Gender roles have always been present in relationships. With any orientation, these masculine and feminine roles create expectations on how to act, dress, and conduct oneself in a relationship. Masculinity in relationships can be overpowering, especially in diaspora, the dispersion of peoples from their homeland. In Mexican culture, this can lead to Machismo, the concept of the ideal Mexican man. Having machismo can lead to being patriarchal and sexist. However, the role of a male figure amongst these Mexican diasporic relationships are not always like this. In Nichole Guidotti-Hernández’s most recent book, Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora, she collects the visual archives from Enrique Flores Magón and Leonard Nadel to document and interpret intimacy across relationships amongst Mexican men during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
The book is separated into two sections, each with their own conclusion. The first half of the book follows the gendered migrations and life of Enrique Flores Magón, a Mexican anarchist. Guidotti-Hernández focuses on Enrique’s virility amongst his relationships around the time he fled to El Paso, Texas. Guidotti-Hernández notes the masculine style of his word choice when writing letters throughout his life, drawing attention to his masculine virility. With Enrique’s first relationship, being with Paula Carmona, it is possible that his virility caused a breakup. Despite Paula having visual evidence of their relationship, Enrique did not, erasing the relationship from his side. The reason why this relationship was problematic in diaspora is because of Enrique’s masculinity – he was patriarchal and misogynistic. This shows how heteronormative gender roles can affect one’s intimate relationship in diaspora. The second half of the book looks at the homoerotic conflicts within the bracero program captured by photojournalist Leonard Nadel. Guidotti-Hernández says that Leonard traveled over five thousand miles with for his photojournalism, focusing on his bracero subjects from their homes in Central Mexico to processing centers in the United States and labor camps. In Leonard’s photographs Guidotti-Hernández traces the tensions between two sides of the braceros’ identity; one side represents braceros in a more mainstream image, being seen as the typical masculine character. However, the other side shows same-sex relationships between the Mexican laborers. Hernández exposes the unseen side of bracero life to show that feminine masculinity and homoeroticism livened bracero life and culture while avoiding the dominant influence of Mexican patriarchy and heterosexuality. The book is wrapped up with the conclusion of the relationship between Mexicans separated by the border. Despite a lack of solidarity, these Mexican communities developed political connections that were highly emotive and intimate through their agitation for labor rights. What we learn from the changes that occurred between anarchists of the 1910s and 1920s and braceros in the 1950s has to do with how emotional bonds and attachments were forged. Both the archives of Enrique Flores Magón and braceros required narration against machismo. This is because Mexican male migration patterns and narratives of sociality are interpreted through machismo.
The author of this book, Nichole M. Guidotti-Hernández, is currently a professor of English at Emory University. Her first book is Unspeakable Violence: Remapping U.S. and Mexican National Imaginaries, which is about the epistemic and physical violence that racialized and gendered peoples faced in the U.S. Mexico border from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s. Guidotti-Hernández has also written many articles for the feminist magazine Ms. and the feminist blog The Feminist Wire, discussing various topics from immigration to reproductive rights. Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora is her second and most recent book. This book can be applied to wider research or career trajectories involving Gender Studies and Latinx Culture and Literature Studies.
In Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora, there is an emphasis on visuals, hence why a lot of the research material used is photos and artwork. Most analyses are of the photos, as Guidotti-Hernández says that Photographs capture the best state of something. The archives of Enrique Flores Magón and of Leonard’s photography have been carefully selected to tell historical narratives. Guidotti-Hernández’s display of visual archives includes photos, artwork, police reports, newspaper reports, and personal letters. When analyzing, Guidotti-Hernández describes the background information of the image then ties its connection to the main topic at hand. For example, in the section of Enrique Flores Magón, there are two sketches by him of Paula Carmona, his first wife. Guidotti-Hernández gives us context about Enrique’s relationship with Paula, saying that they show an intimacy that counters Enrique’s narratives, yet he erases his relationship with Paula. He makes the false claim that he was married to his second partner, Teresa Arteaga, around the time he was in El Paso in 1908. Despite Enrique saying he married his second wife Teresa Arteaga by 1905, he still showed his love for Paula by creating art in 1908.
One strength of Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora is its in-depth analysis on every visual archive provided. By doing so, each archive reflects the effects of Mexican masculinity across time, relationships, and the location of the partners. As a result, Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora provides a look at gender dynamics of migrants from the mid-1800’s to the early 1900’s. These analyses also provide insight into the different types of relationships found in Mexican culture, such as father-son as well as partners and lovers, from homosocial and heteronormative. Another strength of this book is its connections to other cultures that had diasporic communities. In her section examining Leonard Nadel’s photography, Guidotti-Hernández brings attention to communities such as Japanese American sharecroppers and German prisoners of war. For example, she brings up how there were laborers imported from Japan to work with braceros during berry picking season. Guidotti-Hernández says that the history of multiethnic labor and racialized forms of capitalism were created by the homosocial labor conditions for Japanese and Mexican workers along with Japanese share cropping families. The connection between the two cultures emphasizes the effect of racialized capitalist systems that created these diasporic communities amongst laborers.
One potential weakness of Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora is that it feels drawn out at times. The book does sometimes feel longer than it should be, especially when analyzing its visual archives. While Guidotti-Hernández does a great job gathering and utilizing evidence to get a point across, sometimes it feels like there is too much being explained. This is a minor complaint for the book overall, as the number of visual archives presented to the reader does not shallow her overall message from the book. Depending on how you look at it, the plethora of archives presented only strengthens the claim.
Overall, I think that Archiving Mexican Masculinities in Diaspora does a great job explaining diasporic masculinity and how it reflects gender roles of Mexican culture. When looking at the intimacies of diasporic relationships, Guidotti-Hernández emphasizes the effects of virility and machismo within them. This is done by looking through the public and private aspects of Enrique Flores Magón’s relationships and looking at the two-sides of masculinity within bracero life captured by Leonard Nadel’s photography. This book was informative showing how Mexican masculinities formed by becoming outsiders through diaspora. I would recommend this American studies and ethnicity, gender studies, Latinx studies, and Latin American studies.