This article examines violence in the eastern U.S.-Mexico borderlands during the U.S.-Mexico War. By analyzing and comparing military mobilization, local experiences of violence, and gendered national ideologies on each side, it explores how the conflict called the Mexican and U.S. nation-states into being, both in this region and beyond. Whether actively participating or not, diverse borderlands people experienced the war primarily within the gendered context of pre-existing local networks of kinship and community. Alongside ideologies that portrayed the nation-state as a fictive national family, such local ties powerfully structured the ways in which borderlanders reckoned their places within the emerging U.S. and Mexican nation-states. In these ways, they actively joined in creating both state power and the meanings of nationalism at the grassroots level.

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