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In this study of sex, gender, sexual violence, and power along the border, Bernadine Marie Hernandez brings to light under-heard stories of women who lived in a critical era of American history. Elaborating on the concept of sexual capital, she uses little-known newspapers and periodicals, letters, testimonios, court cases, short stories, and photographs to reveal how sex, violence, and capital conspired to govern not only women's bodies but their role in the changing American Southwest. Hernandez focuses on a time when the borderlands saw a rapid influx of white settlers who encountered elite landholding Californios, Hispanos, and Tejanos. Sex was inseparable from power in the borderlands, and women were integral to the stabilization of that power.
In drawing these stories from the archive, Hernandez illuminates contemporary ideas of sexuality through the lens of the borderland's history of expansionist, violent, and gendered conquest. By extension, Hernandez argues that Mexicana, Nuevomexicana, Californiana, and Tejana women were key actors in the formation of the western United States, even as they are too often erased from the region's story.