Aztlán and Arcadia

Religion, Ethnicity, and the Creation of Place

232 pages

5 halftones

August, 2014

ISBN: 9781479850648



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Roberto Ramón Lint Sagarena is Associate Professor of American Studies and Director of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Middlebury College. 

All books by Roberto Ramón Lint Sagarena

In the wake of the Mexican-American War, competing narratives of religious conquest and re-conquest were employed by Anglo American and ethnic Mexican Californians to make sense of their place in North America. These “invented traditions” had a profound impact on North American religious and ethnic relations, serving to bring elements of Catholic history within the Protestant fold of the United States’ national history as well as playing an integral role in the emergence of the early Chicano/a movement.
Many Protestant Anglo Americans understood their settlement in the far Southwest as following in the footsteps of the colonial project begun by Catholic Spanish missionaries. In contrast, Californios—Mexican-Americans and Chicana/os—stressed deep connections to a pre-Columbian past over to their own Spanish heritage. Thus, as Anglo Americans fashioned themselves as the spiritual heirs to the Spanish frontier, many ethnic Mexicans came to see themselves as the spiritual heirs to a southwestern Aztec homeland.


  • “In clear prose and supported by abundant evidence, it interrogates one of the most important concepts in Chicana/o history—Aztlán—from a fresh perspective.  The book will be welcomed by anyone interested in southern California, its history, and its relationship to Aztlán.” 

    The Journal of American History

  • “This book is U.S.-Mexico borderland scholarship at its best. […] While written for an academic audience, Lint Sagarena writes with poetic elegance that could dance with even the most casual reader.  This book is a must-read for any regional studies on Southern California.” 

    Review of Religious Research

  • "Lint Sagarena offers a multifaceted study of historical memory in California that examines how Euro-Americans and Chicanos created distinct and conflicting interpretations of the state's Spanish and Mexican heritage."


  • "A brilliant study. Read about how 'American hispanophilia' was imprinted in buildings even as hatred for Mexicans reigned in the streets. Discover how Protestant fantasies about Spanish culture helped Americanize Catholicism and make Mexico seem more foreign. Learn how Mexicans projected their own fantasies of an idealized indigenous past onto their northern territories. See how the mythical homeland of the Aztecs became the political hope of Chicanos, who helped make California the site of new portrayals of the Mexican Virgen de Guadalupe. . . . A timely book for our national discourse about Mexico, immigration, and future cultural identities in the U.S."

    —David Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, Harvard Divinity School

  • "A compelling study of an important and disturbing history with significant contemporary implications. Lint Sagarena demonstrates how various political, cultural, and commercial interests reimagined California's Spanish religious past in order to diminish its Mexican and indigenous present. Mining mission revival architecture, the mural movement, popular literatures, public festivals, and international expositions, this illuminating volume charts the invention, and reinvention, of an 'American' California."

    —Sally M. Promey, Yale University

  • "This book is for anyone who is fascinated by the layering of time, by the structuring of place, memory, and peoples in landscapes that are half fantasy in the storied terrain of Southern California. Lint Sagarena gives us a subtle investigation of how ethnicity and nationalism rely on material forms anchored in style and imagination. He shows how history is a tale of loss and imagined reconstitution. Myths are special kinds of stories, told and performed in ways that make their credibility visceral. Aztlán is one of these, a beguiling, wonderful, fantastic notion imbued in the architecture of homes and malls. This is a tale well told and a book that fills an enormous gap in the literature of religious life and imagination in America."

    —David Morgan, Duke University