¡A mi no me manda nadie! : Individualism and identity in Mexican ranchero speech

Marcia Farr

Abstract

Rancheros are presented as a distinct subgroup of Mexican campesinos ‘peasants’ who enact a liberal individualist ideology that centrally values private property, especially land, and hard work as the legitimate route to el progreso ‘progress’. Both male and female rancheros are tough and independent “ranch” people who construct their identities in contrast to indigenas ‘Indians’ on the one hand (whom rancheros view as communally-oriented), and catrines ‘city people’ (whom rancheros see as fancily-dressed, and acting, “dandies”) on the other. A history of frontier isolation and mobility in la sociedad ranchera ‘ranchero society’ facilitated the development of both autonomy and strong ties of reciprocity for mutual support in hostile conditions, as well as common ways of living, dressing, and speaking. This valuing of both autonomy and affiliation undermines the often-invoked dichotomy between “Mexicans” and “North Americans” as being communal, or group-oriented, and individualistic, or self-oriented, respectively. Rather than predominantly one or the other, rancheros value both autonomy and affiliation. This historically constructed identity is enacted in a particular way of speaking, franqueza ‘frankness’, direct, straightforward, candid language that goes directly to a point. Informal verbal performances by members of these families within their homes, both in Chicago and Mexico, are analyzed for their construction of ranchero identity through franqueza.

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