Interiority and Mestizaje

The spaces of Tejano life present a particular challenge to historians: evidence is scant for the 18th-19th century built environment, and this distinct material culture is further imperiled by the militarization of the Texas-Mexico border. In order to recoup presence and agency for a culture that is underrepresented in American history, this paper considers how spatial knowledge can be located in the practices that shaped everyday life on the frontier and informed vernacular interiors.

The project draws on contemporary diarists’ descriptions, folklore studies, wills and inventories of property, and archaeological reports to explore how the broad patterns of frontier life were constitutive of objects and spaces, making use of the concept of entanglement as developed by archaeologist Ian Hodder as a lens through which to view the complex relationships between people, things, and environment. I situate the notion of ephemerality in dialogue with mestizaje, the process and state of being racially mixed, in order to explore how temporality and erasure affected not only the material environment, but also race and identity. As Chicana scholar Gloria Anzaldúa has noted, mestizaje can describe the ambiguities and intimacies of existing in between the racial binaries that exist in American society. Yet it is also premised on the impermanence and mutability of identity. I explore how the value and meaning attached to interior spaces and objects served to mediate between racially-constituted categories of exclusion, asking how Tejano-mestizo spaces challenge and complicate our understanding of the processes of settler colonialism and its legacy.

Book Chapters
“Interiority and Mestizaje: Entanglements in the Tejano Borderlands,” Race in Design History (in prepraration)

Conference Presentations
"Interiority and Mestizaje: Entanglements in the Tejano Borderlands." Society of Architectural Historians Annual International Conference, Albuquerque, NM, April 2024.

©Marie Saldaña 2023