Manifest Destiny, American Domesticity, and the Role of the Immigrant in Ruiz de Burton’s Novels

Madison Rose Martinez


Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton’s novels, Who Would Have Thought It? and The Squatter and the Don are important works of literature due to their representation of the Mexican experience in the redefined, expanding United States of the nineteenth century. The novels provide two perspectives of the time period by delving into the lives of Americans and Mexicans on both sides of the country. Who Would Have Thought It? (1872), Ruiz de Burton’s first novel, focuses on the Northeast, the Civil War, and the hypocrisy in the social politics of the nation’s citizens as they promised acceptance and possibility for immigrants while actually sequestering them to their status as “other.” This novel satirizes Ruiz de Burton’s experience living on the East Coast and interacting with the elite and powerful. The Squatter and the Don (1885), Conversely, focuses on the West Coast, the annexation of Mexico, and the land disputes between Californios and American settlers. This novel is inspired by Ruiz de Burton’s experiences as a young girl, being granted U.S. citizenship, and as a widow, fighting for her property. Both novels utilize the romance genre or marriage plot as platforms for Ruiz de Burton’s discourse on the complicated ways the United States and its citizens promulgated a national identity that is flawed and bound in falsehoods regarding acceptance and national origin. This was in part a response to the domestic misconception of the role of the immigrant in the United States.