We are now beginning to consider how the performance Couple in the Cage stages the Civilized/Savage binary in order to question, challenge and deconstruct this binary, especially in the ways the binary functions in society to:
1.) reproduce other binary assumptions (human/animal, whiteness/blackness, us/them, mind/body, rationalism/emotion) and
2.) reduce our ability to think critically about the world we live in and the relations of oppression that we perpetuate, sometimes intentionally and sometimes unknowingly, through our assumptions, beliefs and behaviors.
We will now consider the ways Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez Pena’s performance “Couple in the Cage” plays with a culturally coded and rehearsed (i.e. embodied and enacted) system of representation that is deeply embedded in Western thought (consider our Traffic Light activity as another example of a system of representation with rules we learn to embody as habitual responses/restored behaviors – pushing on the gas pedal, pressing the car brake, etc.).
source link: https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/native-american-history-changing-narrative/
A compelling question Fusco and Peña’s performance-as-research project asks:
How does the Civilized/Savage binary continue to shape the contemporary Western imagination?
1.) WRITE a 350-400 word reflection, addressing the following questions (doesn’t have to be in any specific order).
PROMPT: How does the performance Couple in the Cage perform the two intertwined master narratives of Manifest Destiny/American Progress and Discovery of the New World?
a.) Explain how the CAGE functions as an embodied and rehearsed system of representation. How does the CAGE represent and play on the primary binary power relation of Civilized/Savage? Give a few examples of specific evidence (restored behaviors or gestures, use of language, props, costumes, set design, etc.) that Fusco and Peña intentionally choose to stage through performance that play into the binary.
c.) How does the CAGE continue to show up in our current social-political landscape of the United States? Give specific examples of the CAGE in contemporary U.S. society–which specific groups within society are impacted? what counter-narratives are available to social groups who experience oppression?
d.) In your opinion, what is the efficacy of “Couple in the Cage”? What does the performance do in the world? Does the performance create change? Why or why not?
You should cite the readings and draw on your responses from assignments (3a) and (3b) of this module.
Give specific and detailed EVIDENCE from the Couple in the Cage performance to clarify your ideas and points!
City of Inmates Kelly Lytle Hernández
Published by The University of North Carolina Press
Hernández, Kelly Lytle. City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771–1965.
The University of North Carolina Press, 2017. Project MUSE.muse.jhu.edu/book/51211. https://muse.jhu.edu/.
For additional information about this book
Access provided at 4 Oct 2019 22:33 GMT from University of Washington @ Seattle
Introduction Conquest and Incarceration
M ass incarceration is mass elimination. That is the punch line of this book. I had trouble arriving at such an unsettling idea, but the collection of two centuries of evidence documenting the long rise of incarceration in Los Angeles left me no other
interpretation. Incarceration operates as a means of purging, removing, caging, containing, erasing, disappearing, and eliminating targeted popu- lations from land, life, and society in the United States.
Why Los Angeles? Los Angeles is a hub of incarceration, imprisoning more people than any other city in the United States, which incarcerates more people than any other nation on earth.1 Each night, nearly 17,000 men, women, and youth are locked somewhere in Los Angeles County ’s $1 billion system of jails, detention centers, and one penal farm.2 There are also eighty- eight other municipal jails, more than twenty juvenile de- tention halls and camps, and two federal facilities sited within the county.3 And just over the mountains lining the northeastern edge of Los Angeles County, Geo Group, a private prison company, operates a large immigrant detention center that contracts with the federal government to hold the spillover of deportees from the city.4 Therefore, in both size and scope, the project of human caging in Los Angeles is massive. Some say no city in the world incarcerates more people than Los Angeles.5 If so, Los Ange- les, the City of Angels, is, in fact, the City of Inmates, the carceral capital of the world.
By explaining when, why, and how Los Angeles became the City of In- mates, this book digs up the roots of the nation’s carceral core. It is a story that has never been told before.
When I first began to research the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles, I quickly learned that L. A.’s penal habits took root much earlier than what scholars generally define as “ The Age of Mass Incarceration.” 6 Mass incar- ceration is a relatively recent development, with sparks and triggers par- ticular to the late twentieth and early twenty- first centuries. Federal, state, and local authorities steadily expanded the nation’s imprisoning capacity to crush the political insurgencies of the 1960s as well as warehouse, disci-
I n t r o d u c t I o n2
pline, and contain the massive land and labor dislocations wrought by globalization during the 1970s.7 Then, in the early 1980s, the national rate of incarceration skyrocketed when President Ronald Reagan declared the “ War on Drugs,” triggering millions of arrests on both drug and violence charges. Police forces across the country also adopted the “Broken Win- dows” theory of policing, arresting millions upon millions on public order charges. By the end of the decade, the rate of incarceration in the United States topped historically uncharted levels. Never before had the United States caged such a large—or dark—percentage of its human population.8 Blacks and Native peoples, after all, share the highest rates of incarcera- tion in the United States.9 They also share the highest rates of killings by police officers.10 And Latinos, namely Mexicans and Central Americans, fill the nation’s immigrant detention centers, which began to expand dur- ing the 1990s as new investments in U.S. immigration control and border enforcement funded millions of deportations.11 By 2010, the United States operated the largest immigrant detention system on earth.12 And, in re- cent years, U.S. Attorneys have aggressively prosecuted noncitizens for un- lawful entry, sending thousands upon thousands of immigrants to federal prison every year.13 With Mexicans and Central Americans comprising nearly 97 percent of all deportees and 92 percent of all immigrants im- prisoned for unlawful reentry, U.S. immigration control is the most highly racialized police and penal system in the United States today.14
But incarceration—and the patterns it harbors—boomed in Los Ange- les far earlier than any of this. In fact, Los Angeles had become the car- ceral capital of the United States as early as the 1950s.15 Earlier still, the rate of incarceration during the 1930s in Los Angeles was no different than it is today.16 By 1910, Los Angeles already operated one of the largest jail systems in the country.17 And as far back as the 1850s the small town’s county jail was incessantly overcrowded. In other words, something with a very deep reach stirred the penal brew in Los Angeles. I did not know what it was, and the extant historiography of incarceration in the United States, which largely focuses on the particularities of race and labor in the U.S. South and the urban North, did not and could not answer all the questions I had about how a town in the U.S. West grew into the nation’s, if not the world’s, leading site of human caging.18 Race and labor were certainly key, but what about other central themes in the history of the U.S. West? What about indigeneity? What about immigration? What about borders? And borderlands? Full of these questions and many more, I headed to the ar- chives to figure out the L. A. story.
I quickly discovered that an archival void blankets much of the history
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of imprisonment in Los Angeles. Sometime after Edward Escobar con- ducted research for his influential study, Race, Police, and the Making of a Political Identity: Mexican Americans and the Los Angeles Police Depart ment, 1900–1945, the Los Angeles Police Department (l a P d ) as well as the L. A. City Archives destroyed all but four boxes of the l a P d ’s historical rec ords.19 Similarly, the Los Angeles Sheriff ’s Department (l a s d ) either does not have or will not share its records. The California Public Rec ords Act exempts the state’s police forces from archiving most of the rec ords they create. Therefore, the core institutional rec ords related to the history of filling and managing the jails of Los Angeles are unavailable for public inquiry. But I was confident that the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles could not be so easily erased.
Incarceration is a social institution.20 As the sociologist David Garland explains, the politics and processes of criminalization, arrest, detention, and punishment are fiercely entangled within “diverse currents of political and cultural life.” 21 The idea of putting people in cages and the practices used to hold them there stretch beyond steel bars and stone walls. There- fore, I knew that the evidence of L. A.’s carceral past had to be deposited far and wide. To find it, I would just have to look further, search wider, and dig deeper. So that is what I did.
For seven years, I pored over the city ’s newspapers, noting any mention of jails. I scoured the personal papers of local elites, authorities, and activ- ists, copying down any reference to incarceration. Similarly, I combed the records of local institutions and organizations, such as public health agen- cies, labor unions, the city council, unemployment bureaus, and political groups. I hung out in the basement of the Los Angeles County Court- house, calling up cases from the past. The clerks would only give me three files at a time. It took awhile. When several of my archival finds pointed beyond the city, I followed them, too, reviewing a map once hidden in a Spanish colonial vault, scanning slave censuses written on South Caro – lina plantations, and even decrypting coded letters mailed to Mexico City.
It was a grueling archival slog, but the chase was rewarding. Despite the destruction of public records, the making of the largest
jail system in the United States left 200 years of evidence scattered across the city, the nation, and the world. Those who hoped to leverage human caging in Los Angeles to resolve social tensions and reach political ob – jectives both deep within and far beyond the city wrote decrees, passed laws, published articles, and signed contracts, leaving behind reams of archived rec ords. In general, they tended to be people with enough sub – stantive political and cultural power to orchestrate who gets criminalized
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and incarcerated, and who does not. Among them were colonists, citizens, landowners, and even foreign presidents.
But many people fought the rise of incarceration in Los Angeles. They were an eclectic bunch, including the incarcerated as well as journalists, musicians, migrants, mothers, and many others. They, too, left records. In fact, rebels and their many struggles with incarceration clog the historical record. The words and deeds of dissidents constitute what I call a “rebel archive” that evaded l a P d and l a s d destruction. Comprised mostly of broken locks, secret codes, handbills, scribbled manifestos, and songs, the rebel archive found refuge in far- flung boxes and obscure remnants. But it also thrives in plain sight. The rebels’ words thundered in the halls of the U.S. Congress, their resistance forced the U.S. Supreme Court to issue emergency rulings, and their rebellions broke across bars and borders, changing the world in which we live. And in the summer of 1965, an up – rising against the violence of human caging in the city exploded, burning the carceral core of Los Angeles to the ground but leaving an archive of ashes and embers behind. I collected every scribble, song, and ember I could find.
In the end, the rebel archive held more than enough evidence for me to write six stories spanning two centuries. The first story begins many mil- lennia ago when the region now called the Los Angeles Basin was solely occupied by the Indigenous communities today collectively known as the Tongva- Gabrielino Tribe. This story is vital because there is no evidence that Tongva- Gabrielino communities ever tried or experienced human caging until the Spanish Crown dispatched a small group of colonists to establish El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Angeles del Río Porciúncula, the City of Angels, in 1781.22 One of the first structures these colonists built was a jail.23 In time, the colonists and their descendants filled the jail with indios. Throughout the next century of colonial occu- pation in the Tongva Basin—spanning the Spanish colonial period (1781– 1821), the Mexican era (1821–48), and the early years of U.S. rule (1848– 70s)—Indigenous peoples consistently comprised a substantive, if not majority, portion of the incarcerated population in Los Angeles. Chapter 1, therefore, firmly grounds the origins of incarceration in Los Angeles with the dynamics of conquest and colonialism in the Tongva Basin.
Chapter 2 moves deeper into the U.S. era, chronicling how, between the 1880s and 1910s, authorities in Los Angeles redirected and expanded the city ’s carceral capacity. They did so while targeting a particular popu- lation: poor white men, namely those popularly disparaged as “tramps” and “ hobos” for migrating constantly, working little, and living and loving
I n t r o d u c t I o n 5
beyond the bounds of the nuclear family ideal. By 1910, when white men comprised nearly 100 percent of the local jail population, Los Angeles operated one of the largest jail systems in the country. And, as the city rapidly grew during these years, Los Angeles authorities operated a large convict labor program. In turn, white men sentenced to the chain gang cut roads, beautified parks, built schools, and so on. Chapter 2 details the rise of white male incarceration at the turn of the twentieth century and unveils the little- known history of how incarcerated white men built the infrastructure of the growing city. From Sunset Boulevard to the paths winding around Dodger Stadium, city residents still walk, ride, and run on the imprint of their labors.
The third chapter is a western tale of national and global import. That tale, which sutures the split between the history of incarceration within the United States and the history of deportation from the United States, swirls around the passage of the 1892 Geary Act, a federal law that re – quired all Chinese laborers in the United States to prove their legal resi- dence and register with the federal government or be subject to up to one year of imprisonment at hard labor and, then, deportation. Chinese immi- grants rebelled against the new law, refusing to be locked out, kicked out, or singled out for imprisonment. Launching the first mass civil disobedi- ence campaign for immigrant rights in the history of the United States, Chinese immigrants forced the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a set of sweep- ing and enduring decisions regarding the future of U.S. immigration con- trol. Buried in those decisions, which cut through Los Angeles during the summer of 1893, lay the invention of immigrant detention as a nonpuni- tive form of caging noncitizens within the United States. It was then an obscure and contested practice of indisputably racist origins. It is now one of the most dynamic sectors of the U.S. carceral landscape.
The fourth chapter sheds new historical insight on a key but little- studied demographic of incarceration in the United States: Mexicanos, including immigrants from Mexico and U.S.- born persons of Mexican descent. It is a story that unfolded across the U.S.- Mexico borderlands but peaked in Los Angeles when, in the summer of 1907, two l a P d offi- cers kicked in the door of a shanty on the outskirts of town and arrested three leaders of a rebel movement to oust Mexico’s president, Porfirio Díaz. These men, Ricardo Flores Magón, Librado Rivera, and Antonio Villarreal, were political exiles living in hiding in the United States. Their arrests, as with the arrests of thousands of their supporters across the borderlands, were part of President Díaz’s counterinsurgency campaign to cage (if not kill) Magón and crush his rebel movement, which demanded
I n t r o d u c t I o n6
massive political reform and land redistribution in Mexico. Yet, while in- carcerated in Los Angeles, Magón, Villarreal, and Rivera cultivated new ways to stoke rebellion in Mexico. Their ongoing assault on the Díaz regime pushed Mexico toward the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution (1910–17). Therefore, Chapter 4 unearths how the incarceration of Mexi- canos in the United States surged during the age of revolution in Mexico. It is an epic tale.
The fifth chapter continues to chart the rise of Mexican and Mexican American incarceration in the United States. Like Magón’s rebellion, it is a tale that unfolded in Los Angeles and across the U.S.- Mexico borderlands. Like the history of immigrant detention, it is a story about the collision of deportation and incarceration. But in particular, Chapter 5 examines how, during the 1920s and 1930s, the politics of controlling Mexican immigra- tion to the United States directly prompted the criminalization of unau- thorized border crossings and, in turn, triggered a steady rise in the num- ber of Mexicans imprisoned within the United States. Home to the largest Mexican community within the United States, Los Angeles was ground zero for the politics and practices of Mexican incarceration in these years.
The sixth and final story spans the decades between the 1920s and the 1960s. In these years, as Los Angeles took center stage in the nation’s land- scape of jails and prisons, the population of African Americans incarcer- ated in Los Angeles shot from politically irrelevant and slightly dispro – portionate to politically dominant and stunningly disproportionate. It has remained so ever since. Chapter 6 tracks the origins of the incarceration of blacks in Los Angeles. In particular, it details why and how black in- carceration so disproportionately followed the expansion of L. A.’s African American community. Moreover, by exhuming the first recorded killing of a young black male by the l a P d, which occurred in South Central Los Angeles on the evening of April 24, 1927, this chapter details why and how police brutality so closely accompanied black incarceration in the city. It is a brutal history attended by persistent—and, in time, explosive—black protest, tracking how community members fought police brutality be – tween 1927 and the outbreak of the Watts Rebellion in 1965. Indeed, race, policing, and protest became inextricable as Los Angeles advanced toward becoming the carceral capital of the United States.
Once pricked, each of these stories tumbled out of the rebel archive, and each revealed a key chapter from L. A.’s carceral past with echoes in the nation’s carceral present. Today, Indigenous peoples are one of the most disproportionately imprisoned populations in the United States.24 Houseless and racialized queer communities also experience high levels
I n t r o d u c t I o n 7
of policing.25 Immigration control remains a racialized enterprise, caging and removing hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Mexicans, from the United States every year.26 And a stunning lethality remains bound to the caging of Black America.27 But all is not dire. Much like the mago – nistas, incarcerated men, women, and youth and their allies continue to stoke transformative social movements.28 Therefore, each of the stories stands on its own as a distinct and urgent history of the present. And each story could be expanded into a book of its own. Together the stories reveal something more.
A hardy cord connects the chapters in this book. I did not see it at first, but after I pulled one story and then another and then another from the rebel archive, I wrestled with how such diverse stories might fit together. The stories range from the Spanish colonial era to the outbreak of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, address issues from vagrancy laws to immigration con- trol to police brutality, and twist and turn through a variety of communi- ties at particular moments in time. Frankly, I was stunned by all that the rebel archive forced me to consider, and there was only one thing I knew for sure: these six stories were forcing me to think more historically, criti- cally, and expansively than I ever imagined I would about the making and meaning of incarceration in Los Angeles. But, in time, I began to see how each story aligned on the arc of conquest and, more specifically, settler colonialism in the city.
The United States is a settler society. As such, its cultures and institu- tions are rooted in a particular form of conquest and colonization called settler colonialism.29 Settler colonialism differs from other, more familiar systems of colonialism because it is not organized around resource extrac- tion or labor exploitation. Resource extraction (such as mining) and labor exploitation (such as chattel slavery) can and certainly do occur in settler societies, but neither extraction nor exploitation is the principal objec – tive of settler colonial projects. Rather, settler colonial projects seek land. On that land, colonists envision building a new, permanent, reproductive, and racially exclusive society. To be clear, settlers harbor no intentions of merging with, submitting to, or even permanently lording over the Indige- nous societies already established within the targeted land base. Nor do settlers plan to leave or to return home someday. Rather, settlers invade in order to stay and reproduce while working in order to remove, domi- nate, and, ultimately, replace the Indigenous populations.30 In the words of historian Patrick Wolfe, settler societies are premised on the “elimina- tion of the native.” 31
In addition to native elimination, settler societies strive to block, erase,
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or remove racialized outsiders from their claimed territory. Even as many settler societies depend on racialized workforces, settler cultures, insti- tutions, and politics simultaneously trend toward excluding racialized workers from full inclusion in the body politic, corralling their partici- pation in community life, and, largely shaped by rising and falling labor demands, deporting, hiding, or criminalizing them or otherwise revoking the right of racialized outsiders to be within the invaded territory.
Settlers rarely agree on how to accomplish any of this. For example, some settlers import, recruit, or otherwise cultivate structurally margin- alized and racialized workforces—such as enslaved Africans in southern cotton fields, contracted Chinese laborers on western railroads, and un- authorized Mexican border crossers on southwestern farms. Their objec- tive is to fuel the expansion of settler- dominated industries with cheap, subjugated, and when possible, disposable labor. Settler factions seeking total racial purity within the settler- claimed territory fiercely contest their actions. So settlers furiously debate one another over how to best promote their interests and dominance over land and life in the invaded territory. And targeted communities always fight back, finding many ways to elude elimination and undermine disappearance. Therefore, what matters in the analysis of settler societies is not so much whether processes of na- tive elimination and racial disappearance are consistent or ever achieved but, rather, how settler fantasies perpetually trend settler societies toward these ends. As Lorenzo Veracini puts it, “ The settler colonial situation is generally understood as an inherently dynamic circumstance where [ both] indigenous and exogenous Others progressively disappear in a variety of ways.” 32
Throughout this book, I use a variety of terms to describe what Veracini calls projects of “disappear[ing ]” Indigenous peoples and racial outsiders. I use “purge,” “erase,” and “ banish,” to name a few. But I most commonly use “elimination.” This does not mean that the processes of disappearing Indigenous peoples and racial outsiders are indistinct or interchangeable. For Indigenous peoples and societies, disappearing is a matter of land and sovereignty. Settlers want their land. To take their land, settlers must extinguish Native peoples as sovereign communities. For racialized out- siders, disappearing is a matter of labor and social order. While hoping to construct, reproduce, and preserve an idealized settler community on Native land, settlers often use various forms of coerced, unfree, and racial- ized labor to build and sustain that community. On the ground, of course, no hard line separates histories of Native lands and racialized labor in settler societies. Indigenous peoples, for example, have been subject to
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enslavement and forced labor in the United States. In fact, scholars are increasingly uncovering how the brutal conditions of forced labor played a pivotal role in breaching Native sovereignty and survival and, in turn, facilitating settler access to Native lands.33 And for most peoples of Afri- can descent in the United States, our arrival on slave ships entailed being stripped of land, kin, and indigeneity.34 But the messiness of historical ex- perience is not why I use a variety of terms in this book or why I rely most heavily on just one: “elimination.” I do so because, as Audra Simpson and Andrea Smith have put it, “a logic of settler colonialism [i.e., elimination] structures the world for everyone, not just for native peoples.” 35 To reflect the timbre of settler colonialism and its foundational eliminatory logic for everyone in a settler society, but especially Indigenous and racialized communities, I name incarceration “elimination.” It has been deployed in different ways in different times against different Indigenous and racially disparaged communities, but the punch line has been the same: elimina- tion in the service of establishing, defending, and reproducing a settler society.
Incarceration has been just one of many “eliminatory options” deployed in settler societies.36 Some options are particularly brutal and, thereby, plainly recognizable. In the nineteenth- century United States, for ex- ample, Anglo – American settlers pushing their settlements west toward the Pacific Ocean used wars, raids, and even genocidal tactics to clear the landscape of Native peoples and societies.37 They also massacred Chinese immigrants.38 But Anglo – American settlers also levied more subtle meth- ods, such as child adoptions, land laws, education projects, immigration restrictions, racial segregation, and religious conversion.39 “Settler colo – nialism is inherently eliminatory but not invariably genocidal,” writes Wolfe.40 However, the variability of elimination does not reflect an ounce of inconstancy. “Invasion is a structure, not an event,” in the words of Wolfe.41 It is constant. It is dynamic. It is ongoing. It is ubiquitous. Simply put, in a settler society such as the United States, the days of conquest are not over, and this holds meaning for all of us.
When I began researching the history of incarceration in Los Angeles, I did not anticipate confronting matters of conquest or systems of elimi- nation. The history of incarceration in the United States is a field of study largely dominated by analyses of labor control and racial subjugation. In turn, settler colonialism, a method of inquiry most powerfully developed in the field of Indigenous studies, and what it means for all of us, was not on my radar. But the rebel archive demanded that I expand my interpre- tive horizons to make sense of the stories I found. The stories certainly re-
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vealed carceral histories of labor control and white supremacy, but there was always something more lingering within and between the chapters. An outpouring of extraordinary scholarship on settler colonialism helped me to grapple with it. I also considered the extraordinary work of Angela Davis, one of the world’s leading scholars of carcerality, who urges re – searchers to analyze state violence in the United States, namely policing and incarceration, in ways that “acknowledge that we all live on colonized land.” 42 So I listened to the rebels, worked their archive, and read up on the history of the United States as a settler society. The more I listened, worked, and read, the more clear it became that incarceration is a pillar in the structure of invasion and settler colonialism in the Tongva Basin. The dynamics of elimination thread through the chapters and bind them together over time.
Los Angeles is a city of conquest. Established when eleven Spanish families invaded the Tongva Basin in 1781, it began as a small outpost on the edge of Spain’s crumbling empire in the Americas. Scholars debate whether Spanish conquest took a settler colonial form in the Americas. Some say yes, pointing to evidence of Native elimination campaigns in Argentina and elsewhere.43 Others say no, arguing that a culture of hy- bridity guided practices of colonial dominance in the Spanish Americas.44 In Los Angeles, the story was mixed. Spanish colonists arrived in the basin in search of land. On that land, they intended to permanently remain, building a new and better world for themselves, their children, their chil- dren’s children, and so on. But the colonists did not imagine a commu- nity without Natives. Rather, the colonists’ identities, families, and econo – mies depended on Native laborers. Therefore, between the founding of the city during the Spanish colonial era and through the Mexican period, the evolving caste of colonists and their descendants in Los Angeles nego- tiated, battled, struggled, and maneuvered to establish dominance over land, life, and labor in Tongva territory. Among their many strategies of conquest, the colonists used violence, expulsion, spiritual conversion, and famine. They also criminalized Native autonomy and used imprisonment to transform Natives into unfree workers, forcing themselves, as colonists, to the top of a new social order in Tongva territory. Total Native elimina- tion, however, was not their endgame. Subjugation was. That changed in 1848.
The U.S.- Mexico War (1846–48) opened a new age of colonization in the Tongva Basin. The war was an apex moment in the making of the United States as a settler society, namely, a white settler society, premised on the elimination of Native peoples as sovereign communities.45 Four
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decades prior, President Thomas Jefferson (1801–9) began the sweeping postindependence Anglo – American push across the continent by conduct- ing secret negotiations with Napoleon Bonaparte to purchase the Louisi- ana territory from France.46 Completed in 1803, the Louisiana Purchase added 800,000 square miles to the national territory, extending the west- ern boundary of the United States to the Rocky Mountains, 2,000 miles beyond the original thirteen colonies. Anglo – American settlers rushed in, warring with, kidnapping, killing, converting, and, finally, expelling In- digenous peoples and, in many cases, importing enslaved Africans to work the land.47 Native elimination, labor subjugation, and white supremacy were intimately intertwined as the United States expanded west as a white settler society. By 1819, Spain and Great Britain had ceded Florida and several other tracts to the United States. In 1845, the Republic of Texas
John Gast’s iconic painting American Progress (1872) powerfully visualized nineteenth- century notions of Manifest Destiny and Anglo- American conquest in the post- 1848 western United States. In 1992, Autry Museum of the American West, located in Los Angeles, purchased the original painting, making American Progress a centerpiece of its permanent collection. (PGA—George A. Crofutt—American Progress, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC- DIG- ppmsca- 09855)
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joined the union. In 1846, the United States and Great Britain ended years of bitter dispute over a western quadrant of North America, agreeing to split the Oregon Territory. With the southern portion of the Oregon Ter- ritory in hand, the United States claimed a sliver of land stretching be – tween the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, encouraging President James K . Polk and many Anglo – Americans to believe that they were on the brink of fulfilling what many believed was their “Manifest Destiny ” to permanently claim, occupy, and control a massive territory on the North American con- tinent.48 All that stood between them and their full- bellied providence was the acquisition of Mexico’s northern hinterlands. So in the spring of 1846, President Polk ordered the U.S. military to invade Mexico, provoking the outbreak of the U.S.- Mexico War. The United States won the war.
As the victor in a war of conquest, the United States forced Mexico to cede all territories it claimed lying north of the Rio Grande River and west to the Pacific Ocean. On that land, Polk and many others imagined Anglo – American men leading nuclear families in an unending enterprise of set- tling, procreating, and dominating life and society. This was the vision of white supremacy girded by patriarchy that guided U.S. land claims in the region. But it would take more than war with Mexico to make any such fantasy a reality.
Across the new U.S. West, Indigenous peoples, Spanish colonists, Mexi- can citizens, and global migrants had long lived and passed beyond the reach of colonial dictates and state authorities. The Mexican state, pre – ceded by the Spanish Crown, had laid a tentative claim to the region, but papers stamped in faraway places never translated into clear social and political dominion. The new U.S. West was, in fact, a contested land. Many of the Indigenous peoples who had long lived upon the land never con- ceded to Spanish or Mexican authority.49 Neither they nor many of the arrivants to come—such as Chinese immigrants, Mexican migrants, and, in time, African American citizens—would concede to the imagined des- tiny of Anglo – American conquest in the region.50
Facing constant and enormous resistance, Anglo – American settlers pushed into the contested territories of the new U.S. West. Determined to build a homeland in a conquered land, they funded massive and di- verse programs of Native elimination, ranging from waging wars of re – moval to operating schools of cultural extinction. The goal was to replace Indigenous societies on the land. They also rapaciously consumed racial- ized labor while building structures of racial erasure, outlawing inter- racial marriages, adopting racially restrictive residency codes, and pass- ing new immigration laws.51 And they invested in imprisonment, spurring
Territorial Expansion of the United States, 1783–1848. (From USGS, The National Map, http://nationalmap.gov/small_scale/printable/territorialacquisition.html)
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a phenomenal carceral boom by broadly caging a diverse cast of Native landholders and racialized outsiders variously criminalized, policed, and caged as vagrants, drunks, hobos, rebels, illegal immigrants, and illegiti- mate residents trespassing in their white settler society. Indeed, as viewed from Los Angeles, incarceration began with Spanish invasion and ex- panded during the Mexican era but boomed after the U.S.- Mexico War, growing into a thick and pliant pillar in the structure of U.S. conquest. Anglo – American invaders first eviscerated Native land rights with sweep – ing acts of Indian criminalization and caging, and then, as Native elimi- nation continued by other means, the emerging Anglo – American settler elite nimbly shifted and reshifted the project of human caging to include a range of communities defined as outsiders and deviants in the new U.S. West. Beginning in the 1880s, the settlers disparaged, criminalized, and caged poor white itinerant men who, by migrating constantly, living in homosocial communities, and loving in homosexual ways, either could not or would not abide by Anglo – American settler norms such as heading nuclear families, acquiring Native land, and permanently settling down. The settler family, after all, was the building block of the new social order in the conquered territories.52 Then, with the passage of a series of car- cerally inflected immigration laws, Anglo – American settlers attempted to deny Chinese immigrants the right to enter the settler- claimed terri- tory while, later, allowing Mexican migrants to work in seasonal industries but not permanently settle north of the border. And when large numbers of African Americans defied the vision of Manifest Destiny by migrating west in the early twentieth century, the response was swift and punitive as settler communities created conditions for criminalizing, assaulting, and caging black citizens. By the 1950s, L. A. had the largest jail system in the United States, and blacks comprised an ever- increasing share of the city ’s incarcerated population. When black residents fought back, city elites dis- missed their protests until thousands upon thousands of black youth took to the streets and ignited the 1965 Watts Rebellion. Amid this history of elimination and incarceration tracking through the Tongva Basin, Ricardo Flores Magón and his band of political dissidents crossed the U.S.- Mexico border, threatening to oust Mexico’s president and restore both Native and communal landholdings. U.S. authorities responded, working across bor- ders to cage the insurgency and its radical notions of “Land and Liberty!” for the Indigenous and dispossessed, because if the rebels were to succeed, their uprising would not only upend U.S. capital investments in Mexico but, quite possibly, ripple north, wreaking havoc for white supremacy and the enduring colonial occupation of Indigenous lands across the North
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American continent. U.S. and Mexican officers found and caged the rebels in Los Angeles. But the rebels continued to fight, using their incarceration in the Los Angeles County Jail to spark new waves of revolution in the U.S.- Mexico borderlands.
When chronicled like this, through the lens of a settler colonial looking glass, the six stories held by the rebel archive offer more than scat- tered episodes from L. A.’s carceral past. They are two centuries of evidence documenting how the eliminatory trends of settler colonialism twisting through the Tongva Basin made Los Angeles, the City of Angels, into the City of Inmates, the carceral capital of the United States. Chapter 1 starts this story the only way such an epic tale of incarceration, elimination, and revolution, too, could begin: in the Tongva Basin long before the invaders arrived and, in time, built one of the largest systems of human caging that the world has ever known.