Bandits, Captives, Heroines, and Saints: Cultural Icons of Mexico’s Northwest Borderlands
by Robert McKee Irwin
University of Minnesota Press, 2007
Cloth: 978-0-8166-4856-6 | Paper: 978-0-8166-4857-3
Library of Congress Classification F1314.I79 2007
Dewey Decimal Classification 972.1


Bandits, Captives, Heroines, and Saints investigates cultural icons of the late nineteenth century from Mexico’s largely unstudied northwest borderlands, present-day Sonora, Baja California, and western Chihuahua. Robert McKee Irwin looks at popular figures such as Joaquín Murrieta, the gold rush social bandit; Lola Casanova, the anti-Malinche, whose marriage to a Seri Indian symbolized a forbidden form of mestizaje; and la Santa de Cabora, a young faith healer who inspired armed insurgencies and was exiled to Arizona.

Cultural icons such as Murrieta, Lola Casanova, and la Santa de Cabora are products of intercultural dialogue, Irwin reveals, and their characterizations are unstable. They remain relevant for generations because there is no consensus regarding their meanings, and they are weapons in struggles of representation in the borderlands. The figures studied here are especially malleable, he argues, because they are marginalized from the mainstream of historiography.

A timely analysis, Bandits, Captives, Heroines, and Saints challenges current paradigms of border studies and presents a rich understanding of the ways in which cultural icons influence people’s minds and lives.

Robert McKee Irwin is associate professor of Spanish at the University of California, Davis, and the author of Mexican Masculinities (Minnesota, 2003).

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