In 1880 Petra Laguna Tambo, an indigenous Cocopah woman, married Felix Portillo, a mestizo (a person of mixed race). They made a life together near the Colorado River in Baja California as she worked cultivating fruits and vegetables and he as a cowboy. Their ethnically mixed marriage represented a “rapidly changing ethnoracial landscape of a frontier region where agricultural and mining enterprises had taken hold on an unprecedented scale” (1). The Baja borderlands were shaped through Mexican land reform, migratory labor, and foreign investment from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. National governments and business interests sought to facilitate the movement of laborers even as they attempted to fix communities in particular locations. Despite these efforts, laborers altered the geography of the region as well as social relations as they intermarried across racial and ethnic difference.

At the intersection of the United...

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