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Dr Jo Bird
Southern Cross University

In 2019, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called upon Pope Francis and King Felipe VI of Spain to apologise for the colonial abuses of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico during its conquest 500 years ago.  In 1848, Mexico entered the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ceding around half of its territory at gunpoint to the United States.  Tensions between the two nations continue to remain high, in for example, Trump’s rhetoric over the border wall and hash immigration laws.

The paper draws connections between US/Mexico and Spanish/Mexican conflicts through pop-cultural re-imaginings of violence.

In the late 90s, comic books in Mexico became more popular than they had ever been in history.  At this time, the US/Mexico border wall was extended and increasingly militarised.  The Mexican comic, La Frontera Violenta (The Violent Border) depicts conflicts similar to the ‘Western’ genre popular in the US.  In the traditional ‘Western’, the Caucasian cowboy hero fights ‘Native American’ (or ‘Indian’) villains.  However, in the Mexican ‘Western’, the blonde European man is the villain and the Mexicans, or North American First Nations people are the heroes.

These Mexican re-castings are played out out against the political backdrop of liberal free trade agreements (NAFTA and USMCA) and the denial of human rights to ‘illegal aliens’ on the US side of the border.

The Mexican rewriting of the ‘Western’ can also be linked to Latin America’s resistance of colonial exploitation (Galeano) and the imperial foundations of international law more generally (Watson, Anghie).

Jo Bird’s research interests include the intersections between legal theory, race, gender and bioethics. Jo has travelled and worked in Mexico, for No Mas Muertes (No More Deaths) a human rights NGO documenting abuses on the US/Mexican border. Jo has worked as a research assistant for Professor Irene Watson, on publications including Aboriginal Peoples: Colonialism and International Law. She has published in Australia and internationally, such as New York’s Cardozo Journal of Law and Gender. Her background is in humanities and law. Her educational attainments include a PhD from the Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne. In 2019, she lectured in International Law at Southern Cross University.

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