Verenize Arceo


Advisor: Paige Glotzer
Mailbox: 5079 Mosse Humanities Building

Verenize Arceo headshot


My project examines how the everyday social-cultural experiences of ethnic Mexicans, and in particular ethnic Mexican women, redefined the concept of gateway communities in California’s San Joaquin Valley from 1965 to 1995. In the 1960s, Highway 99 was reconstructed to go around, not through the valley, indicating that the area was designed to be bypassed, not settled in. However, with climate supporting year-long harvest, the San Joaquin Valley was a celebrated “gateway” harboring extractable agricultural resources for the rest of the state and nation. Despite scholars centering Los Angeles as the core of ethnic Mexican life in California, following the termination of the Bracero Program in 1964, an increasing number of ethnic Mexicans continued along Highway 99 and detoured into the valley. But this is a story about more than just agriculture. In piecing together oral interviews, university records housed at the Bancroft Library, and records from the Department of Public Works Division of Highways, this project will examine the concentrated efforts at making place and focus on how ethnic Mexican women were critical in shifting the meaning of the valley from a gateway for agricultural production to a gateway toward a rooted ethnic Mexican community. In doing so, I will explore the quotidian spaces of leisure and everyday life that cemented more permanent settlement in the wake of the Bracero-era’s circular migration, such as the financial and familial convenience of the Merced Drive-In, the comfort of Tenaya Middle School’s English as a Second Language classroom, and the freedom housed in the fairgrounds of a Sunday night baile. Furthermore, the ways this shift created place and community calls attention to how centering ethnic Mexican women in the making of these spaces enriches studies of community formation and place-making.


M.A., History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2021
B.A., History, University of California, Merced, 2018


  • U.S./North American History

MA Title

  • “What Are We Doing Here?: The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Chicano Studies Program and the Landscape of (un)Belonging, 1974-76”

Working Dissertation Title

  • “Gateway to Community: Ethnic Mexican Place-Making in California’s San Joaquin Valley, 1965-1995”

Selected Publications

  • David Rouff and Verenize Arceo, “Communal Gardens, Defensive Design, and Urban Apartheid in Chinatown: Merced, CA, 1870-1900.” Dumbarton Oaks Garden and Landscape Studies, edited by Eric Avila and Thaisa Way (Forthcoming 2023).
  • Review of Border Women and the Community of Maclovio Rojas: Autonomy in the Spaces of Neoliberal Neglect, by Michelle Téllez, Western Historical Quarterly, Volume 53, Issue 3, Autumn 2022, 316.

Selected Awards

  • Early Excellence in Teaching Award, 2021. (Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Professional Affiliations

  • American Historical Association
  • Western History Association

Courses Taught as TA

  • History 136: Sports, Recreation, and Society in the United States. (Professor Alex Mountain)
  • History/CHICLA 152: U.S. West Since 1850 (Professor Allison Powers-Useche)
  • History/Asian American Studies 160: Process of Movement and Dislocation. (Professor Cindy I-Fen Cheng)