PJAS 12 Spring-14

Ewa Antoszek
The U.S.-Mexico Border as a Palimpsest in Ana Teresa Fernández’s Art
Polish Journal for American Studies, vol. 12 (Spring 2018) pp. 197-210


The question of land has always been crucial to Latinos/as living in the U.S., due to the series of historical events that resulted in “[t]erritorial dispossession and dislocation” (Pérez 147) that have particularly influenced this ethnic group and relegated them both literally and metaphorically towards the margin-the border. Consequently, the border has played a significant role in the Latinx discourse for a long time. The complexity of spatial-social relations increased with subsequent waves of immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American states. However, as Monika Kaup notes, being both “natives of the Southwest before the American conquest” and immigrants, Latinos/as in the U.S. constitute “a charter as well as an immigrant group” (Kaup 26). This double status of the group is reflected in Chicano/a literary and cultural productions through nation-based and immigrant paradigms (Kaup 26) that have been constructed in direct reference to the border, since “[b]eneath the surface of these models lie two different concepts of the border” (Kaup 10). Combined with the transformations in the discourse on space the concept of the border has undergone several re-definitions and the changing role of the border-from the demarcation line to more porous and permeable space has been reflected in numerous artistic productions by Latinx authors and artists. Those artistic productions illustrate the transformations of the space and address the aforementioned interplay between indigenous and immigrant paradigms often present in the discourse on the Mexican-American border. The purpose of this article is to analyze how the space of the border is (re-)visioned by Latina artist Ana Teresa Fernández, turning the border into a cultural palimpsest. It focuses mainly on Fernández’s Erasing the Border/Borrando La Frontera (2013), together with the community project of the same title, and selected paintings from her series Foreign Bodies (2013) and Pressing Matters (2013) in order to examine the aforementioned redefinitions of the border and its multiple roles. Fernández’s revisionist performances of the border both contribute to the ongoing debate on the still urgent and pressing problem of the U.S.-Mexico border and are also an apt reflection on the status quo of borders in general.

Keywords: Mexican-American border, La Frontera, borderlands, Ana Teresa Fernández, immigrant and indigenous paradigms, border crossings, Latinos/as, Burgin’s pre-texts, Mieke Bal

DOI: 10.7311/PJAS.12/1/2018.14

Full Article