Smeltertown: Making and Remembering a Southwest Border Community / Edition 1

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Overview


Company town. Blighted community. Beloved home. Nestled on the banks of the Rio Grande, at the heart of a railroad, mining, and smelting empire, Smeltertown--La Esmelda, as its residents called it--was home to generations of ethnic Mexicans who labored at the American Smelting and Refining Company in El Paso, Texas.

Using newspapers, personal archives, photographs, employee records, parish newsletters, and interviews with former residents, including her own relatives, Monica Perales unearths the history of this forgotten community. Spanning almost a century, Smeltertown traces the birth, growth, and ultimate demise of a working class community in the largest U.S. city on the Mexican border and places ethnic Mexicans at the center of transnational capitalism and the making of the urban West. Perales shows that Smeltertown was composed of multiple real and imagined social worlds created by the company, the church, the schools, and the residents themselves. Within these dynamic social worlds, residents forged permanence and meaning in the shadow of the smelter's giant smokestacks. Smeltertown provides insight into how people and places invent and reinvent themselves and illuminates a vibrant community grappling with its own sense of itself and its place in history and collective memory.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Highly recommended."--Southern Historian

"A significant contribution to our understanding of Chicana/o and labor history. . . . Aside from being thoroughly researched, Perales's book is excellently composed. . . . It will be of use to labor, gender, environmental, and social historians."--Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"Smeltertown is an important contribution to the growing body of research in Mexican American, gender, and social history."--Journal of Southern History

"Smeltertown is an engaging exploration of the intersections of globalization and transnationalism." --The Journal of American History

"Perales chronicle[s] the journey of Mexican-Americans and their role in the industrialization and globalization of a small community near El Paso. Her book . . . tells their story where families thrived and business excelled."--Houston Chronicle

"Historian [Perales] chronicles [the] birth, growth, and death of her family's neighborhood. . . . [in] the first in-depth book about Smeltertown."--El Paso Times

"In addition to telling the story of the birth, life, and demise of a vibrant community, Smeltertown provides valuable insights."--Humanities Texas

"Not just a narrative history . . . but also a look at how the community was created by Anglos and Hispanics, citizens and immigrants, rich and poor. . . . This well-researched and well-documented work would be a good addition for academic libraries, especially collections related to borderlands studies or labor issues."--Library Journal

Library Journal
Smeltertown, or La Esmelda, was a company town that developed around the American Smelting and Refining Company plant in El Paso, TX. Perales (history, Univ. of Houston) offers not simply a narrative history of this area, but also a look at how the community was created by Anglos and Hispanics, citizens and immigrants, rich and poor. The book explores the sometimes contradictory dichotomy between the history and the development of the community, in particular the paternal and often negative treatment of the Mexican labor pool, and how the residents, Esmeltianos, created a sense of place and fashioned their identities as Mexicans and Americans. Personal stories and remembrances throughout the text help paint a picture that appears rosier, at least in the Esmeltianos' memory, than the history portrays. VERDICT Though the text is a bit repetitious, this well-researched and well-documented work would be a good addition for academic libraries, especially collections related to borderlands studies or labor issues.—Mike Miller, Austin P.L., TX
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807834114
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/13/2010
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Monica Perales is assistant professor of history at the University of Houston.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

Part I Making Places

1 Making a Border City 21

2 Creating Smeltertown 57

Part II Making Identities

3 We're Just Smelter People 97

4 We Were One Hundred Percent Mexican 149

5 She Was Very American 185

Part III Remembering Smeltertown

6 The Demise of Smeltertown 225

Epilogue Finding Smeltertown 261

Notes 279

Index 319

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