No country for old Mexicans

María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    This essay pairs documents dating from 1758 on the settlement of central Texas with the 2007 film No Country for Old Men to offer a comparative analysis of the competing racial geographies that emerged from Spanish and Anglo-American colonialism in the Southwest. These modes of European empire each produced distinctive racial geographies with lasting consequences for contemporary indigenous peoples. Settlers under the Spanish Crown represented the Texas territory as teeming with indigenous peoples, including the Apache and Comanche nations. Spanish coloniality, she suggests, was predicated upon indigenous presence. Without Indians, there could be no settlement. Meanwhile, Anglo-American colonization required not only the dispossession of indigenous peoples (and mestizo Mexicans) for the expansion of the US, but also the banishment of the figure of the Indian from the national imagination. Consequently, the Cohen brothers' film is able to represent the very same Texas territory as barren and completely devoid of any Native Americans 250 years after the Spanish settlers penned their documents. It is suggested that the displacement of the Indian from the American landscape comes at great psychic cost. Thus, even a seemingly anti-war and anti-imperialist film like No Country operates under the shadow of this US colonial violence, registering the trace of the Indian as terrorist. The essay offers a revision of postcolonial methodology, and particularly of subaltern studies, to allow for the analysis of the complex relationship evident in the Spanish colonial archive between white settler and indigenous populations. Rather than a perpetual antagonism, it finds an attenuated set of relations between Spanish settlers and indigenous inhabitants of Texas, offering a broader interpretative framework for indigenous agency.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)67-84
    Number of pages18
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Mar 2011


    • Apache
    • Comanche
    • Texas
    • archives
    • colonialism
    • film
    • terrorism

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • History
    • Anthropology


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