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Workers Across the AmericasThe Transnational Turn in Labor History$
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Leon Fink

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199731633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199731633.001.0001

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“De Facto Mexicans”

“De Facto Mexicans”

Coffee Workers and Nationality on the Guatemalan-Mexican Border, 1931–1941

(p.136) 10“De Facto Mexicans”
Workers Across the Americas

Catherine Nolan-Ferrell

Oxford University Press

In 1882, the Suchiate River became the border between Mexico and Guatemala, which had little impact on rural workers who maintained economic and social networks among communities in both countries. By the end of the reconstruction phase of the Mexican Revolution (1940s), Mexicano and Guatemalteco labels became ubiquitous. This chapter examines the historical processes that shaped collective identities linked to—and provoked by—national borders. By the 1930s, the Mexican government restricted access to revolutionary land and labor reforms exclusively to Mexican citizens. From 1931 to 1944, Guatemalan officials labeled indigenous workers as Guatemalans to use vagrancy laws designed to secure workers for Guatemalan plantations. As states sought to control claims on citizenship to meet their own needs, campesinos constructed identities that challenged these unequal power relationships by manipulating top-down nationality definitions to suit their own purposes. They used changing definitions of citizenship to both gain access to revolutionary reforms and combat exploitation on Soconusco coffee plantations. Other laborers built upon a Guatemalan identity that allowed them to preserve their indigenous and community practices. The chapter examines the increasing significance of national identities and citizenship and how various social groups contended with the exercise of state power.

Keywords:   nationality, citizenship, Mexican Revolution, campesinos, Guatemala, Guatemalan identity

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