California History is pleased to announce that David Tamayo’s “The Perilous Borderlands: The Role of Anti-Japanese Hysteria in American Efforts to Annex Baja California, 1900–1942” (California History, vol. 97, no. 2, 59–87) has won the journal’s inaugural Richard J. Orsi prize, for the best article published in California History in the past year.

The award-winning article examines four decades of anti-Japanese paranoia in popular American media, particularly in California, from the early 1900s to the eve of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. It illustrates the overlooked influence that this hysteria had in shaping American perceptions of Japanese immigrants in Baja California, Mexico, and the consequences of those views for these borderlands prior to 1941. 

“Receiving this award is extra special to me, ” comments Tamayo, “because, in addition to being my first published article, it is about Baja California—my home until I was nineteen—but, more importantly, because it is fundamentally about racism, a pernicious issue I seek to address as a historian and educator.”

Tamayo continues, “I had always wanted to turn this research into an article. California History seemed like the best place for it. After submitting it, I had the double fortune of having reviewers who provided crucial input that helped me tighten the arguments, and a keen editor to polish the text. I can’t imagine a more professional and supportive process.”

The Orsi Prize committee was deeply impressed by “Perilous Borderlands.” Committee member Christopher Capozzola called the article “an eye-opening investigation of a forgotten episode in local and international history . . . an important contribution to the history of California.” Committee spokesperson James F. Brooks, writing in the unsettled weeks following the 2020 presidential election, remarked that “unlike the situation in DC, our efficient and congenial committee” rendered “a timely and unanimous decision” for “Perilous Borderlands.” In identifying it as the winner of the inaugural Richard J. Orsi prize, Brooks agreed that the article was “impressive in temporal reach, original in content, and insightful in range of interpretive vantages. Personally,” he admits, “I was more than a little chagrined that I have taught ‘Water & Culture in the American West’ for years, and never knew about the annexation gambit.”

Tamayo, now an assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan, is also the author of “From Rotary Club to Sowers of Friendship: The Conservative Rebellion through Service Clubs in Monterrey, 1920s–1960s,” published in the UC Press journal, Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos (vol. 36 nos. 1-2, 68–96) and the author of a forthcoming book, tentatively titled Remaking the Right: Mexico’s Middle Classes and the Rise of Transnational Conservatism.

The Richard J. Orsi Prize was established to honor the state’s preeminent historian and former editor of California History. Orsi authored and edited dozens of scholarly articles and numerous anthologies of essays about California, including Sunset Limited: The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the American West, 1850–1930 (UC Press: 2005), Yosemite and Sequoia: A Century of California National Parks (1993), and the four-volume California History Sesquicentennial Series, co-published by University of California Press and the California Historical Society between 1998 and 2003.

We invite you to read Tamayo’s award-winning article for free online for a limited time.

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