Coloniality and Border(ed) Violence: San Diego, San Ysidro and the U-S///Mexico Border

2010 2010

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Abstract (summary)

Considered the “World's Busiest Border Crossing,” the San Ysidro port of entry is located in a small, predominantly Mexican and Spanish-speaking community between San Diego and Tijuana. The community of San Ysidro was itself annexed by the City of San Diego in the mid-1950s, in what was publicly articulated as a dispute over water rights. This dissertation argues that the annexation was over who was to have control of the port of entry, and would in turn, set the stage for a gendered/racialized power struggle that has contributed to both real and symbolic violence on the border.

This dissertation is situated at the crossroads of urban studies, border studies and ethnic studies and places violence as a central analytical category. As such, this interdisciplinary work is manifold. It is a community history of San Ysidro in its simultaneous relationship to the U-S///Mexico border and to the City of San Diego. In addition, it considers multiple forms of both direct and symbolic violence often overshadowed by attention to drug violence: the annexation dispute in the 1950's (territorial); the 1984 McDonald's Massacre of predominantly Mexican patrons (corporeal/racial); a subsequent fight over a memorial monument (cultural/symbolic); the resurgence of vigilante-like anti-immigrant groups (ideological); and critical responses by cultural producers to the very existence of the border wall. In sum, it considers the relationship between coloniality, nation-state borders and violence to understand the region's role in an increasingly globalized world.

In analyzing the varied responses by local residents, this study thus considers broader theoretical issues of raced/gendered violence, power, and nation-state borders. It challenges two established assumptions in much of the literature on border cities: 1) the normative descriptor "San Diego-Tijuana" as a proper name for the region, and 2) a related insistence on "San Diego-Tijuana" as an exception in relation to other U.S. counterparts among border cities. In doing so, my dissertation unsettles the demarcation of San Diego as a border city, given its location and relationship to San Ysidro and the U-S///Mexico border?

In this dissertation, San Ysidro functions as a lens to study the U-S///Mexico border, as San Ysidro is emblematic of globalizing processes, where local dynamics intersect and often conflict with regional, transnational, and global political/economic interests embodied in free trade policies said to make borders increasingly irrelevant. The case study of San Ysidro reveals, however, the contradictory nature of fortified yet permeable nation-state boundaries and surrounding border regions.

Indexing (details)

Ethnic studies;
Hispanic American studies;
0631: Ethnic studies
0737: Hispanic American studies
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Border; Coloniality; Mexico; San Diego; San Ysidro; United States-Mexico; Violence
Coloniality and Border(ed) Violence: San Diego, San Ysidro and the U-S///Mexico Border
Hernandez, Roberto Delgadillo
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 72/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Grosfoguel, Ramon
Committee member
Chapela, Ignacio; Nevins, Joseph; Saldivar, Jose David
University of California, Berkeley
Ethnic Studies
University location
United States -- California
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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