Intervention in Mexico,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s, 63, no. 6 (1973): 1-68.

Mora-Torres, Juan. The Making of the Mexican Border: The State, Capitalism, and Society and Nuevo Leon, 1848-1910. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.

Ridley, Jasper. Maximilian and Juarez. London: Constable, 2001.

Rister, Carl Coke. “Carlota: A Confederate Colony in Mexico,” The Journal of Southern History 11 (February 1945): 33-50.

Rolle, Andrew F. The Lost Cause: The Confederate Exodus to Mexico. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1965.

Schoonover, Thomas. Dollars Over Dominion: The Triumph of Liberalism in Mexican-United States Relations, 1861-1867. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978.

—., ed., Mexican Lobby: Matias Romero in Washington 1861-1867. Lexington, Ky: University of Kentucky Press, 1986.

Truett, Samuel. Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Tyler, Ronnie C. Santiago Vidaurri and the Southern Confederacy. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1973.

Wahlstrom, Todd W. The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015.

GENERAL SOUTH AMERICA

Ferris, Nathan L. “The Relations of the United States with South America during the Civil War,” The Hispanic American Historical Review 21 (February 1941): 51-78.

Fitz, Caitlin A. “The Hemispheric Dimensions of Early U.S. Nationalism: The War of 1812, Its Aftermath, and Spanish American Independence,” The Journal of American History 102 (September 2015): 356–379.

—. Our Sister Republics: The United States in an Age of Revolutions. New York: Norton, 2016.

Gobat, Michel. “The Invention of Latin America: The Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race,” American Historical Review 118 (December 2013): 1345-1375.

Kelly, Patrick J. “The Cat’s-Paw: Confederate Ambitions in Latin America” in American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe and the Crisis of the 1860s. Edited by Don H. Doyle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

May, Robert E.. Manifest Destiny’s Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

—. Slavery, Race and Conquest in the Tropics: Lincoln, Douglass and the Future of Latin America. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Sanders, James E. The Vanguard of the Atlantic World: Creating Modernity, Nation, and Democracy in Nineteenth Century Latin America. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2014.

Scott, Rebecca, et. al. The Abolition of Slavery and the Aftermath of Emancipation in Brazil. Durham: Duke University Press, 1988.

Tenorio-Trillo, Mauricio. Latin America: The Allure and Power of an Idea. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

CHILE

Burr, Robert N. By Reason or Force: Chile and the Balancing of Power in South America, 1830-1905. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

PERU

Blanchard, Peter. Slavery and Abolition in Early Republican Peru. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Books, 1992.

“Emancipation Declared in Peru,” Anti-Slavery Reporter, July 2, 1855, 157.

GENERAL SPANISH CARIBBEAN

González-Quintero, Nicolás. “Empire, Slavery, and Exile in the 19th Century Spanish Caribbean.” PhD diss. University of Texas at Austin, 2020.

May, Robert E. The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire, 1854-1861. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1973.

Rugemer, Edward Bartlett. The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008.

Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher. Empire and Antislavery: Spain, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, 1833-1870. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999.

—. “From Aggression to Crisis: The Spanish Empire in the 1860s” in American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe and the Crisis of the 1860s. Edited by Don H. Doyle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

CUBA

Chaffin, Tom. Fatal Glory: Narciso López and the First Clandestine U.S. War Against Cuba. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996.

Corwin, Arthur. Spain and the Abolition of Slavery in Cuba, 1817-1886. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.

Scott, Rebecca. Slave Emancipation in Cuba: The Transition to Free Labor, 1860-1899. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

—. Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba After Slavery. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

GENERAL U.S. CIVIL WAR

Barnes, James J., and Patience P. Barnes. The American Civil War Through British Eyes: Dispatches from British Diplomats. Kent, OH: Kent University Press, 2005.

Beckert, Sven. “Emancipation and Empire: Reconstructing the Worldwide Web of Cotton Production in the Age of the American Civil War,” American Historical Review 109 (December 2004): 1405-1438.

Bonner, Robert E. “The Salt Water Civil War: Thalassological Approaches, Ocean-Centered Opportunities,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 6, no. 2 (June 2016): 243-267.

Bowen, Wayne S. Spain and the American Civil War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2011.

Crook, David Paul. The North, the South, and the Powers, 1861-1865. New York: Wiley, 1974.

—. Diplomacy during the Civil War. New York: Wiley, 1975.

Davis, Jefferson. The Papers of Jefferson Davis. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1971 to present.

Davis, William C. “Confederate Exiles.” American History Illustrated 5, no. 3 (June 1970): 30-43.

Doyle, Don H. The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War. New York: Basic Books, 2015.

Egerton, Douglas R. “Rethinking Atlantic Historiography in a Postcolonial Era: The Civil War in a Global Perspective,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 1, no. 1 (March 2011): 79-95.

Eichhorn, Niels. “North Atlantic Trade in the Mid-Nineteenth Century: A Case for Peace during the American Civil War,” Civil War History 1, no. 2 (June 2015): 138-172.

Faust, Drew Gilpin. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Ferris, Norman B. Desperate Diplomacy: William H. Seward’s Foreign Policy, 1861. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976.

Fleche, Andre. Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

Foreman, Amanda. A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War. New York: Random House, 2010.

Grant, U.S. The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant. Edited by John Y. Simon. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967-1991.

—. The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. New York: C.L. Webster, 1886.

Grimsley, Mark, and Brooks D. Simpson, eds. The Collapse of the Confederacy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.

Hahn, Steven. “What Sort of World Did the Civil War Make?” in The World the Civil War Made. Edited by Gregory P. Downs and Kate Masur. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

Hubbard, Charles M. The Burden of Confederate Diplomacy. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1998.

Hunt, Jeffrey William. The Last Battle of the Civil War: Palmetto Ranch. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Jones, Howard. Union in Peril: The Crisis Over British Intervention in the Civil War. Lincoln, NE: Bison Books, 1997.

–. Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999.

–. Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

Kelly, Patrick J. “The North American Crisis of the 1860s,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 2, no. 3 (September 2012): 337-368.

—. “1848 and the Transnational Turn in Civil War History,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 4, no. 3 (September 2014): 431-443.

Kerby, Robert L. Kirby Smith’s Confederacy: The Trans-Mississippi South, 1863-1865. New York: Columbia University Press, 1972.

Lincoln, Abraham. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Edited by Roy P. Basler. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1953-1955.

Lonn, Ella. Foreigners in the Confederacy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

McDaniel, W. Caleb, and Bethany L. Johnson. “New Approaches to Internationalizing the History of the Civil War Era: An Introduction,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 2, no. 2 (June 2012): 145-150.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Mahin, Dean P. One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the U.S. Civil War. Washington, D.C.: Brassey’s, 1999.

May, Robert E., ed. The Union, the Confederacy, and the Atlantic Rim. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1995.

Owsley, Frank Lawrence. King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959.

Prior, David M. et. al. “Teaching the Civil War in Global Context: A Discussion,” The Journal of the Civil War Era 5, no. 1 (March 2015): 126-153.

Robinson, Michael. “William Henry Seward and the Onset of the Secession Crisis,” Civil War History 59, no. 1 (March 2013): 32-66.

Sexton, Jay. “The Civil War and U.S. World Power” in American Civil Wars: The United States, Latin America, Europe and the Crisis of the 1860s. Edited by Doyle. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.

Stokes, Donald. The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Townsend, Stephen A. The Yankee Invasion of Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006.

Tucker, Phillip Thomas. The Final Fury: Palmito Ranch, The Last Battle of the Civil War. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2001.

Tyrner-Tyrnauer, A.R. Lincoln and the Emperors. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962.

U.S. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.

Zimmerman, Andrew. “From the Second American Revolution to the First International and Back Again: Marxism, the Popular Front, and the American Civil War” in The World the Civil War Made. Edited by Downs and Kate Masur. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015.

GENERAL WORKS

Baptist, Edward E. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

Bayly, C.A. The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2004: 165-166.

Beckert, Sven, “Merchants and Manufacturers in the Antebellum North” in Ruling America: A History of Wealth and Power in a Democracy. Edited by Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

—. Empire of Cotton: A Global History. New York: Knopf, 2014.

Bender, Thomas, ed. Rethinking American History in a Global Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

—. A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.

Bensel, Richard Franklin. Yankee Leviathan: The Origins of Central State Authority in America, 1859-1877. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Geyer, Michael, and Charles Bright. “Global Violence and Nationalizing Wars in Eurasia and America: The Geo Politics of War in the Mid-Nineteenth Century,” Comparative Studies in History and Society, 38, no. 4, (October 1996): 619-657.

Grandin, Greg. “The Liberal Tradition in the Americas: Rights, Sovereignty, and the Origins of Multilateralism,” American Historical Review 117 (February 2012): 68-91.

Greene, Jack P., and Philip D. Morgan, eds. Atlantic History: A Critical Reappraisal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Guterl, Matthew. American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008.

Hamalainen, Pekka. The Comanche Empire. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Johnson, Walter. Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

—. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013.

Karp, Matthew. This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.

LaFeber, Walter. The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1963.

Perkins, Dexter. The Monroe Doctrine, 1826-1867. Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1965.

Roediger, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. New York: Verso Books, 2007.

Rothman, Adam, “The Slave Power in the United States, 1783-1865” in Ruling America: A History of Wealth and Power in a Democracy. Edited by Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Sexton, Jay. The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Hill & Wang, 2012.

Whitaker, Arthur P. “The Origins of the Western Hemisphere Idea,” Proceedings of the American Philosophy Society 98 (October 15, 1954): 323.

Book gems of 2016, Part 3

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on Texas and Texas history.

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Summer is upon us, and the season of leisure is the perfect time for new stories, characters, ideas, and adventures. Throughout the next few weeks, Stillness of Heart continues its occasional series of critical recommendations, from Civil War battle histories to memoirs, and from intellectual histories to photobooks almost as beautiful as the natural world they celebrate.

Read Part 1 of this 2016 series here and subsequent essays in this series here.

This week … a brief look at some of the best works on Texas and Texas history.

Jesus F. de la Teja’s Faces of Bexar: Early San Antonio and Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 240 pp., $40) offers an anthology of essays that together form a biography of one of the most significant cities in North America. San Antonio’s historic importance as a military center, source of political power, international economic hub, and cultural crown jewel is expertly explored and analyzed in this work. The book also includes a vital bibliographic essay analyzing the latest developments in Tejano historiography.

Most history students know about the Texas Revolution, but they know next to nothing about the Revolution’s birthplace. Richard B. McCaslin’s Washington on the Brazos: Cradle of the Texas Republic (Texas State Historical Association Press, 100 pp., $15.95) should be the perfect remedy for that gap in historical knowledge. When the Republic of Texas joined the United States, power and administrative authority was centralized in Austin, and Washington faded into the social and commercial background. It briefly boomed as a port town, but its economic over-reliance on steamboats left it behind as the age of railroads dawned and rail tracks bypassed the town. The Revolution’s centennial in 1936 sparked fresh interest in Texas history, and the town basked in new appreciation from restoration experts and history-loving tourists. McCaslin’s book uses the history of the town to illustrate the larger historical eras of the Texas people, their evolving values, their conflicted identities, and their beautiful multifaceted culture.

Laura Lyons McLemore contributes Adele Briscoe Looscan: Daughter of the Republic (TCU Press, 320 pp, $29.95) to the Texas Biography Series. Looscan made history in 1915 when she became the first woman elected to the presidency of the Texas State Historical Association. The scholar of Texas history made history again when she stepped down in 1925, completing the longest presidency in the Association’s history. McLemore’s biography promises the story of an important intellectual and social leader who guided and enriched historical, political, and business conversations in early twentieth-century Texas.

Timothy Paul Bowman’s Blood Oranges: Colonialism and Agriculture in the South Texas Borderlands (Texas A&M University Press, 412 pp., $43) takes an important and complicated look at the social and economic tensions burning throughout Rio Grande Valley communities in the decades following the Mexican War. Bowman illustrates a brutal twentieth-century process of converting the region from Mexican culture to Anglo-American political and economic control, from a cattle-based economy to an agricultural economy. Racially-minded Anglos built or modified the region’s governmental and legal structures to contain and suppress Mexican-American populations, particularly laborers, who were exploited as they formed the foundation of a major U.S. agricultural industry.

Mark Allan Goldberg’s Conquering Sickness: Race, Health, and Colonization in the Texas Borderlands (University of Nebraska Press, 328 pp., $60) focuses on the same region but with an earlier timeframe and a different focus. Anglo and Spanish colonizers applied their standards of health to the Native Americans and Mexicans they found in the region and subsequently determined that because their European health standards practices were superior to indigenous standards and practices, the Europeans naturally deserved to control the region and its people. They used the network of religious missions or other controlled spaces to enforce European standards on the indigenous people, and they devalued the significance of indigenous understandings of health. For the colonizers, Goldberg’s important work explains, the issue of health became one more aspect of their larger ambitions for control and of the moral calculations made to justify that control.

David G. McComb’s The City in Texas: A History (University of Texas Press, 352 pp., $35) is an authoritative and much-needed analysis of the transformation of Texas from a land of rural and agricultural communities into a constellation of metro centers dominated by glittering skyscrapers, electrical wires, highways, and suburbs. Alan Lessoff’s newest work focuses on just one city with Where Texas Meets the Sea: Corpus Christi and Its History (University of Texas Press, 368 pp., $29.95). Full disclosure: I grew up in Corpus Christi, so I’ll consider pretty much any serious history about the Sparkling City by the Sea to be interesting, at least, but Lessoff’s history is exceptional — serious yet potentially appealing to both tourists and residents, brimming with fascinating stories, and built on solid and extensive research.

Jesse Cancelmo’s Glorious Gulf of Mexico: Life Below the Blue (Texas A&M University Press, 156 pp., $30) takes us below the waves to explore 600,000 square miles of incredible landscapes, vibrant coral reefs, and more than 15,000 different species. Cancelmo wants his readers to fully appreciate the complexity, beauty, and importance of the Gulf’s ecosystems, life cycles, and species. Readers should gain a more sophisticated understanding and appreciation of how the Gulf’s treasures enrich our world and our lives.

******

Book gems of 2016
An occasional series
Jan. 3: Antiquity, Civil War, World War II, and space
June 22: Presidents and the political world
June 29: Texas and Texas history
July 6: Latin America
July 13: Slavery and the Civil War era
July 20: World War I and II, science, culture, and literature

Endless borderlands

Fifteen essays and books explore the borderlands field with passion and intelligence, daring their readers to leave behind their old worlds and follow them into new ones.

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Fifteen essays and books explore the borderlands field with passion and intelligence, daring their readers to leave behind their old worlds and follow them into new ones. A review essay by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

*****

Works reviewed in this essay

Adelman, Jeremy, and Stephen Aron. “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History.” American Historical Review 104, no. 3 (June 1999): 814-841.

Anzaldua, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Aunt Lute, 1987.

Barr, Juliana. Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Brown, Wendy. Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. New York: Zone Books, 2010.

Chang, Kornel. Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canada Borderlands. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012.

Hämäläinen, Pekka. The Comanche Empire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

—. and Samuel Truett. “On Borderlands.” The Journal of American History 98, no. 2 (2011): 338-361.

Hoffnung-Garskof, Jesse. A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York after 1950. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Johnson, Benjamin H., and Andre R. Graybill, eds. Bridging National Borders in North America: Transnational and Comparative Histories. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010.

Lytle-Hernandez, Kelly. Migra!: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2010.

McManus, Sheila. The Line Which Separates: Race, Gender, and the Making of the Alberta-Montana Borderlands. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2005.

Mora, Anthony P. Border Dilemmas: Racial and National Uncertainties in New Mexico, 1848-1912. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011.

Shah, Nayan. Stranger Intimacy: Contesting Race, Sexuality and the Law in the North American West. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2011.

St. John, Rachel. Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. 2011.

Weber, David. Bárbaros: Spaniards and their Savages in the Age of Enlightenment. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

*****

I. Introductions

The borderlands mark divisions of land on maps. They mark divisions of races, communities, economies, and families. But borderlands are also more than dividers. Borderlands are where culture and history collide, dance, and coalesce. They are where nation’s futures are conceived, where risks are taken, and where ideas are born. Borderlands cradle both conflict and peace, friction and abrasion, the past and future. Borderlands are gateways through which to view national, cultural, racial, and imperial histories with fresh and sharper eyes. Fifteen essays and books explore the borderlands field with passion and intelligence, daring their readers to leave behind their old worlds and follow them into new ones.

For the uninitiated, borderlands are dark landscapes. But lighting the way are Jeremy Adelman, Stephen Anon, Benjamin Johnson, Andrew Graybill, Samuel Truett, and the wonderfully-named Pekka Hamalanien. By combining three essays from 1999, 2010, and 2011, their analyses form a grand introduction to the field.

Graybill and Johnson ask why historians take the borders for granted. They worry that that the lines on maps imply inevitability. They fret that the borders do not evoke or inspire historical curiosity into the regions they cut through. They hold up borderlands studies as the antidote to that narrow vision and lack of curiosity.

Adelman and Anon explain that the borderlands approach was meant to challenge Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis, which looked east to west, by turning the axis north to south. Rather than considering unilateral European conquest, the field considered how indigenous and European civilizations met and mixed, bilaterally conquering each other. It implied that nation-building did not end once the necessary territory was declared conquered. The borderlands approach, which inherently challenged historians’ traditional reliance on a nation-state perspective on the world, also embraced border zones once imperial lands became modern nation-states.

In 2011, Hamalanien and Truett critically noted that Adelman and Anon ignored other processes that affect borderlands — cultural shifts, warfare, malleable concepts of nation (like indigenous territories), and natural pressures on societies, like landscape changes and epidemics. They pointed out that borderlands inherently challenge master historical narratives anchored to centers of political and cultural power. Ascribing importance to borderlands questioned the supreme importance of those centers, and of nation-states as a whole. Borderlands historians were willing to consider that perhaps non-state actors made equally significant contributions to the overall political or social entity.

Perhaps historians, borderlands proponents argued, needed to listen with equal care to voices from both the centers and the margins. Power and national identity when viewed through that prism becomes ambiguous and historically revitalized. Borderlands become the alternative centers of nation and empire. The borderlands approach also acts as a spotlight to capture movements between political entities, societies, and cultures that were previously unknown or understudied. It spotlights the violence of that friction and abrasion that takes place between competing peoples desperate for food, water, legitimacy, or shelter. This array of introductory essays urged historians to challenge themselves to find these perspectives.

II. Imperial borderlands

Borderlands are born when two or more powers encounter each other. The Spanish New World burned with borderland dynamics. David J. Weber’s Barbaros explores the Indian-Spanish contact zones, details how Spain attempted to administer them, and concludes that even when the Bourbons reformed Spanish America, the region was never completely conquered. Reforms to the military and church networks were not fully implemented, control and structure never consolidated. Consequently, the borderlands region remained violent, dynamic, and, most importantly, influential to the entire bureaucracy. Indian action dictated imperial reaction.

Beyond the warmth of steady and strong Spanish control, colonists lived difficult lives. Dominant Indian powers manipulated colonial communities, turning them into supply depots or shelters, or forced them to pay tribute, while others simply ravaged poorly protected colonies. Reformers wanted the frontier turned into a borderlands region, where commerce, Christianity, and peace reigned, all on Bourbon Spanish terms, which were never achieved except on paper.

But Bourbons focused on building relationships with Indians, reforming them from barbarians into Christian men, thereby building cultural and economic bridges into stronger indigenous networks. As the Spanish elements grew stronger, enlightened attitudes reverted to racism, rejecting the gradual incorporation of Indians.

Pekka Hamalainen’s The Comanche Empire argues that the Comanches were “an indigenous empire.” They were an association of tribes, he claims, that gradually built themselves into a force that dominated what today is the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico, a force so powerful that it effectively obstructed the expansion of French, Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. power for almost two centuries.

The Comanche Empire, he explains, did not simply exist in an Adelman/Anon borderland of negated imperial power and enhanced indigenous influence — they created a new space where the indigenous Comanches dominated, embraced, and transformed the isolated colonialists.

Key to their steady growth and dominance was the willingness to open their culture to new ideas, languages, and religions, which provided them with new domestic strategies, intelligence on distant neighbors, and conduits into useful economic networks.

Acknowledging Comanche power and its crippling influence on Spanish and Mexican control, he asserts, explains how the young U.S. consumed half of Mexico in the late 1840s. The tragic irony is that the U.S. quickly turned its guns on the Comanches to consume their land and cleanse the landscape of non-whites and non-Christians. Comanche greatness required extreme measures to defeat it.

Juliana Barr examines in Peace Came in the Form of a Woman the gender and kinship expectations Europeans and indigenous faced when interacting with each other in colonial Texas dominated by Indian standards.

Women played central roles in virtually every equation. Spaniards scratching out communities in Indian-controlled territory initially refused to marry Indian women, losing out on the economic advantages Indians placed on kinship connections. Without kinship connections, Indians viewed Spaniards as outsiders. Only by marrying women from competitor French families did they finally tap into those economic networks. Spaniards captured Apache women when Apaches attacked them. When Apaches and Spaniards allied against common enemies, Apache women became the connections between both groups. Women from all indigenous groups symbolized peace offerings, peace emblems, and peace envoys.

Spaniards and Indians also communicated with displays of gender. Martial displays signaled masculinity. They shared masculine codes of honor. A military assembly signaled trouble, but when masculinity was paired with femininity, the assembly signaled peace.

III. Northern perspective

The Line Which Separates and Pacific Connections, respectively authored by Sheila McManus and Kornel Chang, highlight how the Canadian and U.S. power centers struggled to control their borderlands and underestimated the effect the borderlands had on those power centers. Both warn that in the historical search for the source of national character, the borderlands and the methods used to control those borderlands cannot be ignored.

Many excellent books in the historical borderlands field typically focus with a racial lens on the U.S. borders with Latin America. McManus and Chang make invaluable contributions to the U.S. borderlands field simply by focusing instead on the U.S-Canada border and the unique contests for its future. They construct their histories from opposite directions — McManus looking west from U.S. and Canadian capitals and Chang looking east from the Pacific region.

McManus argues that Canada and the U.S. post-structurally reimagined their respective western societies as proving grounds where potential national values were conceived, tested, and sharpened against unwelcome cultures and races, and held up for all citizens to adopt. Their border along the 49th parallel was key to those “nation-making efforts” because it politically delineated where one nation-state ended and the other began. It symbolized their capacity to control who crossed that border, who lived in those critical regions, and what values governed their lives.

Chang argues that the regions along the 49th parallel should not be seen as border zones but as transnational and transpacific crossroads. Chang expands the north south/east-axis of the McManus book to include multiple continents, empires, and commodity chains. Instead of Ottawa and Washington, D.C., or Alberta and Montana, Chang examines Seattle and Vancouver, recasting the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific coast as buzzing economic and imperial hubs. The nation-states’ challenge was to control that chaos to their advantage by employing institutions governing immigration, monitoring borders, and manipulating migration.

One of many rivers of migrants into Canada and the U.S. streamed from South Asia. An examination of cultural influences they brought with them would be fascinating enough. But Nayan Shah takes several steps beyond that in Stranger Intimacy to examine erotic, social, and economic relationships between the immigrants and a variety of other groups throughout Western communities of workers.

His South Asians brought with them into western U.S. and Canadian regions borderlands sensitivities as colonized members of the British Empire, as English speakers amid Mexican and Chinese workers, and as men who moved across racial boundaries put in place by the societies their labor was meant to expand. Using legal and police records produced by the clash of immigrant actions and their societies’ reactions — arrests for sexual activities, questions over immigration status, concerns over white public safety — Shah produces a network of racial and legal borderlands the immigrants overcame or failed to overcome.

Domestic racial attitudes against South Asians’ supposed demoralizing effects on white families tolerated white violence. That violence, coupled with legal surveillance and oppression drove immigrants’ contacts with each other into secret places, turning their stranger interactions into stranger intimacies with glances, movements, and other secret signals. The homosocial regions the legal system identified became border zones of state surveillance, racial oppression, and assumption of criminal activity between legitimate and illegitimate societies. The intensity of sexual oppression bolstered normative white identities and further emphasized the deviancy of foreign entities.

IV. Special cases

Euro-American control over the sections of former Mexico is a vital topic in borderlands studies. In Border Dilemmas, Anthony Mora focused on how Euro-Americans used literature and letters to steadily undermine their cultural, political, and economic control of New Mexico.

They portrayed New Mexican women as sensual beasts, businesswomen as prostitutes, and men as savages who could not control their society. Euro-American colonists, Mora explains, saw themselves as the ones to bring civilized order to this chaos. By sensualizing and dehumanizing the men and women, Euro-Americans justified their invasions of Mexican territory, their racist attitudes toward the Mexican inhabitants, and their attempts to dominate and transform the societies upon which they would build a virtuous American Eden.

By labeling Mexican businesswomen as prostitutes and ignoring the economic agency they enjoyed in Mexican society, Euro-Americans could strip from them any semblance of economic legitimacy or social value, permanently damage their community standing, and generally enhance the threatened patriarchy. By characterizing Mexican men as weak or corrupt, Euro-Americans could portray themselves as saviors of Mexican womanhood, now recast as victims of male Mexican vices. Charitable and heroic white men would save these women with marriage, absorb their Mexican blood (descended from quality European blood, surely) into their white bloodlines and families, thereby improving the overall New Mexican community while conveniently ignoring the insecurities in the white U.S. South over racial mixing with black slaves. Mora captures with subtle humor the ridiculous ironies and hypocrisies at work.

Euro-American attempts to enforce “gendered divisions of space,” Mora explains, were key to their control. Women belonged in the privacy and purity of the home. Mexican women also belonged in the home, but in the homes of white women, where they would learn under white tutelage how to become proper American housewives.

They would share the gendered space and occupy appropriate racial roles within domestic walls. Mora connects this racism to U.S. devotion to domestic power and, by extension, to civilizing power. As white women domesticated the home, they also domesticated (tamed) the white men taming the borderlands. They symbolized the white race reaching into the frontiers of their new empire, bringing domestic stability and the values of a proper white home to savages.

The values of white patriarchy only intensified the existing Mexican patriarchy. Mexican elites saw self-serving opportunities to play the Euro-American game over the New Mexican chessboard. New Mexican women were marginalized socially, sexually, and economically, with little or no role in society except as emblems and tools of the patriarchal nation-building enterprise their men purported to lead. Even the oppressed did their own heinous oppressing.

Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands/La Frontera sees the borderlands marking divisions in the hearts and minds of the people who populate them. The men and women who exist on the fringes of nation, religion, and race live with divisions within themselves. Anzaldua urges these borderland citizens to be proud: The Chicano borderlands are where national and racial futures are born. They are special places for homosexual men and women, Indians, the socially and intellectually liberated. It’s a place of many tongues, religions, and talents. Any minority will find a home there because they are borderlands themselves — they exist in multiple worlds simultaneously, always adjusting their gradients to blend in with the larger, more dominant colors. They are the future race of a better nation and society, without constructs, limitations, discriminations, or oppression.

Anzaldua holds herself as the example. She is a gay mestiza who speaks not just English and Spanish but variations of both. She refuses to adhere to expectations of how a mestiza should behave, think, or live. She erases the borderlands within her by embracing what they are expected to keep separate.

Perhaps securing political legitimacy for the borderlands citizens begins there. Borderlands citizens must connect themselves somehow with the political cores of their societies, through moderate allies, social upheavals, or war. Only then can they change their nation from within. Society eventually changes to accept gay men and women, and to view men and women and all races equally. Those who refuse to change are the ones marginalized, dismissed, and rejected. An equitable and just society – perhaps that is the ultimate goal for all borderlands citizens. Buried in the ashes of their anguish are the elements of eventual social greatness.

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof’s A Tale of Two Cities follows Dominican people as they moved from the countryside to capital city Santo Domingo to the New York neighborhood of Washington Heights and back to Santo Domingo. Within these transnational currents he finds Dominicans navigating the fault-lines of culture, race, and economics in both the United States and the Dominican Republic. Dominicans in both cities were elements of the same transnational entity, confronting different manifestations of the same imperialist power, racially differentiating themselves from other minorities, and struggling to live up to their ideals of progress and culture.

Working-class Dominicans struggled to find and then improve their place in the Dominican Republic or the U.S. The book’s bottom-up approach is structured along two ideals: progress (certain actions would improve one’s life, social standing, and national well-being) and culture (perceived values and the standard that decided who belonged and who did not).

The author gives tremendous agency to Dominicans but also points out the irony in their outlooks. When modernization projects stripped economic opportunities from sugar plantations and ranches, rural people flooded Dominican cities to find new economic opportunities. They embraced the progreso/cultura ideals and demanded paved roads and sanitation in their barrios. Men condemned gangs and women condemned prostitution, but gangs were also seen as a potential defensive force against U.S. incursions and women asked prostitutes for sex advice.

In the U.S., Dominicans combined progreso/cultura virtues — improving their economic lives while also protecting their Dominican national values — by extending their sense of home northward to encompass New York. Dominicans saw little need to assimilate because in their minds they had never left the Dominican Republic. Dark-skinned Dominicans faced racial/ethnic discrimination from Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and Anglos as they made their own distinctions between themselves and Haitians. Dominicans embraced the U.S. consumerism as they blamed the U.S. for the materialism and delinquency they saw in Dominican society.

V. The meaning of borders

Borderlands don’t exist without borders. Rachel St. John’s Line in the Sand offers a multifaceted biography of the western U.S.-Mexico border, from El Paso to the Pacific Ocean. The line is a consequence of military conquest, local warfare, political and economic ambitions, and state-sanctioned policing, much more than the natural divider of the Rio Grande.

The line changed in significance over time. For criminals it was the doorway to freedom. For lovers of vice, it was the gateway to illegality. For U.S. politicians, it was a triumph of a superior society over its inferior neighbor. Indian raids necessitated borderland security forces. Borderland commerce and railroads created twin cities. Nation-state efforts to define and enforce it symbolized the inherent weakness of centered-power perspectives ignoring the significance of borderland entities.

As for the force deployed to regulate who moves across that line and who doesn’t, in Migra! Kelly Lytle Hernandez considers the U.S. Border Patrol as part of state-sanctioned violence against Mexican communities naturally flowing through the artificially imposed borderlands between the U.S. and Mexico. Bi-national economic and political demands coupled with the individual demands of its personnel guided the evolution of the Border Patrol as a predatory borderlands entity. Examining this aspect of borderlands existence further illuminates how borderlands and their inhabitants are perceived and rejected or accepted by their nation-states, and the role of violence in attempting to assert the nation-state’s sovereignty over its territory and society. It also highlights Mexico’s postwar partnership with a foreign security force in an effort to control their northward flow of its own people.

The Border Patrol historically worked with borderlands businesses to ensure a steady supply of cheap Mexican labor while enforcing white standards of behavior among races and genders. Officers shaped official U.S. immigration policies to suit local situations and their own interests, interweaving border control objectives with community and economic life. The focus on Mexican rather than Canadian criminality has more to do with the communities dark-skinned people entered than with the actual act of undocumented crossing.

Wendy Brown examines physical borders and the borderlands they mean to enforce in Walled States, Waning Sovereignty. Wall-building projects throughout the globalized, Internet-dominated world, she argues, is a symptom of a larger insecurity over the loss of nation-state control over territory, people, resources, and security. The concept of sovereignty — of control — and its separation from what it means to be a nation-state is what drives pathetic construction work on the U.S.-Mexico border, and throughout the U.S.

What is to be contained is held up as pure, and then the potential foreign threats are identified, and then the wall is promoted as the solution. Even within the beacon of Western democracy, the rich seal themselves off from the poor, businesses wrap themselves in porous digital security blankets, and religious sects build compounds — retreats — in which to properly indoctrinate their flocks. The psychological comfort of walls, borders, lines, and zones infers a stable order is in place. Control is recovered.

Hamalanien and Truett encourage borderlands historians to embrace the inherent chaos in borderlands. That instability had unintended consequences and created unexpected opportunities. Indigenous groups play roles in creating empires or use their own to control their regions. Marginal groups influence the core. Ignored voices participate in the national discussion. New historical roots are discovered. These fifteen works demonstrate the value borderlands studies bring to the historical field. What may appear to be chaos to outdated historical views is beautiful intellectual symphonies to the cutting-edge borderlands lovers.

The Battle for Boricua

Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?
A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

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Is Puerto Rico the battleground for America’s intellectual future?
A review by Fernando Ortiz Jr.

******

Discussed in this essay:

Laura Briggs. Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Pp. 304. $29.95.

I.

Puerto Rico was one of the prizes the U.S. won in its 1898 victory over the Spanish Empire. The U.S. made Puerto Ricans citizens in 1917 and granted the territory an upgrade to commonwealth status in 1952. Debate has raged ever since over how, when, or if Puerto Rico should attempt to move in a new political direction, and over how it should cope with the degree of control the U.S. still wields over its economic and political systems. Like a moon trapped in planetary orbit, bathed only in the solar light reflected from that planet’s surface, struggles for self-definition and conflicting political visions dominate the island’s history.1

Laura Briggs extravagantly explores key components of Puerto Rico’s lurching political evolution in Reproducing Empire, a 2002 book based on her 1998 doctoral thesis composed at Brown University. Her book, standing tall among the work uniting colonial control and gender roles, illustrates Anglo American rulers at first disgusted with Puerto Rico, viewing the island territory as a cesspool of tropical subhumans blinded by rampant sexual desires and staggered by venereal disease, overpopulation endangering their natural and imported resources, and desperate, whether they knew it or not, for American guidance.

Puerto Rico’s social and economic problems were both caused and worsened, Briggs argues, by colonizing Americans who only saw themselves as solutions to those problems. She creatively examines the grinding conflict between the colonizer and the colonized through the prism of Puerto Rican sexuality, particularly the symbolically sexual body of the working-class Puerto Rican woman, whose propensity for sexual “deviancy” was blamed for spreading disease, for having too many children, and for essentially standing in the way of Puerto Rico’s proper Americanization. The fights waged over her sexual body became, Briggs argues, fights over Puerto Rican identity, political autonomy, ethnic equality, forced modernization, and Puerto Rican resistance. The Puerto Rican woman was the greatest battlefield in the titanic struggle over the island, which Briggs calls “the most important place in the world,” where she believes today’s essential debates over globalization issues are rooted in U.S. colonial attitudes.2

Americans saw prostitutes swarming over the men training to fight in World War I, posing their own venereal threat not just to the men but also to the women and children on the mainland, who would eventually be infected by the hapless victims of female Puerto Rican sexuality. U.S. incarceration policies on prostitution, Briggs argues, were one more supplement to colonial control and one more way Americans saw Puerto Ricans as foreigners, as people of lesser value to be kept apart from Americans, and as primitives who needed benevolent guidance. Puerto Rican women were either threats or weaklings needing protection. Islanders protested these prostitution policies, and Briggs sees in the rhetoric islander resistance not simply to the policies but also to the overall colonial project and later over their muddled citizenship.3

Americans saw overpopulation as also caused by these naturally promiscuous and illiterate women, prone to disease, doomed to poverty, and overly attached to the ideal of large hungry families. So, Briggs explains, American scientists developed new sterilization and birth control methods – diaphragms, contraceptive foams and jellies, and eventually the pill – and tested their effectiveness on Puerto Rican women, turning the island into “a social science laboratory.”4

II.

Throughout the Cold War, Briggs argues that Puerto Rico became a “political showcase,” advertising to Latin American nations vulnerable to Soviet seduction the beauty of a society that could result from an alliance (re: economic and military control) with the U.S. Puerto Rico was subjected to development projects — population control, industrialization, export control — again serving as a laboratory where models were analyzed before being sold to Third World nations.5

But the islanders had direct effects on the mainland too. Most importantly, Americans saw a huge post-World War II movement of Puerto Ricans into mainland cities, particularly into New York. The arrival of so many people in only a few decades permanently changed the racial and ethnic makeup of countless neighborhoods, sparked ethnic and political tensions, and re-engineered political activism. New arguments and alliances were born as these citizens struggled to live alongside Americans who saw them as anything but citizens and anything but white.

Overall, despite its strengths and creativity — particularly her intriguing view that the tentacles of colonization in Puerto Rico were only shorter and younger versions of the long American tentacles of globalization now strangling the globe — Briggs could have used a better editor to tighten a muddled narrative that often seems off balance and that could have been much shorter. Briggs often repeats the same points again and again, as if chapters were written months apart and she had to remind herself of the main thesis the latest chapter was supposed to be supporting. Also, the narrative needed more biographical sketches to bring alive the issues of sexuality, gender, and colonial victimization. Her ideas would have been so much more effective if the consequences of colonial decisions were shown in the wreckage of Puerto Rican lives, identities, and outlooks. Briggs bases her arguments on an impressive mountain of essays, books, and governmental studies. She complements a generally solid book with thirty-one pages of entertaining and informative notes and a 23-page bibliography.

One of the book’s best moments comes at the end, when Briggs argues that Puerto Rico illustrates “the explicit disalignment of the components of a nation.” The multidimensional identity of the Puerto Rican man and woman, Briggs seems to say, transcends maps, definitions of nationality, and concepts of national and international place. Imagine a map of the world laid out on a picnic table next to neatly typed definitions of every aspect of foreign affairs, U.S. government, and Latino identity. And then imagine the aurora borealis glowing in the night sky above. Puerto Rico, Briggs essentially argues, is the aurora. The rest of the world is the boring, ordered, defined arrangement on the table far below that celestial beauty.

Alternatively, the unique people of Puerto Ricans must find a unique solution to their unique “ethno-nation” quandary, effectively placing them on the cutting edge in terms of designing effective political entities for the twenty-first century. In that sense, at least, Briggs is absolutely right: Puerto Rico truly is the most important place in the world.6


1. Juan Gonzalez, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (New York: Penguin, 2000), 62-63. The Jones-Shafroth Act of 1917 granted citizenship to all Puerto Ricans and established a three-branch government system. An online image of the bill is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/93rbfx4. A PDF of the commonwealth constitution is accessible here: http://tinyurl.com/yjvo25z.
2. Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire: Race, Empire, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 194.
3. Briggs, 17.
4. Briggs, 9.
5. Briggs, 2.
6. Briggs, 195-196.
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