Date

6-16-2020

Description

This paper presents a close reading of the newspaper and judicial discourse in the aftermath of the Ruiz riots, an attempted lynching of a government official by a Mexicano mob in 1856 Los Angeles. It uses this close reading to complicate two key veins of scholarship on law, lynching, and the marginalization of California’s Mexican population in the aftermath of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican American war and granted citizenship rights to all Mexican citizens within the conquered territory. The first vein of scholarship is one springing from Chicano studies and Marxist historiography, which, while correctly highlights the violence of the American conquest of California, focuses on economic factors to explain the later dispossession of Mexicanos in the North, with law playing at best a secondary role. This paper challenges this vein of scholarship by arguing that the Ruiz riots and other lynching incidents highlight the importance of law, and a contestation around law, in the marginalization of Mexicanos and in setting the stage for their economic dispossession. The second vein of scholarship, arising out of lynching scholarship originally focused on the American South, holds these lynching incidents to be the product of lawless white supremacy, only restrained in the late 19th/early 20th century by a turn to legal procedure. This paper challenges this vein of scholarship by arguing that the Ruiz riots demonstrate the way in which lynching was often understood by both Mexicanos and Anglo-American settlers to be lawful rather than lawless, and how arguments against lynching could in fact contribute to white supremacist rule in California. Finally, this paper presents a close reading of the writings of Mexicano newspaper editor Francisco P. Ramírez, and argues that these writings can be read as presenting a minor jurisprudence of law-as-conquest which grounds the rights of Mexicanos not in a contractual American polity and American legal institutions, but in the rights of conquered nations

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Jun 16th, 12:00 AM

The Ruiz Riots and the Possibility of Counterhistory

This paper presents a close reading of the newspaper and judicial discourse in the aftermath of the Ruiz riots, an attempted lynching of a government official by a Mexicano mob in 1856 Los Angeles. It uses this close reading to complicate two key veins of scholarship on law, lynching, and the marginalization of California’s Mexican population in the aftermath of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican American war and granted citizenship rights to all Mexican citizens within the conquered territory. The first vein of scholarship is one springing from Chicano studies and Marxist historiography, which, while correctly highlights the violence of the American conquest of California, focuses on economic factors to explain the later dispossession of Mexicanos in the North, with law playing at best a secondary role. This paper challenges this vein of scholarship by arguing that the Ruiz riots and other lynching incidents highlight the importance of law, and a contestation around law, in the marginalization of Mexicanos and in setting the stage for their economic dispossession. The second vein of scholarship, arising out of lynching scholarship originally focused on the American South, holds these lynching incidents to be the product of lawless white supremacy, only restrained in the late 19th/early 20th century by a turn to legal procedure. This paper challenges this vein of scholarship by arguing that the Ruiz riots demonstrate the way in which lynching was often understood by both Mexicanos and Anglo-American settlers to be lawful rather than lawless, and how arguments against lynching could in fact contribute to white supremacist rule in California. Finally, this paper presents a close reading of the writings of Mexicano newspaper editor Francisco P. Ramírez, and argues that these writings can be read as presenting a minor jurisprudence of law-as-conquest which grounds the rights of Mexicanos not in a contractual American polity and American legal institutions, but in the rights of conquered nations