Archives of Dispossession

Recovering the Testimonios of Mexican American Herederas, 1848–1960

By Karen R. Roybal

186 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3382-4
    Published: September 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3381-7
    Published: September 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3383-1
    Published: August 2017

Gender and American Culture

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One method of American territory expansion in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands was the denial of property rights to Mexican landowners, which led to dispossession. Many historical accounts overlook this colonial impact on Indigenous and Mexican peoples, and existing studies that do tackle this subject tend to privilege the male experience. Here, Karen R. Roybal recenters the focus of dispossession on women, arguing that gender, sometimes more than race, dictated legal concepts of property ownership and individual autonomy. Drawing on a diverse source base—legal land records, personal letters, and literature—Roybal locates voices of Mexican American women in the Southwest to show how they fought against the erasure of their rights, both as women and as landowners. Woven throughout Roybal’s analysis are these women’s testimonios—their stories focusing on inheritance, property rights, and shifts in power. Roybal positions these testimonios as an alternate archive that illustrates the myriad ways in which multiple layers of dispossession—and the changes of property ownership in Mexican law—affected the formation of Mexicana identity.

About the Author

Karen R. Roybal is assistant professor of Southwest studies at Colorado College.
For more information about Karen R. Roybal, visit the Author Page.


“An evocative read, Roybal’s book reminds us that we have each inherited the world in which we live and that, if we are to share it well, we must reckon with the prejudices that shaped it.”--H-Net Reviews

"Illustrates the longstanding struggles of women--especially women of color--inspiring new generations to continue the fight against patriarchal constraints."--Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"A much-needed reexamination of Latino/a literary history, Archives of Dispossession offers fresh insights into the literary imaginary of early Chicana/Mexican authors."--Maria E. Cotera, University of Michigan

"Through a focus on archives, 'herederas,' and testimonios, Roybal weaves together disparate authors since 1848 in an original critical framework that is at once innovative, provocative, and feminist. A bona fide contribution to Chicana/o literary studies."--José Aranda Jr., Rice University