Collisions at the Crossroads: How Place and Mobility Make Race

Collisions at the Crossroads: How Place and Mobility Make Race

by Genevieve Carpio
Collisions at the Crossroads: How Place and Mobility Make Race

Collisions at the Crossroads: How Place and Mobility Make Race

by Genevieve Carpio

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There are few places where mobility has shaped identity as widely as the American West, but some locations and populations sit at its major crossroads, maintaining control over place and mobility, labor and race. In Collisions at the Crossroads, Genevieve Carpio argues that mobility, both permission to move freely and prohibitions on movement, helped shape racial formation in the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By examining policies and forces as different as historical societies, Indian boarding schools, bicycle ordinances, immigration policy, incarceration, traffic checkpoints, and Route 66 heritage, she shows how local authorities constructed a racial hierarchy by allowing some people to move freely while placing limits on the mobility of others. Highlighting the ways people of color have negotiated their place within these systems, Carpio reveals a compelling and perceptive analysis of spatial mobility through physical movement and residence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520298835
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Series: American Crossroads , #53
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 392
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Genevieve Carpio is Assistant Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Read an Excerpt


The Rise of the Anglo Fantasy Past


In May of 1903, a large crowd congregated at the Pachappa train station in Riverside, California, to welcome President Theodore Roosevelt. Residents closely followed news of his western tour and eagerly anticipated his visit during a presidential journey spanning the American West. Alongside planned stopping points at major monuments like Yellowstone and the Louisiana Purchase Expedition, the City of Riverside was an ideal site to commemorate the frontier dream fulfilled. Located sixty miles inland of Los Angeles and the site for the introduction of the navel orange thirty years earlier, Riverside had become the center of a burgeoning citrus industry rivaling those in Florida, Louisiana, Portugal, Italy, and Brazil. When Roosevelt arrived, he praised the community for its abundant orange groves, saying, "Here I am in the pioneer community of irrigated fruit growing in California. ... You have made of this city and its surroundings a veritable paradise."

After a night's rest at the renowned Mission Inn, Roosevelt joined residents in the resort's courtyard to celebrate the ceremonial replanting of Riverside's first navel orange tree, an imported "parent tree" from which the region's groves were budded. John North Jr. of the Riverside Historical Society offered the president the shovel. Accepting the honor, he declared to the crowd, "I am glad to see, Mr. North, that this tree shows no signs of race suicide." (For more on race suicide, see chapter 2.) Roosevelt departed shortly afterwards, leaving behind an enduring symbol of regional and racial identity. His visit highlights the key dimensions of this chapter: the ways mobility was racially differentiated through national mythologies; the growth of citrus capitalism and the establishment of its legitimacy over other forms of regional development; and the construction of racial hierarchies through an Anglo Fantasy Past that elevated white settlers as pioneers, erased Indigenous and Mexican dispossession, and located Chinese residents as perpetual foreigners.

Their positioning of citrus as emblematic of the region reflects the ways Riverside's residents sought to transform inland Southern California from a peripheral Mexican ranch economy to a center of capital-intensive U.S. agriculture. Riverside was founded three decades before President Roosevelt's visit, as one of several colonies in Southern California. Led by John W. North and James P. Greves of New York, the town was established in a valley already settled by longtime residents, including a local Indigenous population, Mexican ranch communities, Hispanos who had migrated from New Mexico, and whites, including European immigrants and U.S.-born immigrants who had arrived when the valley was still Mexico. The pageantry surrounding the replanting of the navel orange tree, a fruit foreign to the region and representative of U.S. commercial agriculture's growth, reveals the production of what cultural-materialist Raymond Williams has called a "selective tradition" to refer to the ways some versions of a society's past are emphasized as "tradition" and others are negated. These traditions privilege the dominant class, legitimize the present order, and point towards a future that maintains the social and economic status quo. Yet, they are also vulnerable to historical recovery and opposing positions, particularly by marginalized groups.

The selective tradition of the parent navel orange tree was foundational in regional mythologies of mobility and settlement at the beginning of the twentieth century. In a celebration of U.S. progress, the town's residents commemorated the westward migration of white settlers as the starting point of meaningful development in an idealized narrative that claimed and glorified the colonization of a multiracial desert through Anglo American fruit. By doing so, they not only claimed the past but also validated the uneven ways privilege in the realms of property and cultural belonging were accorded to white migrants while constraining claims to place by Indigenous people and communities of color.

This chapter examines the emergence of this Anglo Fantasy Past in order to understand two aspects of the relationship between racial formation and mobility. Mobility is an analytic comprised of physical movement, the social meanings attached to that movement, and the policies facilitating or hindering it. The first aspect of the relationship between racial formation and mobility this chapter examines is internal migration by Anglo Americans from the eastern United States to inland Southern California. It investigates how long-distance migrants who traveled west were differentiated from those with generational ties, including the local Indigenous and Mexican-descent populations, and how colonialism was erased, despite continual claims to place by the dispossessed. Notably, it was through western movement that white migrants positioned themselves as racially superior to the longtime residents and claimed themselves to be the rightful occupants of the region, largely through the development of the citrus industry.

The second aspect of the relationship between racial formation and mobility concerns regional movement. This movement encompasses the travel comprising daily life and the regional spatial formations shaping local mobilities and immobilities — that is, how people were permitted to move or prohibited from moving. In contrast to practices celebrating white settlers were policies and laws regulating the everyday movements of Chinese immigrant workers also living in the region at this time. Rather than excluding Asian people altogether, regional power brokers' primary goal was to control migration and settlement in a fluid response to changing regional labor demands. Examined together, racial projects attaching meaning to long-distance internal migration and regional movements reveal the ways selective tradition permeated ideas, policies, and practices of racial mobility.

This story begins in Riverside, a center of inland Southern California's agricultural economy built on white settler colonialism, which in this context we can understand as an ongoing process of Indigenous dispossession driven by citrus's profitability. Inhabited by Indigenous Cahuilla, Maarenga'yam and Yuhaviatam (Serrano), and Tongva-Gabrielino people for thousands of years (estimates for the arrival of the earliest California populations are dated between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago), the Spanish incorporated present-day Riverside into Mission San Gabriel in 1771. The mission church was about 10 miles east of the Los Angeles Plaza. After an independent Mexico secularized the Spanish missions in 1831, socialite Juan Bandini established Rancho Jurupa (1838) and Rancho Rincón (1839) from the mission's former eastern holdings. Over the next fifty years, land moved through many hands. Flood, drought, and hostile attacks proved insurmountable challenges to the Mexican ranch economy. When American migrants settled here in the 1870s, they would permeate the region with commercial agriculture.

After experimenting with various crops, the newly arrived residents found that citrus fruits yielded impressive profits. In a short time, the sweet and colorful Riverside navel orange became iconic of a region that would come to be known as the "Citrus Belt," a fertile valley populated by Anglo American farmers. At the same time, Chinese residents operated cooperative farms where they grew and delivered vegetables throughout the region. However, the criminalization of Chinese settlement prevented their successful entry into the more lucrative citrus industry. For instance, municipal ordinances and regional enforcement of the 1892 Geary Act instituted a pass system for Chinese laborers that policed Chinese citrus farmers' everyday mobility. The celebration of white migrants — culminating in President Roosevelt's replanting of the navel orange tree — combined with the selective criminality of Chinese migrants within the region prompts further consideration of how mobility inherits disparate racial meanings and how those meanings have affected the distribution of power in multiracial places throughout the long twentieth century.

Prior to the arrival of President Roosevelt, citrus growing increasingly shaped the economy, geography, and people of inland Southern California. The mythology of the navel orange — manufactured by the Riverside Historical Society, promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and adopted by President Roosevelt — erased core components of local history that, if acknowledged, would have undermined the exclusivity of white American migrants' claims to the region. When celebrating horticultural expansion by white settler colonists, brokers of cultural production justified a racially segmented landscape that paralleled the distinctions they described between inferior and superior fruits. Nevertheless, despite the dominance of the white settler colonial narrative, counternarrative-based claims to place persisted, in the Sherman Institute's record of American Indian child runaways, in the San Salvador parishioners' efforts to reify the meaning of the Catholic Church, and in Chinese immigrants' efforts to establish lucrative farms. Despite these counternarratives, both longtime inhabitants' resistance and continued multiracial settlement were buried under a selective tradition subjugating all nonwhites to a system of colonial rule custom-made for each racial group according to the specific challenges they posed to citrus capitalism. Tracing the place of mobility in the selective tradition of the planting of the parent navel orange tree reveals the intersecting mechanisms through which regional identity became synonymous with whiteness and, in the process, uncovers the symbols, institutions, and policies that were drawn upon as racial hierarchies unfolded in the emerging capitalist landscape of California.


In 1870, John W. North and James P. Greves recruited eastern families to establish a communal colony in Southern California. Both abolitionists from upstate New York who had traveled to the West during the Civil War, North and Greves had attempted similar efforts before in Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. In this newest endeavor, they hoped to build an agricultural community near the projected line of the Southern Pacific Railroad. In a leaflet promoting the endeavor North wrote, "We wish to form a colony of intelligent, industrious and enterprising people, so that one's industry will help to promote his neighbor's interests as well as his own." Early on, they envisioned a colony of quality schools, public libraries, churches, fertile farmland, and irrigated lots in the healthful environment of Southern California. North and Greves followed on the heels of earlier California colonists, including those who established a Mormon outpost in San Bernardino (1852), Stockton migrants seeking an alternative to depleted Northern California gold mines in Compton (1867), and the children of German immigrants who relocated from San Francisco to establish Anaheim (1869). Each fed into the larger imperial impulse of the westward expansion of a U.S. empire. While resident American Indians and former Mexican citizens sought to defend their claims to Southern California in the aftermath of the Mexican-American War, internal migrants were busy remapping the region for Anglo American settlement.

In March of 1870, North and Greves began recruiting settlers to their Southern California colony. They printed leaflets with bold headlines proclaiming "A Colony for California." Recruitment agents in Iowa, Michigan, New York, and Massachusetts were tasked with attracting prospective migrants to invest in the agricultural endeavor, which they did with some success. About a hundred people signed on as prospective colonists. After four months of scouting potential properties, representatives of the Southern California Colony Association (SCCA) purchased a site nestled in the inland valley, about sixty miles east of Los Angeles. Although North originally intended to settle closer to Los Angeles, and nearly did so in present-day Pasadena at $10 an acre, the association chose the inland location at less than half the price. Built on the site of the failed California Silk Center Association near the Santa Ana River, the SCCA adopted the name Riverside for its new town.

As the colonists arrived in Riverside, the presence of large Indigenous and Mexican populations in the valley surprised them. Long predating the colonists' arrival, Cahuilla, Maarenga'yam and Yuhaviatam (Serrano), and Tongva-Gabrielino people were settled in the basin. Not far beyond these groups lived the Payómkawichum-Luiseños. California's diverse Indigenous population included about 300,000 people and 78 distinct language families. Although the Spanish had forcibly relocated Indigenous communities to mission land, some successfully evaded removal. But avoiding geographic displacement did not preclude economic dislocation; at the time of California's annexation by the United States, many who remained on Native land were pushed into manual labor, such as digging irrigation ditches, tending crops, and serving local households. Others were forced into the service of new settlers due to the California vagrancy law, by which the labor of American Indians and later Mexicans were sold to white contractors and agriculturalists if they were found to have "no visible means of living, who in ten days do not seek employment, nor labor when employment is offered to them." In the years to follow, California Natives were ever present as laborers in public spaces, domestic workers in private households, and wards of the state in Indian boarding schools.

When the Mexican government secularized the Spanish missions (1834–1846), Mexican elites most successfully laid claim to the California countryside. These were the large land grants of a Californio elite, including Europeans and Americans who became naturalized Mexican citizens, converted to Catholicism, and married Mexican women. Elite Mexican women also acquired property, largely through inheritance or kinship ties. Conversely, the vast majority of Indigenous people were dispossessed of communal lands. However, some did successfully petition for land grants, including Serefino de Jesús, Emilio Joaquin, and I. Ramón Rosauaro Valueria, all of whom were affiliated with Mission San Gabriel. Petitioning for land based on women's labor to the mission, at times non-Indigenous husbands of Indigenous women also successfully claimed land titles. Yet, most Indigenous women remained landless.

Later, when the United States annexed Alta California, American law upheld Mexican property rights according to the articles of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), and extended U.S. citizenship to former Mexicans living on the annexed land; however, it offered no such recognition to Indigenous people. Shortly after California statehood (1850), an expatriate of the mission system, Antonio Garra, attempted to unite inland tribes in a revolt that would extend property rights to Indigenous people. However, the plan was thwarted when Garra tried to collaborate with Juan Antonio, chief of the Cahuillas, who later submitted Garra to the custody of U.S. authorities. The divergent responses to U.S. encroachment on American Indian lands by Garra and Antonio are a poignant reminder that Indigenous communities have been differently positioned alongside one another in the colonial process. One tribe's relative acceptance by new colonial authorities has often been achieved at the expense of another.

In addition to long-standing Indigenous communities, the newly arrived Riverside colonists encountered Californio ranchers such as the Alvarado, Lugo, Palomares, Rubidoux, and Vejar families. One traveler wrote, "Handsome bands of sixty to eighty horses passed here Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and yesterday — There is a much larger Spanish population in this country than I had supposed." The dispossession of California Indians contributed to frequent raids on these Mexican ranches, as Native people procured livestock and vital supplies consolidated by ranchers in a landscape where they had few economic options. Perhaps unexpectedly, these conflicts contributed to the multiracial tapestry of inland Southern California. After Garra's arrest, theft was largely attributed to distant tribes originating from across the Southwest, including the Ute, Mojave, and Paiute people. Horse robberies were so common that traders were required to undergo inspection before entering Cajon Pass, a popular trade route. Indigenous people's dissident economic possibilities accompanied their conflicting claims to land as Anglo American conquest transformed it to property. As described by historian Angela Hudson in her study of travel in Creek Indian lands, "it is difficult and perhaps counterproductive to try to disaggregate acts of theft from acts of resistance." Robberies and even violence could exist simultaneously as acts of necessity, profit, and aggression along the conduits of commerce that cut through inland Southern California.


Excerpted from "Collisions at the Crossroads"
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Copyright © 2019 Genevieve Carpio.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1 The Rise of the Anglo Fantasy Past 22

Mobility, Memory, and Racial Hierarchies in-Inland Southern California, 1870-1900

2 On the Move and Fixed in Place 64

Japanese Immigrants in the Multiracial Citrus Belt, 1882-1920

3 From Mexican Settlers to Mexican Birds of Passage 102

Relational Racial Formation, Citrus Labor, and Immigration Policy, 1914-1930

4 "Del Fotingo Que Era Mio" 141

Mexican and Dust Bowl Drivers in Metropolitan Los Angeles, 1930-1945

5 From Citrus Belt to Inland Empire 181

Mobility vs. Retrenchment, 1945-1970

Conclusion: The Reemergence of the Anglo Fantasy Past 219

Notes 239

Bibliography 311

Index 339

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