Runaway Slaves and Insecure Borders in the Mexican Northeast
Scholars have long suggested that nineteenth-century runaway slaves turned the U.S.-Mexico border into a line of freedom. However, as this chapter argues, such an interpretation of the border is somewhat problematic. A closer examination of the history of northern Tamaulipas explains why. From 1820 onward, African Americans began to arrive to that region in search of freedom and a changed racial milieu, but this process was deeply fraught. U.S. American jurisprudence could continue to affect Mexican space formally and informally from the outside, greatly troubling Mexican sovereignty and its foreign relations in the process. Hence, the freedom found by African Americans in Mexico—guaranteed by Mexican law—was never particularly secure in practice. This chapter builds upon the previous chapter and provides an in-depth analysis of a specific case study of fugitive slaves’ struggles for freedom in the Texas-Mexico borderlands.
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