The region that is today the US-Mexico border has been a site of cultural contact, national rivalry, and economic transformation for more than four centuries. We will examine the border as a geographical site of cultural contact, but we also investigate the broader routes of migration that extend far beyond the national boundary line. In doing so, we will cross academic disciplinary boundaries (history, literature, sociology, and anthropology) as well as engaging the work of cultural and artistic activists. This interdisciplinary approach to the history of the border allows us to appreciate its complexity and richness.

As well as studying the basic political/economic history of the border, we will explore the impact of the border on the construction of racial, national, gender and class identities. Thus, we will be seeking to understand what the border and the borderlands can teach us about ethnic and transnational relations more generally. We begin in the sixteenth century when this region was being settled by Spaniards moving north from New Spain to highlight the continuities between the colonial and national eras. However, we will spend most of our time examining the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when the US-Mexico border came into existence. Themes we will explore include race relations, capitalist development, ethnic rebellion, transculturation, migration, gender, cross-border organizing, and postmodern transborder communities.