- November 23, 2021
- 16:15 - 17:30
‘¡Viva George! Ritual, Infrastructure, and Festive Crisis Resolution at the U.S.-Mexico Border’ presented by Dr. Elaine A. Peña (George Washington University)
This presentation draws attention to the tradition of commemorating George Washington’s Birthday at the Port-of-Laredo (Laredo, Texas, USA and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico) every February since 1898. Dually focused on border infrastructure and cross-border ritual, it reveals the historical, cultural, and economic dynamics that animate one of the celebration’s most iconic “border enactments”—an International Bridge Ceremony in which representatives from both countries, including pairs of children dressed in national costumes, walk toward each other to share an embrace. Drawing on ten years of cross-border ethnographic and archival research, it shows how festival coordinators have used the “expectation of ritual,” among other things, to circumvent federal immigration restrictions and to sustain cross-border communication while coping with the unsettling proximity of drug-cartel violence. It argues that the International Bridge Ceremony is more than a goodwill gesture or an exercise in identity-consolidation; it is a repository of cross-border memory, a negotiation platform, a reconciliatory course of action, and a mode of border security. Careful consideration of the (unexpected) efficaciousness of “border enactments” helps recalibrate academic and popular analyses that disproportionately emphasize pathos and illegality at the U.S.-Mexico border and among Latin communities in particular.
Elaine A. Peña is an Associate Professor of American Studies at the George Washington University. Peña is the author of Performing Piety: Making Space Sacred with the Virgin of Guadalupe (University of California Press, 2011) and ¡Viva George! Celebrating Washington’s Birthday at the U.S.-Mexico Border (University of Texas Press, 2020). Her work has appeared in e-misférica, American Quarterly, American Literary History, Material Religion, and The Drama Review. She is also the editor of Ethno-Techno (Routledge, 2005) and co-editor of Gómez-Peña Unplugged (Routledge, 2020).
Registration Link: https://forms.office.com/r/qvG9v3rhQN
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics
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