A model for telling the multicultural history of the American West, starting with Napa County, California.
Series: Chicana Matters Series, Deena J. González and Antonia Castañeda, editors
The territory of Napa County, California, contains more than grapevines. The deepest roots belong to Wappo-speaking peoples, a group whose history has since been buried by the stories of Spanish colonizers, Californios (today's Latinos), African Americans, Chinese immigrants, and Euro Americans. Napa's history clearly is one of co-existence; yet, its schoolbooks tell a linear story that climaxes with the arrival of Euro Americans. In "This Land was Mexican Once," Linda Heidenreich excavates Napa's subaltern voices and histories to tell a complex, textured local history with important implications for the larger American West, as well.
Heidenreich is part of a new generation of scholars who are challenging not only the old, Euro-American depiction of California, but also the linear method of historical storytelling—a method that inevitably favors the last man writing. She first maps the overlapping histories that comprise Napa's past, then examines how the current version came to dominate—or even erase—earlier events. So while history, in Heidenreich's words, may be "the stuff of nation-building," it can also be "the stuff of resistance." Chapters are interspersed with "source breaks"—raw primary sources that speak for themselves and interrupt the linear, Euro-American telling of Napa's history. Such an inclusive approach inherently acknowledges the connections Napa's peoples have to the rest of the region, for the linear history that marginalizes minorities is not unique to Napa. Latinos, for instance, have populated the American West for centuries, and are still shaping its future. In the end, "This Land was Mexican Once" is more than the story of Napa, it is a multidimensional model for reflecting a multicultural past.
- 1. Precolonial Stories/Precolonial Histories
- 2. Stories of Settler-Colonizers, and of the Colonized
- Source Break: Bear Flag Narratives
- 3. The Bear Flag Incident
- 4. Stories and Histories of Women and Violence in the Colonial North
- Source Break: The White Mind
- 5. Mobilizing Linear Narratives
- Source Break: Civilized Man
- 6. Raced Bodies in White Spaces
During the summer of 2004, I went home to Napa to spend time with my family. One morning, while my mother was at work, I went out front to water the yard and noticed our neighbor also watering her yard. Like so many neighbors in Napa, we hollered a hello to each other and then moved in closer to visit, all the while watering our respective yards—perhaps a bit too much and a bit too unevenly, but the visiting was as important as the watering. We caught up on family stories, and then she asked, "So what are you doing?" I paused, bridged the gap in my own mind between home and academe, growing up in the socio-economic margins of Napa and writing about Napa from the middle-class comforts of a research institution, and then replied, "I'm writing a book about Napa." Our conversation pulled me back to my early years in graduate school: my rage at the white educational system, which, I felt, was suffocating me; my rage at the inequalities that were normalized in my formative years and in academe; the questions that drove my early research. "What kind of book?" she asked. My response was not eloquent: "I guess, well what I really wanted to figure out . . . was how things got to be so messed up . . . I mean, when we were growing up, things were just really messed up in Napa." She laughed and then said, "They still are."
This text is an analysis of "how things got to be so messed up" at both a local and a national level, and about how the inequalities constructed and experienced at a national level are in dialogic relation with the local. Small-town America is central to understanding the U.S. nation-state. Over the past eight years that it took me to research and write this book, I learned that some people use history, like culture, to garner power for themselves. Others use history to disrupt exploitative power structures in the modern nation-state and to challenge those people who have used history as part of a politics of domination. To ignore this very basic power dynamic is to ignore the important role that stories and histories play in creating the social structures within which we all live. Every week, in school classrooms in small towns across America, children listen to stories about who they are, who their "founding fathers" are, and what it means to be "American." Many of their parents read similar stories in newspapers or listen to them on the television. These basic stories, told at both a national and a local level, are the stuff that nation building is made of. And so "This Land was Mexican Once" is about these local and national stories and how national identities are created, not only by politicians and national literary figures, but in the local press of small-town America and in public school classrooms. It is a story about the county of Napa, California, its histories, and the ways that dominant groups used stories and histories to garner power for themselves as residents of Napa and citizens of the United States. It is a story about the "Colonial North."
Today, it is possible to write a raced and gendered history of the Colonial North because of the many historiographic tools that earlier generations of historians, especially Chicana historians, provide us. The term colonial itself took on new political meanings in the 1970s, when Rodolfo Acuña, heavily influenced by third world writers such as Alfred Memmi and Frantz Fanon, argued that Chicanas/os are also colonized people. Building on the work of such revolutionary writers, he reinscribed the word colonial so that, for Chicana/o scholars, it no longer merely signified the relationship of colonial settlements to the metropol, but instead was a term laden with power politics describing a necessarily exploitative relationship between colonizer and colonized. Emma Pérez breathed new life into the term when she called on Chicana/o historians to recognize that we are not writing in a postcolonial world, and that the very frames with which we write are rooted in our colonial past. This project is about the colonial past, then, not because it is restricted to histories prior to 1821—it is not—but because the arrival of the Spanish in Alta California opened a period of colonization against the Indigenous peoples of the area that continues, in the form of U.S. federal practices, today.
In claiming Northern California as a colonial space, this work explicitly builds upon the field of Chicana/o history and places itself in this larger body of work, which acknowledges that California "was Mexican once, was Indian always . . . And will be again." Such histories reject the origin histories of "the West"—tales and scholarly work that tell stories of rugged individuals marching from the east coast and into Greater Mexico/the U.S. West, bringing civilization with them. Instead, it maps the violence Euro-Americans mobilized in taking the space from the Indigenous and mestizo people who preceded them to the area, and excavates the histories the colonizers attempted to erase. When Acuña, writing in the 1970s, excavated the colonizing histories of the United States in the Southwest and declared it "occupied," he was part of a larger Chicano movement, and part of a larger movement of Chicana/o scholars who were reclaiming space and disrupting a racist historiography that effectively erased and distorted three hundred years of mestizo history. Mario T. García, Albert Camarillo, and Adelaida del Castillo were among those leading this reclamation, as were the graduate students and faculty who founded organizations such as the National Association of Chicano Studies.
"This Land was Mexican Once" also enters into dialogue with a new school of thought represented by the work of historians and interdisciplinary scholars who attempt to create a "fundamental reassessment of the old order of things," who map out the power relations that produce social inequalities, and who interrogate the role of academic disciplines within larger social systems. These new interpretations of the past interrogate the field and function of history and problematize the very tools and training historians bring to their sources. In doing so, they imagine and create new ways of using history. Thus historian Chris Wilson, in his landmark study of Santa Fe, interrogated the ways in which both history and what he called "historical amnesia" were tools that local politicians and many white residents of Santa Fe used to create a fantasy past that disguised the racial and ethnic tensions at the very base of Santa Fe society. He explicitly addressed the function of historical narrative in his own project and argued,
history is not something neutral or ever completely objective, but rather is a subjective re-telling based on a selection and ordering of a small portion of the facts. . . . It follows that this book is a selective interpretation of history, shaped by my sense of what questions are important, and, to the extent that it may be found interesting or useful to others, by the issues and concerns of this era.
He produced a history containing textual disruptions, where chapters were followed by and interrupted with "interludes," or non-chapters, laden with artifacts of Santa Fe, which both contributed to and disrupted his narrative. The text itself and its form became part of the larger narrative and argument.
Similarly, historian Prasenjit Duara argued that Western linear narratives played a critical role in creating modern social structures and social inequalities, and developed the idea of bifurcated histories to demonstrate how historians can recover "counter-memories" and thus challenge linear histories and mythologies of a stable nation-state. Building on the work of Paul Ricoeur, he argued that "historical time is a series of infinite nows." The contestedness of history, and the infinite number of "nows" present in any one time, have traditionally been masked by linear narratives. Such narratives, rooted in Enlightenment teachings of progress, give the dominant order a façade of stability. For Duara, to write a bifurcated history is to write a history that recovers counter-memories while demonstrating ways in which the past was transmitted to the present.
Finally, this book directly builds upon the work of those scholars who mapped connections between the local and the national. This includes historians such as John Bodnar, who demonstrated that, because local traditions are not built in a vacuum, it is important to study them in relation to the nation. And it includes the work of historians such as Albert Camarillo, Ricardo Romo, Antonia Castañeda, and Deena González, who studied displacement and resistance in the specific spaces of Santa Bárbara, Los Angeles, Alta California, and Santa Fe, thus demonstrating the importance of the local to the national within the historical phenomenon of displacement and community resistance. It was the more recent work of Castañeda and González, as will be discussed below, which demonstrated that such resistance is not only local and national, but also gendered.
"This Land was Mexican Once", then, enters into dialogue with a new generation of writers that is rethinking the ways in which we look at the past. It attempts to problematize linear narratives and experiment with new models of writing. Building on the work of all these scholars, it asks, "What does it mean to write history?" and "How do we use histories and stories to construct the present?" and "What might happen to the next generation of young people growing up in Napa and growing up in Greater Mexico/the U.S. West, if we were to learn how, really learn how, to tell a different kind of story?"
Napa as a Significant Location in the History of Greater Mexico/the U.S. West
Napa County lies just forty miles northeast of San Francisco and seventy miles southwest of Sacramento. Due to its rich soil, its ample flora and fauna, and its proximity to the San Francisco Bay, over the last two hundred years, Napa has attracted large numbers of migrants and immigrants—migrants who moved back and forth from one home place to another, often within the space of Napa itself, and immigrants who came to Napa to create homes and/or profit in a new place. Because of this, immigration and other historical trends found throughout the U.S. West are writ large in the area now called Napa County. Such a pattern can be seen from the earliest histories of Wappo- and Patwin-speaking people in the region, well into the twentieth century, when various groups of immigrants struggled for political and social power. As with the rest of what is now California, a number of Indigenous communities populated the region before the arrival of Spanish colonizers. An extensive trade network tied the people living in the area to other communities throughout what is now called California, and also tied Napa to the histories of people beyond its valleys.
With the arrival of Spanish colonizers and, later, Mexican settlers in the region, Napa's history did not deviate from the history of what is now Greater Mexico/the U.S. West, but rather was reflective of it. In 1824 a mission was built in the Sonoma Valley, to the immediate west of Napa County. Both Wappo- and Patwin-speaking people from Napa came to the Sonoma mission. Those who refused to cooperate with the colonizers were attacked and subdued by soldiers from Sonoma's presidio. Consequently, the California Indians of the area now called Napa County entered into a series of uneven exchanges of power and culture with Napa's and Sonoma's Californios. Later, at the close of the Mexican era, with the U.S. invasion, Napa was once again a site of conflict, with Mariano Guadalupe and Salvador Vallejo taken as prisoners from the Sonoma presidio, while the Osos, men who rallied around John Frémont in the war against Mexico, rode through Napa robbing ranchos and threatening women, at times assaulting them. As will be discussed in Chapter Four, some women met these threats with like threats of violence; others did not have the means with which to protect themselves. Following the annexation of Napa and California to the United States, immigration patterns to Napa continued to reflect larger immigration patterns throughout the state. As Robert R. Alvarez argued in Familia, Mexican miners continued to migrate and to immigrate north to work following the U.S. invasion. In Napa this pattern was repeated throughout the late nineteenth century with the rise of quicksilver mines in the area. From the 1860s through the 1880s, Chinese immigrants also came to the area to work in the mines, in agriculture, and in other industries. By the twentieth century, Napa had established patterns of migration and immigration similar to those throughout the West.
Napa, then, is a location where larger trends throughout Greater Mexico can be studied in detail, not only in the ways in which different waves of immigration changed the region, but also in the ways in which the different histories that people construct continue to influence a particular place. In Napa, Indigenous histories, Californiana/o histories, Euro-American histories, and Chinese and Mexican immigrant histories co-exist. At times they overlap and/or conflict with each other. But they always co-exist. Looking at a small but centrally located place such as Napa allows me to begin to study how such histories are constructed, and how people often make use of histories. In addition, the study of Napa in relation to the nation raises questions regarding the relation of the local to the national in constructing national identities. Napa, then, is an ideal site to study uses of history in the U.S. West and the larger nation-state.
Ethnic Identities and the Importance of Specificity in Writing the Past
The complexity of ethnic identities and labels in the United States continues to pose a challenge to scholars who believe that the power to name and to name oneself is an important part of constructing the social relations within which we function. These challenges come in part because identity itself often changes with changing historical circumstances. Throughout this study, I use specific labels to identify both ethnic and racialized minorities, and the dominant majority. My goal is to be as specific as possible when discussing the various players whose histories constructed Napa County and the greater U.S. West.
The earliest histories of Napa pose the greatest challenge for this kind of naming. Often, for these communities, it was late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century anthropologists, trained in ethnocentric centers of learning, who first wrote down their stories and histories; and it is the inadequate language developed by them that continues to frame much scholarship on early California history. When attempting to discuss early communities as a group, I often use the term Indigenous, to acknowledge them as "the first peoples of this hemisphere."
When referring to Indigenous peoples in California I often use the broad umbrella term California Indian because their similar histories, as people who lived in a region first colonized by the Spanish and then by Euro-Americans, meant that their histories ultimately had much in common. Likewise, because they lived in a region rich with flora and fauna, California Indians, more so than people living further south or east on the continent, tended to form hunting and gathering societies. Thus, while California Indian remains a vague and amorphous term, it functions, in this project, to describe people who shared some common cultural traits in precolonization California, and whose histories often intersected during and after colonization due to their physical-geographic locations.
The use of language groups as ethnic labels for California Indians is both useful and problematic. As argued by anthropologist Randall Milliken, sometimes communities from different language groups held more in common with each other than with people who spoke the same language. Yet language played an important role in the organization of California Indian societies. For example, the baskets of Pomo-speaking people, Wappo-speaking people, and the Coast Miwok all had similar traits. Yet among each of these different language groups, there are marked differences in weaving techniques, so that scholars of California Indian crafts and artwork can identify whether an artist is from a Wappo, Pomo, or Coast Miwok community by studying the artist's basketry. This is because, throughout the Central California culture area, peoples within the same language group held aspects of material culture, such as basket weaving techniques and design, in common. In addition, throughout the Napa region, from precolonial times and into the early years of U.S. occupation, language divisions played a significant role in trade. For these reasons and because such labels are often used by California Indian groups themselves, I sometimes use these language categories.
In Chapter Two, after colonizers from New Spain arrive in California, similar naming problems arise. There are a variety of identity labels that academics and other writers have used when writing about these immigrants. In addition, in this study, who such people are in relation to California Indians, in relation to each other, and in relation to Euro-American immigrants is different. Mexico became independent in 1821, which further complicates ethnic and national maps of nineteenth-century California. Throughout this work, I have settled on the following rules for naming Spanish colonizers and their descendents in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century California. Those immigrants who arrived under Spanish rule, I call simply "Spanish," or "Spanish colonizers." Following the lead of historian Deena González, I call those arriving or living in California after 1821 "settler-colonizers," thus acknowledging their very complicated socio-economic and political roles as both colonizers and colonized. For those colonizers and settlers who were raised in California, I also use the term by which they identified themselves, Californianas/os. Finally, in discussing the time after the U.S. invasion, when Mexican citizens continued to come to the area, now as immigrants, I refer to Californios and Mexican immigrants collectively as "Chicanas/os." By this time, most Californios were socially and economically displaced; their social location, like that of the Mexican immigrants alongside of whom so many Californios lived and labored, was pushed to the margins of the U.S. nation-state.
Following the rise of U.S. dominance in the region, Chinese immigrants came to Napa. I call these individuals immigrants for reasons articulated by historian Sucheng Chan. While some scholars who write of nineteenth-century Chinese immigration call such immigrants "sojourners," such a label negates the experience of the Chinese as part of a larger story of U.S. immigration. In addition, it draws attention away from the fact that many Chinese immigrants left California, specifically Northern California and Napa County, not because they came as sojourners, but because Euro-Americans, through violence and threats of violence, forced them to leave. During the same time that Chinese immigrants established work communities in Napa, African Americans established successful networks within Napa and beyond. For African Americans in Napa and California, I sometimes use the label "African American," as is most common in the early twenty-first century. At other times, especially when today's labels are clearly anachronistic or inappropriate, I follow the lead of John W. Ravage and use the label Black. When I use the label Black, it is with an uppercase "B," in the tradition of Critical Race Theorists such as Kimberlé Crenshaw, who have demonstrated that Blacks, like Asians, share a common cultural history in the United States. Their commonalities derive, in part, from a shared history of exploitation; hence they also share a history of community liberation movements.
Finally, what should I call the dominant population? While Euro-Americans were a diverse population throughout the nineteenth century, often they chose to downplay those differences, as when Thomas Hart Benton referred to white Americans as the "Celtic-Anglo-Saxon division" of the "Caucasian race." At times when they ignored their differences they referred to themselves as "pioneers" or "Americans," thus benefiting from their white status without necessarily acknowledging that such a status existed. At other times, in the U.S. West in particular, white Americans overtly claimed racial superiority but did so by making loose use of terms such as Anglo-Saxon and Caucasian, and by using such terms interchangeably with the label American. Throughout this work I use the term Euro-American when writing of white non-Hispanics. This is not a new term; both Rodolfo Acuña and Vicki Ruiz successfully deployed it to acknowledge the shared histories that such communities have in the United States and the ways in which those communities have often ignored their own differences for the common goal of white supremacy. In using the term instead of the more common Anglo-American, I am also acknowledging the way Irish immigrants, throughout Greater Mexico and in Napa in particular, often defined themselves as white in opposition to Mexican immigrants and Chinese immigrants. An example of this occurred in Napa in 1882 when Euro-American workers burned President Arthur in effigy for vetoing the Miller bill, which would have limited Chinese immigration. The workers who protested the veto included Irish immigrants and the descendents of Irish immigrants as well as other white non-Hispanics. In the final chapters of this work, when Euro-Americans mobilized their constructed white identities to exclude racialized minorities from local and national resources, I sometimes label them as white, to acknowledge the power and resilience of their constructed racial identity.
These then are the actors, the subjects who lived their lives and histories in the county of Napa. While finding the words to tell such histories is challenging and often problematic, the task of doing so remains important. As recently argued by postcolonial scholars, the ethnic and national maps within which we function are becoming increasingly complex. Care and specificity in studies of the past can aid us in understanding social systems in the present.35
Among the primary sources I use to reconstruct the histories of Californios in the Napa area are testimonios, census records, and birth, death, and marriage records. And all of these sources are problematic. Census materials from the Spanish, Mexican, and American periods were used to create and control social categories as well as to map a population and/or document resources. Birth, death, and marriage records served a similar purpose. Yet government documents are also useful for these same reasons. Through them we can begin to discern the class and racial "common sense" of an era. They can tell us about social hierarchies by documenting where people lived, who they married, and how much property they owned. For the Spanish era, they can tell us who had access to literacy.
Both Genaro Padilla and Rosaura Sánchez have discussed the problems of working with testimonios. In the 1870s, when Hubert Bancroft began collecting documents to write his voluminous History of California, he sent his assistants to interview the Californios so that he could include their information in his narrative and produce what he considered an objective history. Using the argument that their stories were an important part of California history, Enrique Cerruti, one of Bancroft's assistants, was able to convince Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo to speak with him. While Cerruti's appeal to Vallejo was not the hyperbolic plea that Bancroft later claimed, his respectful request and comportment won him the trust and friendship of the retired general. Vallejo later convinced other Californios to give their testimonios to Bancroft.
Yet the Californios' stories were not given directly to the public. The Californios dictated their stories, but it was Bancroft's staff that wrote them down, filtering their words through a lens of Manifest Destiny and sometimes translating them from Spanish to English before any ink was put to paper. While Bancroft claimed to write as an objective historian, he believed that the United States was destined to own California, and referred to the Californio lifestyle as one where "to eat, to drink, to make love, to smoke, to dance, to ride, to sleep seemed the whole duty of man." For Bancroft, the California of the nineteenth century was a land in need of Yankee industriousness.
Testimonios written down by Enrique Cerruti are among the primary documents available for studying nineteenth-century Napa. This includes those documents dictated to Cerruti by Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Salvador Vallejo, and Rosalía Vallejo de Leese, as well as a collection of interviews with working-class Mexicanos that Cerruti collected under the title "Ramblings in California." Whereas for Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo's testimonio, the text is in Spanish, Cerruti translated Salvador Vallejo's testimonio to English before writing it down. Likewise, Cerruti's own subject position, as an employee of "the great historian," is clearly presented in his opening to "Ramblings." For Cerruti, Bancroft is "the great historian," while he himself is a "literary gentleman" who makes a living writing for Bancroft and, through him, "the public."
Yet these are sources available to us. In those few instances, such as with the Juárez family, when family papers are available with which to cross-check information from census materials and from testimonios, I have done so. But oftentimes the counter-narratives found within this volume are the product of the author's building on the work of critical scholars before her, as she attempts to identify, interpret, and negotiate the dominant discourses embedded within her sources.
Mapping the Histories of Napa County
"This Land was Mexican Once" maps a number of interwoven histories. It begins by mapping subordinated histories, specifically precolonial histories of Wappo-speaking people and other California Indian groups whose histories intersected with and influenced the inhabitants of the region now called Napa County. In Chapter One I argue that both the menstrual rooms and the sweat houses of Napa's California Indians served as sites that were constitutive of and reflective of the larger social systems structuring Wappo societies. These were the sites that organized the gender-stratified communities of Wappo-speaking peoples as well as many of their neighbors. I examine the roles of economic and cultural exchange between Wappo-speaking communities and their neighbors to argue that from precolonial times Napa was tied to other histories beyond its valleys. Such histories not only influenced events in Napa, but also tied it to its future histories as part of the nation of first Mexico, and then the United States.
Chapter Two focuses on the histories of Californios in what are today Napa and Sonoma counties. Here, because throughout the nineteenth century the histories of these two counties were intimately tied to one another, the chapter includes both histories in relation to each other. Under Mexican rule, the two counties were part of the same district—the district of Sonoma. Children from Napa and Sonoma attended school together, and their fathers fought side by side in anti-Indian campaigns. The chapter begins with histories of the families who moved to the Napa-Sonoma area, and of their socio-cultural structures, including their constructions of race and gender roles. It then moves to Wappo and Patwin histories to show how the opportunities won by the Californios came at the explicit expense of the Indigenous peoples of the region.
Chapter Two is also about violence. Recently, Chicana and Chicano scholars have begun to map social stratification, especially the function of violence in establishing and maintaining stratification in colonial societies. The historical landscape they are excavating demonstrates that in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century California, colonizers viewed women from their own social class as needing protection against sexual violence at the same time that they used sexual violence to subdue Indigenous populations. In the history of Alta California, most sexual violence was directed against Indigenous women. Californio soldiers and priests raped native women, enslaved entire families, and exiled them to missions far from their native lands. In Napa, many of the Wappo, the people who resisted Spanish colonization most fiercely, were forcibly removed across the bay to Mission San Francisco Dolores.
Chapter Three is my telling of the Bear Flag incident in the Napa-Sonoma region. Drawing heavily on the testimonios of Californios and Californianas, I look at the multi-layered conflicts that took place between these communities, California Indians, and Euro-American immigrants during the Bear Flag incident, and the shifts in power relations that took place following the invasion and the rise of Euro-American dominance. Central to these stories are acts of resistance, such as when a California Indian by the name of Sinao was able to take revenge on one of the invaders, and then flee the pueblo of Sonoma, never again to be seen by a white man.
In Chapter Four I address the stories and histories of three nineteenth-century women whose lives and material circumstances were interdependent upon each other. The first story is about María Higuera Juárez, a landed Californiana; the second about the wife of Enrique Licaldo, a soldier serving under Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo; and the last about Isidora Filomena Solano, an Indigenous woman who became the wife of Sem Yeto, favored Suisun ally of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. All three women lived and labored in the Napa-Sonoma area. And all three of these women, as well as their families, lived in what Cynthia Enloe has termed a "militarized society," where their daily lives were shaped and influenced by the presence of presidios and soldiers, and where women provided the necessary labor to enable their spouses to engage in ongoing campaigns against the Indigenous peoples of the region. In this chapter I map the social relations that existed between women by examining three narratives by and/or about them from the time of the Bear Flag incident. I analyze the manner by which the status of some women was gained at the explicit expense of others. Following the example of historian Deena J. González, I utilize detail from a range of historical sources to interpret and envision the past and to bring Chicana and Indigenous women to the forefront of this history. The move to engender history, to "question and reevaluate extant sources," and to "expand the sources [I] use to study nonwritten texts and other constructs of history" is, in part, a response to the call of historians, such as Antonia Castañeda, who are engaged in the task of engendering the past.
Chapter Five examines the myths that some Euro-American immigrants created and used to present themselves as the legitimate possessors of Napa. Primary among these myths was the story of the Bear Flag incident, the time when Euro-American immigrants came into the Napa Valley and claimed the region for themselves. In the context of these white mythologies, I discuss how the victors used discourses of race and gender to belittle the claims that Napa's other residents might make to the region. Many Euro-Americans who came to dominate the region used the English-language press to portray Californianas/os, California Indians, African Americans, Mexican immigrants, and Chinese immigrants as unworthy of participation in the governments of both Napa and the larger U.S. republic. In the process of doing so, they used a racist and sexist language that erased differences between these groups. At the same time, the public school textbooks in Napa, specifically McGuffey's Eclectic Readers, portrayed white schoolchildren as "American" schoolchildren, attributed American liberties to Puritan "forefathers," and promulgated an ideology of Manifest Destiny among a generation of young Euro-Americans in the county and the larger U.S. West. Thus, by the close of Chapter Five, a linear history has emerged in Napa, one which erased the earlier interwoven stories of the county, at the same time that it paralleled national stories of Manifest Destiny and white supremacy.
Raced Bodies in White Spaces, Chapter Six, examines immigration and life among racialized minorities in post-1848 Napa. Despite the white violence of the time, peoples of various racialized minorities continued to live in Napa. And Chinese immigrants in search of work opportunities joined the diverse populations that were already there. African American, Chinese immigrant, and Chicana/o communities were pushed and pulled into segregated areas of Napa. Yet these communities remained diverse in terms of class stratification. They also challenged racist narratives and racist social institutions in Napa. And so this chapter closes by examining the history and legacy of the Sam Kee laundry case and argues that, even in times of overwhelming racism and racial violence, subaltern communities often find ways to fight back and challenge the systems within which they are compelled to live and work.
Chapters are interspersed with source-breaks or "non-chapters," comprised of primary source materials I believe are critical to understanding the socio-political climate of the times. The first non-chapter follows Chapter Two. It is in this narrative breach that I introduce Euro-American and Californiana/o narratives of the Bear Flag incident. The sources, like the sources throughout the other non-chapters of this work, are presented in the raw, with little framing and no interpretation, to provoke challenges to and alternative readings of my own interpretations located in the main body of the text. The second non-chapter follows Chapter Four and is a collection of Napa's nineteenth-century newspaper articles and filler, intended to demonstrate the obstacles that racialized minorities faced in post-1848 California. The source-break thus sets the stage for Chapters Five and Six, which address the racism against which these communities struggled. The last non-chapter follows Chapter Five and contains the text from the Sam Kee decision—the not yet famous Chinese laundry case that struck down Napa's anti-laundry ordinance. Such non-chapters may be disruptive, or even jolting. But then, so is history.
"This Land was Mexican Once" is a story about the very processes in which we engage when we write. Whether or not we engage in traditional, linear histories, or struggle to find alternatives that excavate subordinated histories, is not incidental but critical to the future of the field. This project, then, is part of a larger scholarly movement, initiated by historians, Chicana/o Studies, and postcolonial scholars, which challenges the very historical traditions in which so many of us were and are trained, and creates new alternatives to envisioning our pasts and futures.