Contesting Legal Borderlands: Policing Insubordinate Spaces in Imperial County’s Farm Worker Communities, 1933–1940


  • Stevie Ruiz



In this article, I analyze the ways in which Mexican farm worker activists inhabited spaces that placed them in a state of legal ambiguity. Indeed, landowners possessed legal authority to punish labor protesters who organized in public space. At the same time, farm workers’ privacy rights were undermined by the tactics that police used to spy on organizing activities. Historians covering this time period have focused on the punitive measures used to silence farm workers. One blind spot in the historiography about farm worker social movements are the quasi-publics that activists created in order to challenge corporate spatial relations in Southern California’s Imperial County. To rely on binaries that neatly package private and public spheres hides the transgressive actions taken by protesters to blur corporate boundaries.