Latinas/os and Asians are rewriting the meaning and history of race in the American South by complicating the black/white binary that has frequently defined the region since before the Civil War. Arriving in southern communities as migrants or refugees, Latinas/os and Asians have experienced both begrudging acceptance and prejudice as their presence confronts and troubles local understandings of race and difference—understandings that have deep roots in each community’s particular racial history, as well as in national fears and anxieties about race.
Nuevo South offers the first comparative study showing how Latinas/os and Asians are transforming race and place in the contemporary South. Integrating political, economic, and social analysis, Perla M. Guerrero examines the reception of Vietnamese, Cubans, and Mexicans in northwestern Arkansas communities that were almost completely white until the mid-1970s. She shows how reactions to these refugees and immigrants ranged from reluctant acceptance of Vietnamese as former US allies to rejection of Cubans as communists, criminals, and homosexuals and Mexicans as “illegal aliens” who were perceived as invaders when they began to establish roots and became more visible in public spaces. Guerrero’s research clarifies how social relations are constituted in the labor sphere, particularly the poultry industry, and reveals the legacies of regional history, especially anti-Black violence and racial cleansing. Nuevo South thus helps us to better understand what constitutes the so-called Nuevo South and how historical legacies shape the reception of new people in the region.