Chicano/Chicana •  History and Southwest

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The Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880s-1930s

John M. Nieto-Phillips

When the United States declared war on Spain in 1898, rumors abounded throughout the nation that the Spanish-speaking population of New Mexico secretly sympathized with the enemy. At the end of the war, The New York Times warned that New Mexico's "Mexicans professed a deep hostility to American ideas and American policies." As long as Spanish remained the primary language of public instruction, the Times admonished, "the majority of the inhabitants will remain 'Mexican' and retain a pseudo-allegiance (to Spain)."
This perception of Spanish-speaking New Mexicans as "un-American" was widely shared. Such allegations of disloyalty, coupled with the prevalent views that all Mexican peoples were racially non-white and "unfit" to assume the rights and responsibilities of full citizenship, inspired powerful reactions among the Spanish-speaking people of New Mexico. Most sought to distinguish themselves from Mexican immigrants by emphasizing their "Spanish" roots. Tourism, too, began to foster the myth that nuevomexicanos were culturally and racially Spanish. Since the 1950s, historians, sociologists, and anthropologists have dismissed the ubiquitous Spanish heritage claimed by many New Mexicans.
John M. Nieto-Phillips, himself a nuevomexicano, argues that Spanish-American identity evolved out of a medieval rhetoric about blood purity, or limpieza de sangre, as well as a modern longing to enter the United States's white body politic.


John M. Nieto-Phillips is associate professor of history and Latino studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.


"In this well-written history, Nieto-Phillips explores the complex and often misunderstood nature of "Spanish-American" identity among Latinos in New Mexico. His well-organized survey of the long history of racial caste and bloodline heritage in Spain, Spanish America, and the US Southwest shows how older caste practices marked lines of seperation in these hybrid Spanish cultures. . . Highly recommended."



"Nieto-Phillips' book reflects first-rate scholarship. . . The extensive index, bibliography, and endnotes make this book an outstanding research tool for rhetoric, history, Latino studies, sociology, anthropology, race, class, and the demographics of the Southwestern United States."


Southwestern American Literature

" The Language of Blood reveals different and important developments in racial identity, American nationalism, and the relationship of region to nation in the Southwest often disregarded or deemed insignificant by the dominant Northeastern and Southern histories that comprise the field of American history."


Journal of American Ethnic History

"A superb treatment of a very relevant and timely subject."


American Historical Review

" Language of Blood is a fine addition to the historiography of New Mexico and the West."


Western Historical Quarterly

"Nieto-Phillips' work is an excellent start to the study of New Mexico identity politics."


Journal of the West

" Language of Blood is an excellent study into the intersectionality of race, color, and language that so shaped an identity in New Mexico."


Pluma Fronteriza

"Although The Language of Blood will find its primary audience among academics, it should also appeal to a general readership. The narrative is straightforward and illuminating."


Southwest BookViews

". . excellently objective, subtly passionate, and thoroughly well-researched and perspicaciously argued study of identity among New Mexicans."


The Santa Fe New Mexican

" Language of Blood is an excellent study into the mix of race, color and language that so shaped New Mexico's identity."


The Pueblo Chieftain, CO

6 x 9 in. 328 pages 24 halftones, 2 maps, 1 graphs, 8 tables