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The Interpretation and Representation of Latino Cultures: Research and Museums Conference Documentation
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McKiernan Gonzalez, John

Challenging Traditional Curatorial Practices

Historicizing Narratives

Borders and Diasporas

Aesthetics Beauty

The Body: The Real and the Symbolic

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Discussions

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Bodies of Evidence: Legal Representation, Medical Recognition and Chicano Urban History on the Border, 1900-1930

On March 7, 1916, Jesus Montelongo, his family and his friend chose to brave the Rio Bravo over the bridge crossing. The Texas quarantine guard met them on the north bank of the river. Under orders by state health officer H.C. Hall, the guards escorted his wife and children over the bridge to Nuevo Laredo. The guard forced Mr. Montelongo back into the river, where he drowned in view of both urban Laredos. In response, the medical examiner of Nuevo Laredo filed charges of willful homicide against the quarantine.

Using medical records, diplomatic archives and popular ephemera, this paper will examine Mexican border residentsí struggle for representation and recognition. Long-term residents and sojourners articulated common-law principles of bodily autonomy and due process against forcible re-vaccination and other newly intrusive public health practices. The erosion of local democratic participation, an increased popular faith in professional authority, the stricter policing of racial and national boundaries and changes in constitutional law exemplified by Plessy v. Ferguson, Lochner v. New York and Buck v. Bell restricted the scope and reception of these rights-claiming practices.† In re Montelongo and other unsuccessful border claims expose the question of recognition in the American relationship between the realms of communicable disease and citizenship in the Progressive Era.

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