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Toasting México in the American West: Brindis Poems and Political Loyalties of Women’s Mexican Patriotic Clubs

Vanessa Ovalle Perez

Abstract


Brindis poems were popular in the nineteenth century. Ac- companied by the raise of a glass, their verses were meant to celebrate a person or event. Only two decades after the Mexican-American War, Latinas/os living in the newly annexed territories of the American West found themselves using the brindis genre to declare their loyalties to Mexico against a new invader, France. Among the most ardent supporters of the Mexican army’s fight against French imperialism were lower and middle-class Latinas who formed Mexican patriotic clubs exclusively for women in California and Nevada. This article examines one brindis series recited by women of the Patriotic Club of Mexico of Virginia City, Nevada, and two series of such poems by women of the Zaragoza Club of Los Angeles published in 1865 in the San Francisco, Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Mundo. By reading the printed brindis as a trace of the original vocal and performative gesture, this article asserts that the verses of these women were a three-fold protest: first, through their performance in the public sphere, these Latinas disrupted their political disenfranchisement as women; second, they contested outright European tyrants; and third, by verbalizing anti-colonial sentiment more broadly, they protested their annexation by the U.S. in a shrouded, but powerful way. The article explores some of the most salient stylistic features of the brindis poems, including the mocking tone of most of the rhymed verses, call and response technique, and gendered rhetoric of patriotic “deber” or duty.


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