Primary Sources on Mexico-U.S. Relations

The semester-long project for this class asks students to work with primary sources to explore an aspect of the Mexico-U.S. relationship, relating this material to secondary literature we read and discuss in the seminar.

The project can take many formats, from a traditional research paper to a documentary, biography, historical short story, or photo essay, to name just some possibilities.

The following is a list of some sources students can consult. We’ll look at some of these in our class.

This list is under construction and new sources are added periodically, so check back!

Plutarco Chavez-Ruiz, “Bracero in Field,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #3019, (accessed April 26, 2017).

Collected Primary Sources in Print

  • Gamio, Manuel. The Life Story of the Mexican Immigrant: Autobiographic Documents. New York: Dover Publications, 1972.
    • These are edited versions of interviews that Gamio and his assistants conducted with Mexicans in the United States in the 1920s. There is a Spanish-language version of this as well.
  • Johnson, John J. Latin America in Caricature. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1980.
    • This book is a collection of U.S. political cartoons about Latin America, including many depicting Mexico and Mexican topics.
  • Durand, Jorge, Sebastian Pérez García, and Martha Aguilar Orozco, eds. Rostros y rastros: Entrevistas a trabajadores migrantes en Estados Unidos. San Luis Potosí, Mexico: Colegio de San Luis, 2002.
    • This Spanish-language book includes transcripts of interviews conducted with Mexican migrants in the United States by a Mexican research team in the late 20th century.

Online Newspaper Collections

  • The Readex database America’s Historical Newspapers includes the collection Hispanic American Newspapers, 1808-1980.* Many of these are Spanish-language papers. The collection can be searched in a number of ways (location, newspaper title, date, key word) to locate relevant articles and advertisements.
  • The Portal to Texas History has many local Texan papers fully digitized and searchable.

Online Oral History Collections

  • East of East: Mapping Community Narratives has oral histories with residents of El Monte, California, including some narrators of Mexican descent, available as part of a collective public history project.
  • The Bracero History Archive includes oral histories, documents, and images from participants and family members of the Bracero program (1942-1964). You can search the archive for key words. Many of the interviews are in Spanish, but there is some material is in English.
  • The University of Texas-El Paso’s Institute of Oral History has an enormous collection of interviews conducted over several decades with long-time residents of the border region. Try searching the database for key words. Note: there is some overlap in material with the Bracero History Archive.
  • The website Minnesota’s Immigrants, created by the University of Minnesota, has a collection of interviews with Mexican immigrants.

Other Collections Online

  • The Mexican-U.S. culture magazine Mexican Folkways is available online, though not for its entire run.*
  • On the companion website to Corazón de Dixie: Mexicanos in the U.S. South since 1910, historian Julie Weise has made English- and Spanish-language primary sources available from her research, ranging from film clips to census pages.
  • Southern Methodist University has a digitized collection of photographs and other artifacts in the Powell Collection on Mexico and the Mexican Revolution.
  • The genealogy database Ancestry can be searched for individual names, yielding results as varied as census schedules, naturalization applications, border crossing cards, and yearbook portraits. Through Clio, you can access the library version of Ancestry (with all the functionality you need to do research).*
  • The massive repository Internet Archive includes many complete digitized books in the public domain. For a 19th- and early 20th-century look at how people in the United States wrote about Mexico, try searching “Mexico” for a particular date range. Check results for the topic “Mexico–Description and travel.”

Published and Archival Resources at Columbia University

  • Our Rare Book and Manuscript Library can be searched for the keywords “Mexico” or “Mexican” to find relevant collections, and then you can visit the RBML in person to consult sources. I especially recommend the Frank Tannenbaum papers. Tannenbaum was a historian of Mexico and Latin American who taught at Columbia for decades. He spent a great deal of time in Mexico.
  • The Gottesman Library at Teachers College (just across 120th St. from the CU campus) has great collections of children’s books and educational materials. As usual, search “Mexico” and see what you find. You can check the books out and review them at home.
  • In the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, the Missionary Research Library Archives include some documents produced by U.S. Christian missionaries on their work in Mexico. Look for relevant files in Series 9, Latin America.
  • Many U.S. soldiers who fought in the Mexican-American war published diaries or letters written during their time south of the border. Some are available in their entirety online. Search the library catalog for the subject heading “Mexican War, 1846-1840 — Personal narratives.” For results from Clio, click here.*
  • Sierra, Justo. … En tierra yankee (Notas a todo vapor), 1895. Mexico City: Tip. de la Oficina impresora del timbre, 1898.