Mexican Americans

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Editor: Thomas Riggs
Date: 2014
Publisher: Gale, a Cengage Company
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Page 195

Mexican Americans

Allan Englekirk and Marguerite Marín


Mexican Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Mexico, which is bordered by the United States to the north; the Gulf of Mexico to the east; Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea to the southeast; and the Pacific Ocean to the south and west. The northwestern portion of Mexico, called Baja California, is partially separated from the rest of the nation by the Gulf of California. The central highlands, where the majority of Mexico's population lives, lies between the Oriental range and Occidental range of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Overall, Mexico occupies 758,449 square miles (1,964,375 square kilometers), an area approximately three times the size of the state of Texas.

In 2013, according to the CIA World Factbook, the population of Mexico was estimated to be 116,220,947. More than 80 percent of Mexicans identify as Roman Catholic, and about 5 percent are Evangelical. There were also small groups of Protestants and Jehovah's Witnesses. While Mexico is not a poor country in gross economic terms—in 2013 it ranked twelfth in the world in gross domestic product (GDP)—income distribution is highly unequal, and according to the CIA World Factbook, about half the population lives below the poverty line. Among Mexico's most important industries are petroleum, mining, automobile manufacture, food and beverages, clothing, chemicals, and iron and steel.

There was significant migration between Mexico and the United States even before Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. Moreover, the majority of what is now the southwestern United States belonged to Mexico prior to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe. Most early Mexican immigrants worked as miners, railroad workers, or field hands. Under the Bracero Program, in effect from 1942 to 1964, millions of Mexicans arrived in the United States with temporary work contracts primarily in the agriculture and cattle industries. Between 1995 and 2010 Mexican immigration to the United States decreased by more than half.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were more than 31 million Mexican Americans in the United States in 2010, making up roughly 63 percent of the total U.S. Hispanic population. Because Mexicans have a long history in the United States, many Mexican Americans have fully integrated into the broader population and do not live in immigrant communities. Nevertheless, there are large Mexican American communities in such cities as Los Angeles, Chicago, San Antonio, El Paso, and Phoenix. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimates for 2009–2011, about 11.7 million Mexican Americans reside in California, making it the state with the largest population of Americans of Mexican descent. Other states with large numbers of Mexican Americans include Arizona (1.7 million), Illinois (1.6 million), and Texas (8.3 million), as well as Colorado (more than 800,000), Washington (600,000), and Florida (600,000).


Early History The earliest inhabitants of Mexico are believed to have been hunters who migrated from Asia approximately 18,000 years ago. Over time these early peoples built highly organized civilizations, such as the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Mayan, Toltec, Zapotec, Mixtec, and Aztec (also known as Mexica) societies, the majority of which were accomplished in art, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, and agriculture. In 1517 Spanish explorer Francisco Fernández de Córdoba discovered the Yucatán, a peninsula located in the southeast of Mexico, and by 1521 the Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés had managed to conquer the Aztec Empire, the most powerful indigenous nation in Mexico at the time. Spain's conquest of Mexico was a bloody and cruel process during which the conquistadors murdered thousands of indigenous men, women, and children. The conquest also entailed the destruction of the Aztec Empire and culture. This period is referred to by many as the biggest genocide in the Americas. The Spanish alone did not carry out the massacres, however; large bands of Indian allies participated in the killing of their tribal enemies. Many more indigenous people died from the new diseases introduced by the Europeans, including smallpox, which reached epidemic proportions and led to the death of more Indians than those who died at the hands of the conquerors.

For the next 300 years Mexico, or New Spain, would remain under colonial rule. During this period approximately 60 percent of the indigenous population

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in the region died. Spain's generally repressive colonial regime limited access to the highest-ranking political positions almost exclusively to native-born Spaniards, although both creoles and mestizos did earn midlevel military and civil appointments. An unequal distribution of land and wealth developed and, as the nation grew in numbers, the disproportion between the rich and poor continued to increase, as did a sense of social unrest among the most neglected of its populace. Their discontent resulted in a successful revolt against Spain in 1821.

The Mexican American War began a little more than two decades later, as skirmishes over land holdings turned into an official war over territory between Mexico and the United States. The war ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 in which Mexico surrendered 890,000 square miles, close to one-half of its territory, although the United States did later compensate Mexico for their lost land. Six years later, in order to finish construction of a transcontinental railway, the United States purchased an additional 30,000 square miles of Mexican land for $10 million in modern-day Arizona. This acquisition was made final through the Gadsden Treaty of 1854.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century, under the thirty-year authoritarian rule of Porfirio Díaz, noticeable industrialization occurred in Mexico, financed in large part by foreigners. Mining was revitalized, and foreign trade increased. Dynamic growth brought relative prosperity to many economic sectors in various regions of the country, complemented by increased levels of employment. As the century ended, however, a vast majority of the nation's inhabitants had realized little if any improvement in their standard of living. Those residing in rural areas struggled to produce enough to survive from their own small parcels of land or, much more likely, worked under a debt-peonage system—farming lands owned by someone infinitely wealthier than they were. Most residents of urban areas, if they were lucky enough to have full employment, worked long hours under poor conditions for extremely low wages and lived in housing and neighborhoods that fostered diseases. The economic depression of 1907 soured the aspirations of the small but growing middle class and brought financial disaster to the newest members of the upper class.

Although Díaz was able to manipulate his reelection in 1910, opposition to his regime was strong. In 1911, when small rebellions led by other revolutionary leaders, including Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Madero, Pancho Villa, General Victoriano Huerta, and Pascual Orozco Vazquez, began to proliferate in the northern states of the nation, Diaz resigned his post and left the country. The same year, Zapata issued his famous “Plan de Ayala,” a document that called for land reform and freedom for the disenfranchised Page 197  |  Top of ArticleMexican peasants, which became the manifesto of the Zapatista movement until Zapata's death in 1919. After Francisco Madero, the newly elected president following Díaz, failed to define an agenda that satisfied the several disparate groups in Mexico, he likewise agreed to self-exile but was assassinated in 1913 by supporters of General Huerta, the man who next assumed national leadership. Violence escalated into a bloody and prolonged civil war known as the Revolution of 1910. The majority of the conflict during the period from 1914 to 1919 was between supporters of the liberal Zapata and proponents of the Constitutionalist Venustiano Carranza, who led the government beginning in 1914 and faced the continual opposition of the Zapatistas. The turmoil and bloodshed motivated Mexican people from all levels of society to flee the country, most often northward to the United States. The United States, in turn, made several attempts to take advantage of Mexico's weakened borders in order to expand its territory further. A notable example of this interventionist maneuvering by the United States is the Vera Cruz incident, when the United States invaded and held the city of Veracruz for a six-month period in 1914.

Following the assassination of Zapata in 1919, Alvaro Obregon successfully overthrew Carranza's government with the support of Zapatistas, Villistas, and other revolutionaries. Obregon assumed the presidency in 1920, bringing the majority of the fighting to an end. By the early 1920s, though relative peace had been restored, the social and economic reforms that had become associated with the revolution were still unrealized, chief among them the redistribution of land to a greater percentage of the populace. A nonviolent revolution was to continue until the goals related to social and economic justice were attained. National presidents focused on promoting growth in the industrial sector, but the opening of new jobs did not keep pace with the employment needs of the rapidly expanding population.

Modern Era Since the 1950s economic conditions in Mexico have improved at a gradual pace. Expanding industrialization has provided additional jobs for greater numbers of workers, and increased oil production has brought in needed foreign currencies. Nevertheless, high levels of unemployment, low wages, and the many social problems related to a prolonged period of intense urbanization remain as sources of concern for the government and as causes of unrest for a significant segment of the population. Between the late 1970s and the turn of the twenty-first century, those people unable to earn subsistence wages in Mexico moved in increasing proportion to the northern borderlands and crossed into the United States, where the economic prospects were more promising.

During the 1980s and 1990s Mexico faced a number of challenges, the most notable of which were an economic crisis and the Mexico City earthquake of 1985. The nationalization of all financial institutions in 1982 attempted to address the country's economic instability and the enormous devaluation of the peso. The decade of the 1980s is now referred to as “The Lost Decade” in Mexico in reference to the severe economic uncertainty of that period. During the same decade a powerful earthquake shook Michoacán, leading to widespread destruction in Mexico City. The estimates of lives lost from the earthquake range from 6,500 to 30,000. The government faced severe criticism for its mishandling of relief efforts following the earthquake, which threatened to disrupt the monopoly of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional; PRI) in Mexican politics; the PRI had been in power since 1929. The ongoing economic crisis and the devastation following the earthquake worked as push factors that prompted more Mexican nationals to migrate to the United States in search of better economic opportunities.

In 1994 Mexico joined the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), along with the United States and Canada, facilitating trade between the three countries. The commercial benefits of this accord, combined with the continued growth of international trade with other Latin American nations, have invigorated areas of economic investment and production in the Mexican economy. On the same day that NAFTA went into effect, however, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional; EZLN) declared war on the Mexican government in opposition of its neoliberal economic ideology and encouragement of globalization. The EZLN also called for increased indigenous control over land and other local resources in Chiapas—the headquarters of the Zapatistas. While the rise of the EZLN brought about a constant military presence in the southern state of Chiapas and gained international attention, their actions since 1994 have been mostly defensive and nonviolent in nature and have not interfered greatly with the growth of Mexico's economy.

The one-party rule of the PRI in Mexico lasted for seven decades, finally ending with the presidential election of National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional; PAN) candidate Vicente Fox in 2000. Mexico's economy surpassed $1 trillion in the early 2000s, and its GDP continued to grow in spite of the global economic crisis. However, the country still suffered from drastically unequal income distribution, an issue that Mexican presidents failed to address with any success. In addition, the rampant violence as a result of the so-called Mexican Drug War, which increased exponentially after 2006, threatened the security of the nation's residents, as well as Mexico's large tourist industry. Violence related to drug cartels began to rise drastically following President Fox's Operation Michoacán, carried out in December 2006, which is generally regarded as the first major operation against organized crime in Mexico. The operation initiated a war between the government and the

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In the 1990s two terms were widely used to identify Spanish-speaking people: Hispanic and Latino. The latter has grown in acceptance, especially by younger people who reject the term “Hispanic.” The popular use of “Hispanic” grew out of the federal government's efforts, beginning with the 1980 census, to identify and count all people of Spanish-speaking backgrounds with origins from the Western hemisphere. Since the term was employed in most federal government reports, the media soon appropriated it and popularized its use. Some members of the Hispanic community have employed the term to create political alliances among all ethnic groups with ties to the Spanish language. However, according to the Latino National Political Survey, the majority of respondents indicated that they defined their identities in terms of place of origin.

Terms of identity vary greatly from region to region and from generation to generation. Traditionally residents of northern New Mexico have referred to themselves as Spanish Americans or Hispanos, terms which are essentially a reflection of their early ancestors from New Spain who settled the region. People from Texas, in the recent past, referred to themselves as Latin Americans, although there is growing use of the term “Tejano” by Texas residents of Mexican ancestry. “Mexican” is more commonly used in the Los Angeles area. More recently “Mexican American” has gained popularity.

In general, varying group identities are a reflection of the changing self-definitions of an ethnic group. The term “Chicano” is perhaps the best example of this social process. Chicano appeared in the mid-1960s as a political term of choice primarily among the young. The term identified an individual actively promoting social change within the context of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. To the older generation and the more affluent, to be identified as a Chicano was an insult. In the past the term specifically referred to the unsophisticated immigrant. However, to the generation of political activists, their term of ethnic identity came to signify a sense of pride in one's community and heritage.

drug cartels, which only further escalated in 2008 with allegations of cartel-related corruption in the Baja California police force. The toll of drug-related deaths rose by 11 percent in one year, from 9,616 in 2009 to 15,273 in 2010, according to a Mexican government report issued in January 2012. As of 2013 the violence continued to rise, and the Mexican government was unable to make any concrete steps toward bringing the situation under control.


Approximately 80,000 Mexicans resided in the territory transferred to the United States at the conclusion of the Mexican American War in 1848, the greatest numbers of whom were located in present-day New Mexico and California. Only a small proportion of the total, slightly more than 2,000, decided to leave their homes after the signing of the treaty. Those who remained north of the border were required to decide between retaining Mexican citizenship or becoming an American citizen within one year of the treaty. Those who did not formally choose to maintain Mexican citizenship became American citizens by default after one year. Many Mexican families were ultimately stripped of their property, which was then often granted to American settlers instead.

When compared with various periods of the twentieth century, Mexican immigration to the United States between 1850 and 1900 was relatively low. The discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada of California in 1849 was an initial stimulus for migration, as was the increase in fruit production in California in the 1850s and 1860s and the expansion of copper mining in Arizona beginning in the 1860s. During this same period and into the twentieth century, ranching and agriculture lured many inhabitants of the northern and central states of Mexico to Texas. By 1900 approximately 500,000 people of Mexican ancestry lived in the United States, principally in the areas originally populated by Spaniards and Mexicans prior to 1848. Roughly 100,000 of these residents were born in Mexico; the remainder were second-generation inhabitants of these regions and their offspring.

Only about 31,000 Mexicans migrated to the United States in the first decade of the twentieth century, but numbers increased significantly over the next two decades, especially from 1920 to 1929, when almost 500,000 people of Mexican ancestry entered the country. However, since the frontier was virtually open to anyone wishing to cross it until the creation of the Border Patrol in 1924, immigration figures for years prior to this date are questionable. The actual number may have been appreciably higher. Rural areas of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Texas attracted a vast majority of these migrants, but during the years of World War I, mounting numbers of newcomers moved to the upper Midwestern states, mainly to the region around Chicago. They were attracted by jobs in industry, railroads, steel mills, and meat packing.

In these initial periods of heavy immigration, it was most common for Mexican males to cross the border for work and return to Mexico periodically with whatever profits they were able to accumulate over several months. Alternatively, they remained in the United States for a longer duration and sent money southward to family members; between 1917 and 1929, Mexican migrants in the United States sent over $10 million to relatives in their home country. During these same decades, some men also established residency in the United States and returned for their families, though still quite often with the ultimate objective of returning to Mexico permanently in a not-too-distant future. It is estimated that half the immigrants who entered the United States from 1900 to 1930 returned to Mexico.

Mexican immigration to the United States decreased considerably in the 1930s because of the Great Depression. Though approximately 30,000 Page 199  |  Top of ArticleMexicans entered the United States during these years, more than 500,000 left the country, most of them forced to do so because of the Repatriation Program, which sought to extradite Mexicans without proper documentation. In the 1930s jobs or land were promised to those who would return, but when this commitment was not fulfilled, many families or individuals moved back to the border towns of the north and often attempted again to return to the United States.

After the 1940s legal immigration from Mexico to the United States remained at or above the high levels of 1910 to 1930. There was a rise in immigration as a result of the Bracero Program, which offered temporary work contracts to Mexican migrants for work in the U.S. agriculture and railroad industries from 1942 until 1964. Originally intended for wartime labor relief, the program extended well past the end of World War II. More than 4.5 million temporary work contracts were signed during this period, which represented around 2 million braceros (workers) employed by U.S. businesses as part of the program. Although canceled in 1948, the program was renewed shortly thereafter and continued in force until 1964, when the program was becoming obsolete because of immigration reform.

Despite federal legislation limiting the number of immigrants from most countries in the 1960s and 1970s, Mexican migrants crossing the border totaled 453,937 and 640,294 for the two decades. It is estimated that approximately one million entered the United States legally between 1981 and 1990. The number of undocumented workers increased consistently from the 1960s through the 1990s; approximately one million undocumented workers were deported annually to Mexico in the late 1980s and early 1990s (this figure includes individuals deported more than once). The availability of jobs in the United States, coupled with high rates of unemployment and periodic slowdowns in the Mexican economy, served to encourage this continued migration northward. Several factors in the early twenty-first century, however, caused a sharp decline in the rate of Mexican migration to the United States, including the global economic crisis sparked by the recession in the United States in 2007 and 2008 and the increasing vigilance and implementation of advanced security technology along the border between the United States and Mexico.

In 2012 the Pew Research Hispanic Center documented that the number of Mexicans who legally immigrated to the United States between 2005 and 2010 was half the number who legally immigrated from 1995 to 2000, when a total of 3 million Mexicans arrived in the country. Even more significant was the rise in the number of Mexicans in the United States who returned to Mexico—1.4 million between 2005 and 2010, nearly double the number who had returned a decade earlier.

In the early twenty-first century increased advocacy for children of undocumented immigrants in the United States led to significant developments in immigration reform. Most notable was Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a memorandum signed by President Obama in June 2012, which defers legal action by immigration officials against currently enrolled undocumented students, allowing them to remain enrolled in school until they graduate high school.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 31.8 million people of Mexican ancestry lived in the United States in 2010, a figure that represented 10 percent of the total national population and 63 percent of the total Hispanic population in the country. More than 65 percent of people of Mexican ancestry were born in the United States, while approximately 8 percent were naturalized citizens. In 2010 East Los Angeles had the highest concentration of Hispanics outside of Puerto Rico, at 97 percent. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey estimates for 2009 to 2011, the states with the highest populations of Mexican Americans were, in descending order, California, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, Washington, and Florida.


Spanish remained the principal, if not sole, language of almost all Mexicans in the southwestern United States after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Because most early Mexican immigrants moved to areas already populated predominantly by people of their background, and because they worked side-by-side with them in the same jobs, learning more than rudimentary English was of minor importance. The proximity to Mexico, as well as the continued entry of additional immigrants, constantly revitalized the culture and native language of those who chose to become permanent residents of the United States.

In the twentieth century, as second- and third-generation Mexican Americans began to move into professions in which many of their coworkers were non-Hispanic, proficiency in English became practical and necessary. Young Mexican Americans entered American schools in which English was a fundamental part of their curriculum. The use of Spanish was strongly discouraged and sometimes even prohibited in many school systems. Equally important, English was introduced to ever-greater numbers of Hispanic households through television. Although few low-income Mexican American families could afford televisions in the 1950s, it had entered most living rooms by the end of the next decade and brought the language (as well as other aspects) of the broader American culture nightly to the ears of a growing Mexican American audience.

In part because Mexicans continued to immigrate to the United States, Spanish remained a dominant language in the Mexican American community. In the state of New Mexico, for example, Spanish was a governmental language until the mid-1990s. In

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Our Lady of Guadalupe (also called the Virgin of Guadalupe) is so revered in Mexico that she has been referred to as the “Queen of Mexico.” Mexican Americans retain the same devotion to this religious icon. Our Lady of Guadalupe (also called the Virgin of Guadalupe) is so revered in Mexico that she has been referred to as the “Queen of Mexico.” Mexican Americans retain the same devotion to this religious icon. DAVID MCNEW / GETTY IMAGES

2010 there were 832 Spanish-language newspapers in the United States and approximately 1,323 Spanish-language radio stations, and Spanish-language television programming was also on the rise.

Mexican American Spanish has qualities that distinguished it from standard Spanish. For example, while the standard Spanish words for “soldier” and “you” are respectively soldado and usted, the corresponding words in Mexican American Spanish for many speakers have altered to soldau and usté through the elimination of the consonant of the last syllable. There have also been changes in certain verb conjugations, such as the shift from decía (“I/she/he/you were saying”) to dijía. English words have been incorporated into Mexican American Spanish, with appropriate orthographic changes to make the words more similar in sound to Spanish—for example, troca for “truck,” parquear for “park,” and lonche for “lunch.” Still prevalent among young Mexican Americans is the use of caló, a variation of Mexican Spanish that employs slang from Mexican Spanish, American English, and African American English. It was used extensively in urban settings in the Southwest during the 1940s and 1950s by young Mexican Americans who wished to set themselves apart from their parents.

Mexican Americans who have been exposed extensively to English and Spanish and employ both languages actively in speaking or writing may move from one language to another within a given sentence, a linguistic phenomenon referred to as “code-switching.” The alternation may occur because of a momentary memory lapse by the speaker, with use of proper nouns, or when a specific word has no exact equivalent in the other language. This tendency was once perceived in a negative light, as it sometimes occurs because of the lexical deficiencies of a speaker. But it also practiced by many Mexican Americans who are bilingual and who are able to separate English from Spanish completely and use either language effectively and persuasively depending upon the situation; code-switching for these speakers is sometimes an attempt to use the most appropriate phrase to convey a certain idea.


In the early twenty-first century more than three-fourths of Mexican Americans were Roman Catholic. Others faiths among Mexican Americans included Protestant, Pentecostal, Southern Baptist, Mormon, Seventh-Day Adventist, and Jehovah's Witnesses. The American settlers who immigrated in the early nineteenth century to the area of present-day Texas were predominantly Protestant, as were those who in later decades traveled to California and most other regions north of the Rio Grande. Over time they converted a small number of Mexican Americans to Protestantism.

After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, Mexican Americans had the freedom to maintain their religious faith, but throughout the nineteenth century Mexican American Catholics had no institutional voice at any level in the American Catholic Church. It was not until the mid-1940s that the Catholic Church in the United States began to devise strategies and programs to meet the pastoral and social needs of Mexican Americans and other Hispanics. In 1944 meetings and seminars were organized for delegates of Western and Southwestern dioceses at the request of Robert E. Lucey and Urban J. Vehr, the archbishops of San Antonio and Denver, respectively, to analyze the scope and effectiveness of the church's efforts in these areas. In 1945 the Bishop's Committee for the Spanish-speaking was formed, the objectives of which were to construct clinics, improve housing and educational and employment opportunities, and eliminate discrimination.

A dynamic force for change between Mexican Americans and the Catholic Church and its clergy in the United States was the Chicano movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. In seeking to define Page 201  |  Top of Articletheir unique identity within North American society by affirming a strong sense of pride in their Spanish and indigenous American heritage, leaders of this movement also condemned U.S. institutions that they believed had fostered or condoned the oppression of Mexican Americans in the past and present. In the early 1970s the activist group Católicos por la Raza dramatized their discontent over lingering evidence of segregation in the church and its failure to bring about reforms to correct inequities in society by organizing a Christmas Eve demonstration. Many of the participants were arrested, but their sentiments were publicized. By the 1990s an increasing number of Mexican Americans were mainstream Catholics, and through the 1990s and into the twenty-first century, Catholic churches were increasingly offering Mass in Spanish.

Despite the numerical importance of Mexican Americans in the U.S. Catholic church, the first Mexican American bishop was not ordained until 1970. As of 2007, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, only 6 percent of Catholic bishops in the country were of Hispanic origin.


Most immigrant groups in the United States have, to a lesser or greater extent, attempted to maintain their distinctive cultural ways. However, the general pattern has been that with each successive generation the use of the mother tongue and other cultural practices diminishes. Mexican Americans do not fit this pattern for a number of reasons.

Some Mexican Americans can trace their ancestry back ten generations. The ancestors of many Mexican Americans living in rural Colorado and northern New Mexico, for example, predate the presence of other American in that region. Some members of these older generations are still not completely acculturated; some (although few) speak English with difficulty and appear to be more traditionally oriented than the newly arrived Mexican immigrants. In addition, because Mexican immigration has been a constant pattern throughout the twentieth century, each successive wave of Mexican immigration has served to reinforce certain aspects of Mexican culture and maintain the use of the Spanish language within the United States. Intermarriage between immigrant

During the 34th Annual Three Kings Day Parade, which celebrates the Feast of Epiphany, giant puppets make their way down East 106 Street in the Spanish Harlem section of New York. During the 34th Annual Three Kings Day Parade, which celebrates the Feast of Epiphany, giant puppets make their way down East 106 Street in the Spanish Harlem section of New York. STAN HONDA / AFP / GETTY IMAGES / NEWSCOM

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For sauce:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 ancho chiles, seeds and veins removed

1 cascabel chile (optional for a bit more spice)

8 roma tomatoes, roughly chopped

½ onion, roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves

salt to taste

1 cup chicken broth

For tortillas:

vegetable oil for frying

24 stale tortillas, cut into pieces

For toppings:


½ red onion, thinly sliced

3 sprigs of cilantro

⅓ up queso fresco, crumbled


Heat the oil in a skillet. Fry the chiles for about 1 minute on each side. Remove the chiles, cover them with hot water, and soak for 5–10 minutes.

Add tomatoes, onions and garlic to the same pan and grill until they are softened. Transfer the drained chile, tomatoes, onions and garlic to a blender and blend until smooth.

Reheat the oil and add the sauce. Season with salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add the broth and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Heat the oil and fry the tortilla pieces, about ⅓ time so they cook evenly, until they just stiffen but do not brown, about 3–4 minutes a batch. Transfer the fried tortillas to paper towels to drain while you fry the rest; add a bit more oil to the skillet and lower the heat if necessary.

Stir the tortillas into the sauce and cook over medium heat for 5–8 minutes, or until most of the sauce has been absorbed. Allow just enough time for tortillas to absorb the salsa. Stir constantly; the tortilla pieces should be soft yet crunchy.

Serve immediately and top with crema, cilantro, and red onion.

Serves 6

males and Mexican American women has encouraged the use of Spanish. Immigrants have also encouraged the continuous growth of Spanish-language enterprises, such as the Spanish-language media, print as well as electronic, and small businesses that cater to the Spanish-speaking community.

The close proximity of Mexico is another factor resulting in their slower rate of assimilation. Since the United States shares an almost 2,000-mile-long border with Mexico, Mexican Americans have been able to maintain close ties with the “old country.” Many have the opportunity to visit Mexico frequently. The millions of undocumented Mexican immigrants, however, generally do not return to Mexico out of fear of getting caught by the border patrol and not being able to regain entry into the United States.

Cuisine The basic diet of the inhabitants of Mexico has changed little from the pre-Colombian era to the present period. Corn, beans, squash, and tomatoes were staples until the arrival of the Spaniards in the early 1500s. The culinary preferences of these Europeans, plus the addition of some items from trade, brought pork, beef, rice, and various spices, among other foods, to the diet of this region. Pork and beef, in steaks or stews, along with chicken, were the meats eaten in areas from which migration to the United States was highest in 1848 and subsequent decades. This same cuisine forms the day-to-day food of most contemporary Mexican Americans: prepared with tomato-based sauces flavored by a variety of chilies, spices, or herbs, such as cumin and cilantro, these meats are generally served with rice, beans, and corn tortillas.

On festive occasions, such as religious holidays or family reunions, one or more of the following traditional meals consumed in Mexico are prepared by most Mexican American families: tamales (shredded and spiced pork or beef caked within cornmeal and wrapped in a corn husk before steaming); enchiladas (corn tortillas lightly fried in oil then wrapped around sliced chicken, shredded beef, cheese, or ground beef and various spices and coated with a tomato and chili sauce before baking); mole (most often chicken, but sometimes pork, combined with a sauce of chilies, chocolate, ground sesame or pumpkin seeds, garlic, and various other spices, slow-cooked under a low flame on the stove); chilaquiles (dried tortilla chips complemented by cheeses, chili, and perhaps chorizo [spiced sausage] or chicken and a tomato-based sauce of green or red chili stirred into a hash-like dish on the stove); chiles rellenos (green chilis stuffed with a white cheese and fried in an egg batter that adheres to the chilis); and posole (a soup-like stew which contains hominy as its essential ingredient, as well as stew meat and various spices).

Traditional Clothing The clothing identified as most traditional by Mexicans and Mexican Americans and, according to scholar Olga Nájera-Ramírez, recognized as “official national symbols of Mexico,” is now worn most frequently at festivals of historic importance to the community. Men dress as charros, or Mexican cowboys, and wear wide-brimmed Page 203  |  Top of Articlesombreros along with tailored jackets and pants lined with silver or shining metal buttons. Women dress in china poblana outfits, which include a white peasant blouse and a flaring red skirt adorned with sequins of different colors. This apparel is linked most closely to people of more humble origin in Mexico.

Holidays Two secular holidays of national importance in Mexico are celebrated by a significant number of Mexican Americans. Mexican Independence Day, celebrated on September 16, commemorates the date when the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla initiated the war for liberation from Spain with the grito, or call to battle, “Viva Mexico y mueran los gachupines” (“Long live Mexico and death to all gachupines,” a derogatory term for Spaniards used during the colonial period and afterward). Part of the festivities may include the pronouncement of the grito or a Mass with mariachis (Mexican street bands), followed possibly by a speech or parade. Since the central idea related to this date is ethnic solidarity, many of the participants wear the charro and china poblana outfits. Along with traditional dishes such as mole, other food served on this date traditionally stress the colors of the Mexican flag: white, red, and green. These items may include rice, limes, avocados, chopped tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

Perhaps the most widely recognized Mexican holiday celebrated by Mexicans and Mexican Americans residing in the United States, as well as by other Hispanics nationwide, commemorates the victory of Mexican troops in the Battle of Puebla over the invading French army on May 5, 1862. The Cinco de Mayo celebration may include parades or other festivities and, as with Independence Day, reinforces for many Mexican Americans a sense of ethnic pride. Many other Americans join in commemorating this date, though its historic importance is known by few of revelers. Over the years the holiday has been highly commercialized.

In addition, various rituals and festivals of Spanish or Mexican Catholic origin continue to have an important spiritual role in the lives of many Mexican Americans. In some instances these public manifestations of faith have remained virtually unchanged since 1848, but the number of believers who practice them is decreasing with each new generation. The degree to which a family participates in these activities depends on the nature of their religious convictions and the level of contact they maintain with more tradition-oriented members of churches of the Mexican American Catholic community.

An important celebration for many Mexican Americans is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. The festivity commemorates the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to a converted Christian Indian, Juan Diego, in Mexico on the hill of Tepeyac (located within the boundaries of present-day Mexico City) on this date in 1521. Although she had identified herself as the Virgin Mary to Diego, in appearing before him she spoke his language, Nahuatl, related herself to indigenous deities, and, most importantly, was of a skin color similar to his. In the years immediately after her apparition, Indians who had previously sought to maintain their native religions converted to the Catholic faith, seeing the coming of the Virgin in a new identity as a symbolic act of supreme consequence.

To commemorate the day of the Virgin's final apparition to Juan Diego on December 12, some Mexican Americans may rise early and unite at some high point in the area (symbolic of the hill at Tepeyac) and sing “Las Mañanitas,” a traditional

Young girls in a Cinco de Mayo parade, c. 1997, New York. Young girls in a Cinco de Mayo parade, c. 1997, New York. CORBIS / ATHERINE KARNOW.

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The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, named for the patron saint of Mexico and the Americas, is celebrated among Latino immigrants in Southern California on December 12. In Los Angeles, elievers touch the image of the Virgin Mary during a procession at The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, named for the patron saint of Mexico and the Americas, is celebrated among Latino immigrants in Southern California on December 12. In Los Angeles, elievers touch the image of the Virgin Mary during a procession at the Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles prior to a Mass in 2003. HECTOR MATA / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

song that in this festivity, according to scholar Virgilio Elizondo, who noted in Galilean Journey: The Mexican American Promise that represents the Mexican Americans' “proclamation of new life”. A special Mass is said, and roses are an important part of the celebration; most families take these flowers to the service and place them at the altar of the Virgin. Some Mexican Americans may make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

Ceremonies and rituals related to the birth and death of Jesus Christ are an essential part of the religious calendar of many Mexican Americans. During the nine days prior to Christmas, Masses are held at dawn, and the festivities of “Las Posadas” honor the arrival of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and their search for lodging at an inn (posada). Dressed in clothes similar to that likely worn by these personages, a couple visits designated houses of friends or family members on consecutive nights. It is common for the participants to read dialogues that recreate the conversation between the Holy Family and the innkeepers. Although the contemporary Mary and Joseph, like those whom they represent, are denied entry each night, after the dialogues and other ritual acts are completed, they may return to the house and unite with friends and family for fellowship. On the ninth night, which is Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph visit a house that accepts their request for a night's lodging. All those who participated in the events of prior evenings generally attend the Misa de Gallo (Midnight Mass), which usually starts with a procession down the main aisle during which two godparents carry a statue of the Christ Child to a manger near the front altar. During the evening, in most instances, children break a piñata (a paper maché figure often in the shape of a farm animal filled with candy and hung from a high spot in the house). Christmas Day is spent at home with members of the extended family, and traditional Mexican dishes are principal elements of the menu.

Another significant event of the Christmas season is El Día de los Reyes Magos (Three Kings' Day) on January 6, when children receive gifts to mark the arrival of the Magi and their offerings for the Christ Child. The night before this special date, children Page 205  |  Top of Articleleave a note in one of their shoes explaining their behavior during the past year, followed by a list of requests for specific gifts. The shoes often are filled with straw and left under the bed or on a windowsill, along with water, symbolically to provide sustenance to the camels of the kings. On the evening of January 6, families and close friends unite to cut and share a special round bread with the figure of the infant Jesus in the center.

Activities throughout the Hispanic world occur to recall the last days of Christ's life on earth. El Miércoles de Ceniza (Ash Wednesday) is of particular importance to Mexican Americans. On Good Friday in many parishes La Procesión de las Tres Caídas (The Procession of the Three Falls), in conjunction with religious services, brings to the memory the agony associated with Christ's journey to Calvary. Families may visit a statue or altar of Our Lady of Sorrows, a Virgin Mary with tears of anguish for her son in his last moments on earth. The Mexican American mother, in visiting the statue, demonstrates her pity for the Virgin on this anniversary day. On Easter Sunday another procession commemorates the reunion of the resurrected Christ and His mother. The burning of an effigy of Judas may also form part of the religious activities.

Funerals Rituals practiced in Spain and colonial Mexico associated with the death of family members are still observed by some Mexican American families. The body of the deceased may be dressed in special clothing (la mortaja) and remain in the family home overnight, making it possible for relatives and friends to pay respects to the departing soul. Food is generally served at the velorio (wake). On this same date in subsequent years, people who attended the velorio may reunite to affirm once again their bonds to the deceased person. On the day of burial, the family accompanies the body to the grave, frequently singing songs of a religious theme. Flowers are thrown into the grave, and the entire family generally stays at the site until the casket is completely covered. Mexican American families whose deceased members were born in Mexico may sometimes arrange for the body to be transported back to the person's town of origin. It was once customary for the spouse and certain family members to wear black clothing for varying periods and make promesas (vows) to honor the dead. This is now practiced by fewer families, and the length of time of mourning differs considerably from group to group.

Health Care Issues and Practices A majority of Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans relied on traditional medical practices to resolve health problems through the early twentieth century. Physical ailments were treated by herbs or other natural medicines or remedies. These cures, prescribed most often by mothers or grandmothers, represented the accumulated knowledge gained from personal experience or observation of others passed down from generation to generation. When relief from a specific affliction was not achieved through home remedies, individuals or families sometimes solicited the assistance of a curandero (folk curer) or other type of folk healer. In general, folk healers possessed a certain don, or God-given gift or ability, that provided them the power to restore the health of others. They might accomplish this through the use of herbs, massages, or oils, and some used cards to divine an illness or to prescribe a remedy.

Mexican Americans relied more on folk healers than on practitioners of the U.S. medical community in part because of their geographic isolation in rural areas and segregated neighborhoods, as well as because of their limited financial resources. Even those with ready access to conventional medical assistance, however, were often more confident in relying on a local curandero because of the faith their parents and grandparents had placed in these traditional curers and because of the more personal approach they employed.

As more Mexican Americans moved to large cities and integrated neighborhoods, a higher percentage of them came to depend on conventional doctors. Many had easier access to conventional facilities, medical insurance through their employers, and decreasing contact with families maintaining ties to traditional health practices. By the 1950s the majority of Mexican Americans relied on doctors and clinics of the modern medical establishment. Surveys in the 1970s and 1980s in various urban areas of California suggested that as low as 5 percent of Mexican Americans had consulted a folk healer to resolve a health problem.

Even so, the underutilization of medical services has been a pressing health problem among Mexican Americans. Causes include low disposable income, inadequate language skills, and lack of transportation. A significant deterrent for nonresidents is the fear of being identified as undocumented and facing the possibility of detainment or deportation. There are fewer public health facilities in some urban areas with a large Hispanic population. In rural areas where many Mexican Americans live, medical centers are sometimes poorly staffed and lack medical services needed to detect or cure complex ailments. For Mexican Americans whose income is at survival level, preventative health measures are a privilege too expensive to consider.

In 2010 more than a third of Mexican Americans were obese, raising their risk for certain health problems, including diabetes. According to data in 2009 from the National Institute of Health, the risk of diabetes for Mexican Americans was 87 percent higher than for non-Hispanic white adults. Among Mexican American adults twenty years of age or older, 13.3 percent had been diagnosed with diabetes in 2009. Poor eating habits contributed to this problem.

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In Langley Park, Maryland, young women wait to make their grand entrance into their quinceanera party. Thirteen young women participated in the Miss Quince Anos Celebration 012 at the Langley Park Community Center. The program features a variety of In Langley Park, Maryland, young women wait to make their grand entrance into their quinceanera party. Thirteen young women participated in the Miss Quince Anos Celebration 012 at the Langley Park Community Center. The program features a variety of self improvement workshops and culminates with a big quinceanera celebration. SARAH L. VOISIN / THE ASHINGTON POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

Hispanic Americans, including Mexican Americans, were much more likely than the average person in the United States to be diagnosed with the HIV virus. Since the 1990s higher HIV rates were also found within the migrant farm community (a considerable proportion of which is Mexican and Mexican American). Farmworkers were at higher risk of exposure to tuberculosis; in 2009 farmworkers were six times more likely to have tuberculosis the overall population of the United States.


In the mid-nineteenth century la familia, or the extended family, of Mexican Americans included aunts and uncles, as well as grandparents and even great grandparents. Beyond these direct familial ties between generations, compadres (co-parents) were most often an integral part of the family, as were adopted children and intimate friends. As close personal friends of the mother or father of a child, the padrinos (godfathers) or madrinas (godmothers) developed a special relationship with their ahijados(godchildren), a relationship that started at the child's baptism. From this point forward, in most instances, they provided emotional, financial, and other forms of assistance or advice, especially in times of family crisis. They were essential participants in events of social or religious importance to the godchild, and as much as any immediate family member, godparents contributed to strong family unity.

This system of mutual dependence and respect for elders created a close-knit family unit. Family honor and unity were of paramount significance. If problems arose for individual members, the immediate or extended family could be relied upon to resolve the issue. Important decisions were always made with consideration to the needs of the group rather than the individual. Traditional social and religious practices passed from one generation to the next virtually unchanged because they were perceived as intrinsic values to the family's cultural heritage.

While extended family households are less common today, the importance of the family as a unit and the ties between extended family members remains Page 207  |  Top of Articlestrong. Newly arrived immigrants generally continue to seek out relatives in the United States (as did the initial generations in the nineteenth century) and sometimes rely upon them for temporary residence and assistance in arranging employment, especially in rural regions.

Gender Roles In Mexican American families the husband was traditionally the principal, if not the sole, breadwinner. He made the important social and economic decisions and was the protector of the family's integrity. Wives had general control over household matters but were expected to be obedient and submissive to their husbands. Although the wife might perform work outside the household, this was usually an acceptable alternative only in cases of extreme economic duress. In such cases, her efforts were limited to a restricted number of options, almost always of a part-time nature, and did not change her subservient status within the household. This division of authority established between husband and wife was passed on to their offspring. Beginning at an early age, girls were taught distinct behavior patterns and were encouraged to adopt aspirations quite different from their brothers. Motherhood was the ideal objective of all young girls and the primary virtue of all those who achieved it.

By the turn of the twentieth century, there was a gradual shift in the pattern of male dominance and division of work by gender within Mexican American families. Economic necessity provided the initial impulse toward a more egalitarian relationship between husband and wife. In the late nineteenth century Mexican American husbands in the Southwest were frequently absent from the household for long periods of time; drovers, miners, farmworkers, and other laborers often strayed considerable distances from their families in pursuit of work, and their wives were left as authority figures. Although men almost always assumed control upon returning home, the structure of power within the family altered somewhat, and it was not uncommon for women to continue to exert a more pronounced role in decision making. As more Mexican American women moved into the full-time labor force in the early decades of the twentieth century, this trend continued, and the family became less male dominant.

Today Mexican American families exhibit a wide range of decision-making patterns, including male authoritarianism. Many studies in the 1990s and the early twenty-first century reported that both parents generally shared in the day-to-day management of the family. The mother, as before, was generally seen as the person most responsible for the domestic needs of the husband and children, but in families in which the mother had become the disciplinarian, she frequently found this role is in conflict with her traditional identity as nurturer. As in other American families, though women have taken on new roles, men still had low levels of participation in household chores, and the father often remained the ultimate authority.

Education In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the desire of low-income migrant families from Mexico to provide their children with educational opportunities was counterbalanced by more fundamental needs: the wages earned by these immigrants for their work in fields, mines, factories, or railways were often so low that families needed the additional income provided by their children to meet the basic necessities required for survival. Attendance at the primary level of instruction was high when schools were available in the predominantly rural areas where Mexican immigrants resided. But attendance in secondary schools was less common. It was often hard for parents to maintain a positive attitude about their children's education, as they would need to pull their children out of classes or at least reduce the amount of time spent in school so the children could begin working. In addition, low-income immigrant families, as well as those with greater financial stability whose children consequently had a better chance of staying in school, were dissuaded from adopting a more positive attitude toward the U.S. educational system because of the tendency of teachers and administrators to deny the existence or importance of Catholic or Hispanic traditions. In the late nineteenth century significant numbers of Mexican Americans were attracted to Catholic schools because of their religious orientation.

As more Mexican Americans moved to urban areas in the early twentieth century, the opportunities for public school education increased measurably. Segregated educational facilities were the rule, however, until the mid-twentieth century. The suits brought by enendez v. Westminster School District in Southern California and Delgado v. Bastrop Independent School District in Texas represented important steps in the 1940s toward outlawing segregation, but some school systems practiced “integration” by joining Mexican American and African American students rather than combining these minorities with other American students. The separate educational facilities provided to minority students were often poorly maintained, staffed by undertrained instructors, and provided with inadequate supplies.

As segregated facilities slowly diminished over time, Mexican Americans who entered integrated schools were often classified as learning disabled because of linguistic deficiencies or inadequate academic preparation afforded by their previous learning institutions. This factor caused many of these students to be channeled into “developmentally appropriate” classes or curricular tracks. It was only in the late 1960s that the judicial system took steps to mandate the establishment of bilingual programs in education, but many groups at national and local levels have challenged funding for these programs. The pedagogical approach adopted by the vast majority of bilingual programs has stressed rapid conversion to the use of English without regard Page 208  |  Top of Articlefor the maintenance of skills in the native languages of first- and second-generation immigrants.

According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2011, 57.8 percent of the “Mexican-origin” population twenty-five years of age and over was a high school graduate or higher, and 9.6 percent of this same age category had a bachelor's degree or more advanced degree. In 2011, 59.1 percent of women in the United States of “Mexican-origin” were high school graduates or higher, whereas 10.6 percent had continued on to complete their bachelor's or graduate degree. A UCLA study released in 2008 entitled “Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race” documented that “the educational levels of second-generation Mexican Americans improved dramatically. But the third and fourth generations failed to surpass, and to some extent fell behind, the educational level of the second generation.” The study also recognized that the educational levels of the entire Mexican American population remain below the national average. The number of Hispanics with advanced degrees remained extremely low and continued to lag behind both African Americans and non-Hispanic whites in 2010. The National Center for Education Statistics documented that in 2010, 12.9 percent of all Hispanics in the United States held master's or doctoral degrees, with well over half of them conferred to women.

By 2007 approximately 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses existed in the United States, the majority of them in New Mexico, Florida, and Texas, with Mexican Americans representing 45.8 percent of the industry.

Courtship and Weddings Teen marriages were most prevalent in Mexican American families in the first decades of the twentieth century. The premarital procedures involved in joining a couple in matrimony varied depending on the social background of the families. Until the 1920s and perhaps later in rural areas, a portador (go-between) would deliver a written proposal of marriage to the father of the would-be bride. Fathers decided on the acceptability of the suitor based on the apparent moral respectability of the young man and his family, and though the opinions of his spouse and daughter were important in the final decision about marriage, the father might often overrule the wishes of either or both of these individuals.

Except among the most traditional Mexican American families, courtship practices have changed substantially over the past few generations. Parents have far-reduced and sometimes incidental influence on the selection of marriage partners for their offspring, except in the most traditional families, but their sentiments on the issue are most always considered of significance.


Mining, agriculture, transportation, and ranching attracted the highest numbers of Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans in search of work in the United States from shortly after the mid-nineteenth century through the first decades of the twentieth century. As these sectors of the economy grew in importance, their demand for low-wage laborers multiplied, and the completion of local and transcontinental rail lines expanded the markets for ranchers and farmers in this region, prompting further demand for additional workers. Laws limiting or excluding Chinese and Japanese immigration made jobs even more abundant for others in certain regions of the western United States. For Mexican immigrants, repeated downturns in the Mexican economy and the sociopolitical turbulence from the Revolution of 1910 made “the North” an attractive location for at least temporary residence.

Although mining, ranching, and transportation employed many new immigrants, the highest percentage of foreign workers were drawn to agriculture, mostly in Texas and California but also in parts of New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. By 1930, 41 percent of the agricultural laborers in the Southwest were Mexican or Mexican American. Eight-, ten-, or twelve-hour workdays, with few if any days of rest, combined with generally high temperatures to make this work in fields or orchards extremely demanding and physically draining. Housing made available to laborers by their employers was of inferior quality. Unsanitary and confined living quarters facilitated the spread of disease. Clean drinking water was not easily accessible, and indoor plumbing was uncommon. In areas of colder climate, inadequate heating was the norm. The transitory nature of this work was difficult on immigrant families, whose children seldom had the opportunity to attend anything but makeshift schools on a temporary basis and were most often forced, for economic reasons, to begin work in the fields at a young age.

The 1930s brought severe cutbacks in hiring in agriculture and other industries because of the worldwide economic depression. High levels of unemployment nationwide made immigrant labor less needed. Those workers not of U.S. origin were deported in large numbers; more than 500,000 were forced to return to Mexico during this ten-year period. Frequently, families were separated: parents of foreign citizenship were returned to their home countries, whereas their children, if born in the United States and, thus, American citizens, sometimes remained in their country of birth with relatives or family friends, hoping for the prompt return of their parents.

Less than ten years after the first of these deportations, however, labor shortages caused by World War II—principally in agriculture—stimulated a renewed need for immigrant labor. To resolve this Page 209  |  Top of Articlematter, the governments of the United States and Mexico signed an agreement in 1942 that initiated the Bracero Program, which allocated temporary work visas to Mexican immigrants seeking farm work in the Southwest. Farmworkers, however, accused their employers of providing substandard housing and work conditions (documented in studies conducted by the Labor Department in the 1950s); agencies such as the National Council of Churches of Christ in America, the National Catholic Welfare Council, and the National Consumers League spoke out against these conditions, helping Americans become more aware of the problems.

In the decades following the 1960s, wages for Mexican and Mexican American farmworkers continued at inequitable, low levels, and living and work conditions failed to improve by any marked degree. Strikes and boycotts organized by labor leader César Chávez (1927–1993) further publicized the injustices perpetrated by many employers in this rural industry. The formation of the United Farm Workers union gave somewhat greater strength to migrant labor demands, but unfair practices by employers continued to be a source of grievance in the fields.

Beginning in the 1920s and becoming increasingly noticeable in the years after World War II, job opportunities, especially for second- and third-generation Mexican Americans, shifted away from their initial sources of employment into a wider range of occupations in other regions of the country. The Midwestern states, particularly Illinois, offered jobs in meat packing and manufacturing to Mexican Americans seeking alternatives to the transient life of field work. By 2011 only 5.1 percent of Mexican Americans were employed in agriculture, forestry, and mining. Professional and health and education services employed approximately 25 percent of Mexican Americans, while 14 percent were in accommodation and food services, and 11 percent were in manufacturing. More than 10 percent held construction and retail jobs.

The small Mexican American entrepreneurial sector—evident beginning in the second decade of the 1900s—expanded considerably after World War II. By 2007 approximately 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses existed in the United States, the majority of them in New Mexico, Florida, and Texas, with Mexican Americans representing 45.8 percent of the industry (according to a U.S. Census Bureau news release dated September 21, 2010). These businesses earned more than $345 billion annually and contributed to the growth of the Mexican American middle class.

Mexican American women entered the labor market as farmworkers, laundresses, and domestics starting in the first decades of the twentieth century. By 1930, 15 percent were employed, and of these, 45 percent worked in domestic and personal service,

A paletero sells ice cream in Los Ageles. A paletero sells ice cream in Los Ageles. MARMADUKE ST. JOHN / ALAMY

with smaller percentages in textile and food processing industries, agriculture, and sales. The proportion of Mexican American women in the labor force increased substantially in the decades that followed, reaching 21 percent by 1950 and over 57 percent by 2011. In 2011 the sectors with the highest levels of employment for Mexican American women were sales, service, and administrative support (including management and business positions) at 22 percent, followed by production and transportation jobs at 10.9 percent. Although Mexican American women were employed at approximately the same percentage as white women in 2011, their earnings were only 68 percent of this other group, reflecting an income gap that had widened by more than 10 percent since 1990.

Despite their diversification into other sectors of the economy, wages for most Mexican Americans have remained low. In 2011 more than 60 percent of Mexican American families had two wage earners, but the median family income was $39,528, considerably lower than the national average for all Americans. The median incomes for Mexican American males and females were $29,879 and $26,508, respectively.

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A Mexican migrant worker drives a tractor on a farm in Florida. A Mexican migrant worker drives a tractor on a farm in Florida. JAMES QUINE / ALAMY

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate for Mexican Americans peaked in 2010 at slightly more than 12 percent and had decreased to approximately 11.5 percent by 2011.

The U.S. recession beginning in 2007 had a negative economic impact on the Latino population in the United States, as it did on the American population in general. One of the most notable effects of the recession was the growth in the wealth gap between white households and Latino and African American households. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, in 2009 the estimated median wealth of white households was fifteen times higher than in Hispanic households—compared with seven times in 2004. In contrast, the estimated median wealth of Hispanic households was four times higher than in the African American population—a rate that remained static from 2004 to 2009. Furthermore, the reported median net worth among Hispanic households fell 66 percent from 2005 to 2009. Much of the job loss within the Hispanic community during the recession was in the construction, domestic service, and public service sectors. As President Obama indicated in a speech given to the National Council of La Raza in July 2011, hundreds of thousands of construction workers, many of whom were Latinos and Mexican Americans, lost their jobs after the housing bubble burst.


Political participation by Mexican Americans has historically been limited by discrimination. In the Southwest before 1910, small numbers of Mexican Americans held offices in territorial and state legislatures in California, Colorado, and New Mexico. However, they were usually handpicked by the white American community of these regions. In other cases, American businessmen who controlled the railroads, mines, and large ranches dominated the state and local politics of the Southwest. During the first decades of the twentieth century—to insure white American political control—various discriminatory policies were used to keep voting by Mexican Americans to a minimum. These policies included the poll tax, literacy tests, all-white primaries, and coercion. In this atmosphere it is not surprising that few Mexican Americans voted.

During the early part of the twentieth century, while political participation of Mexican Americans was limited, they formed protective organizations—mutualistas (mutual aid societies)—which were quite similar to those that developed among European immigrant groups. Members of these organizations found that by pooling their resources they could provide each other with funeral and insurance benefits, as well as other forms of assistance. For example, the Lázaro Cardenas Society was formed in Los Angeles soon after World War I to improve municipal facilities available to Mexican Americans. By the 1920s it became evident to Mexican Americans that if their interests were to be protected, political power was essential.

However, even as Mexican Americans began to adapt to the political and social traditions of the United States, they were still viewed as “foreigners” by the larger society. Thus, they set out to demonstrate that they were true Americans, which was reflected in the goals of organizations formed in the early twentieth century. The Orden Hijos de América (Order of the Sons of America; OSA), established in 1921 in San Antonio by members of a small emerging middle class, restricted its goals to that of “training members for citizenship.” Membership was consequently limited to “citizens of the United States of Mexican or Spanish extraction.” Thus, as an organization consisting of upwardly mobile individuals, OSA attempted to demonstrate to the larger community that they were people to be respected.

World War II would prove to be a turning point in the bid by Mexican Americans for expanded political participation. Mexican Americans who served in the armed services faced discriminatory treatment by other servicemen, but the needs of the industrial wartime economy drew many Mexican Americans into the nation's urban centers seeking employment, thus fostering a greater participation in larger society. In essence, their participation in the war effort at home and abroad served as a unifying force, setting the stage for political activism.

The discriminatory treatment frequently experienced by Mexican American veterans of World War II during and after the war led to the creation of the American G.I. Forum (AGIF), a Congressionally chartered Hispanic veterans and civil rights organization. Founded in 1948 by Dr. Hector P. Garcia in Corpus Christi, Texas, AGIF advocated for World War II veterans of Mexican origin who were denied medical services and veteran's benefits by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The organization gained national recognition in 1948 when it advocated for Mexican American serviceman Felix Longoria, whose family was denied funeral services for him after he was killed in action during Page 211  |  Top of ArticleWorld War II. At that time, AGIF was the only veterans group to which Mexican American veterans had access, since they were excluded from other organizations on the basis of race. AGIF is generally regarded as one of the early political groups that initiated the struggle for Chicano civil rights, laying the foundation for the emergence of the Chicano movement in the late 1960s. Soon after AGIF was founded, it expanded its scope to address wider issues within the Mexican American community, including jury selection, voting rights, and educational segregation. In the early twenty-first century the organization continued to advocate strongly for veterans, having expanded its representation to include all Hispanics.

The political activism of this period is also exemplified by the actions of the Community Service Organization (CSO). It was founded in 1947 to promote social change within the Mexican American communities of Los Angeles. The founding members set out to improve social conditions by promoting participation in the political process. The CSO was determined to elect people responsive to the needs of the Mexican American community. Through the efforts of the CSO, Edward Roybal, one of the founders of the CSO, was elected to the Los Angeles City Council in 1949, the first Latino to do so since the nineteenth century. Other important early political groups in the community included the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) and the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (PASSO).

Created in 1960, MAPA was one of the first organizations to clearly articulate ethnic political goals. According to the MAPA Fourth Annual Convention program, “An organization was needed that would be proudly Mexican American, openly political, and necessarily bipartisan.” MAPA helped elect several Mexican Americans to office. PASSO, created a few years earlier in Texas, also organized to lobby for Mexican American interests. Both organizations carried out voter education and registration drives; however, they were primarily oriented toward winning concessions for Mexican Americans at the party level.

In the 1970s, unhappy with both the Democratic and Republican parties, some Mexican Americans opted for an entirely different political strategy. They set out to create an alternative political party—La Raza Unida (LRU). Established in Texas in 1970, the LRU had remarkable successes. Most notable were the party's achievements in Crystal City, Texas, a community of approximately 10,000 where LRU candidates won control of the city council and the school board. These newly elected officials, in turn, hired more Mexican American teachers, staff, and administrators. They also instituted bilingual programs and added Mexican American history to the school curriculum. The newly elected officials made changes throughout the city government, including the police department, to rectify years of neglect by city officials.

The LRU then sent organizers throughout the Southwest in efforts to duplicate their success. LRU candidates were placed on many local and statewide ballots, but they were unable to generate the type of support that led to the victories in Crystal City. After the mid-1970s the LRU rapidly declined; internal ideological splintering and personality conflicts played a part, but harassment and repression of the party was the most significant force.

National attention during this period was focused on the actions of La Alianza Federal de Mercedes Federal Alliance of Land Grants) and the United Farmworkers of America (UFW). Reies López Tijerina and the members of La Alianza demanded the return of stolen lands to the indigenous peoples of northern New Mexico. In 1966 La Alianza occupied a part of the Kit Carson National Forest in New Mexico. Arrested for trespassing, Tijerina spent the next few years awaiting trial. In 1975 the land dispute was partially resolved when about a thousand acres of the forest were transferred to 75 Mexican American families.

The organizing efforts of César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, and the UFW brought the plight of the farm-worker to national attention and served as a mobilizing force for many Americans of all walks of life. The UFW's first success was the grape boycott beginning in 1965, which carried the struggle of the farmworkers into the households of many Americans. With the refusal to buy table grapes by many Americans, the UFW was able to negotiate its first union contract with California growers (the first union contract in the history of California farm labor). During the late 1980s the UFW began addressing the issue of pesticide use in agricultural production.

From the Mexican American communities of Denver, Colorado, emerged the Crusade for Justice, founded by Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales in 1966. This organization was primarily concerned with civil rights issues of urban Mexican Americans; however, it was also one of the first groups to advocate and promote issues of cultural diversity. In 1969 and 1970 the Crusade for Justice was instrumental in organizing a series of Chicano youth liberation conferences, bringing together hundreds of young Chicanos from throughout the nation and generating a series of discussions concerning the question of ethnic identity.

By the late 1960s high school and college students were calling for social change within the educational system. The high school “blowouts” of East Los Angeles in 1968 galvanized student discontent. Chicano high school students walked out of their classes in mass, demanding quality education and local community control of their schools. In several other communities students staged similar events. High school students abandoned their classes in Riverside, California; Denver; Crystal City; San Antonio;

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Mariachi musicians go from house to house to encourage people to vote on election day at the Sun Valley's Latino district, Los Angeles County, on November 6, 2012 in California. Mariachi musicians go from house to house to encourage people to vote on election day at the Sun Valley's Latino district, Los Angeles County, on November 6, 2012 in California. JOE KLAMAR / FP / GETTY IMAGES

and several other cities with high concentrations of Mexican Americans. College students also mobilized. In the Los Angeles area, college students came together to support high school walkouts and the students' demands for a quality education. Throughout the Southwest, college students were instrumental in establishing the first Chicano studies programs and educational opportunities programs on many college campuses.

Mexican Americans have traditionally voted Democratic, especially at the presidential level. According to the 2006 Latino National Survey, 46 percent of Hispanics identified themselves as Democrats, 16 percent as Republican, and 38 percent as belonging to independent parties or having no political affiliation. Mexican American voters have followed the voting patterns of the general Latino population. In 2012, for example, 78 percent of Mexican Americans and 75 percent of all Hispanics voted democratic in the presidential election. Mexican Americans have played a significant role in several historic elections. In 1960 John F. Kennedy won an estimated 85 percent of the Mexican American vote, which allowed him to win the states of New Mexico and Texas. To insure Kennedy's victory, “Viva Kennedy” clubs were formed throughout the Southwest, promoting voter education and registration drives. In 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson won an estimated 90 percent of the Mexican American vote, and in 1968 Herbert Humphrey won 87 percent.

Several factors have worked against the political participation of Mexican Americans. A large segment of the population is ineligible to vote because they are not citizens. Even among those eligible to vote, the turnout of 47.6 percent (for all Hispanics) in the 2008 elections was nearly 20 percent lower than for non-Hispanics. Lower socioeconomic status also serves as an obstacle for many Mexican Americans. The educational attainment of Mexican Americans is still far below the general population, and the poverty rate is much higher for Mexican Americans than for the general population. Thus, many Mexican Americans have not had the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to participate fully in the voting process.

While the percentage of Mexican American elected officials is not representative of their total U.S. population, significant changes have taken place since the mid-1960s. The number of state legislators in 1950 with Spanish surnames totaled 20. By the late 1980s the number had increased to 90. The 2011 Directory of Latino Elected Officials listed 5,850 Latino elected officials nationwide; the states with the largest number of elected Hispanic officials (the majority of Mexican origin) were Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. The increase in Mexican American officials is due in part to the Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964) to the U.S. Constitution, which banned the poll tax (a fee for voting); also notable was the elimination of the English-only literacy requirements for voting in some states. A change in political districts following the 1980 census (creating districts with a higher percentage of Hispanics), as well as a substantial growth in the Mexican American population, have also contributed to the rise in the number of Mexican American elected officials.

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Mexican Americans have made significant and lasting contributions to virtually every element of American culture and society. The following individuals represent merely a sample of this growing community's achievements.

Business Born to undocumented Mexican parents in Miami, Arizona, Romana Acosta Bañuelos (1925–) was deported at the age six during the Repatriation Program of the 1930s. After returning to the United States at age nineteen, she converted a small tortilla factory into Romana's Mexican Food Products, a multimillion-dollar firm. In 1971 she became the first Mexican American to serve as treasurer of the United States. Hector V. Barreto (1961–) became the twenty-first administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2001 after George W. Bush nominated him to the post. He served in this position until 2006.

Education Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, George I. Sánchez (1906–1972) directed his energies toward improving the quality of education available to Mexican Americans, as well as defending their civil rights. Forgotten People: A Study of New Mexico (1940), one of his many publications, revealed the inadequacies of the educational system for Mexican Americans in his home state. Sánchez served as president of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens) and, in 1956, founded the American Council of Spanish-Speaking People, a civil rights organization. Alicia Gaspar de Alba (1958–), a Chicana scholar, writer, and cultural critic, is a prominent figure in the study of Chicano culture, art, and sexuality (Desert Blood: The Juarez Murders, 2005, among others). In 1991 Gaspar de Alba became one of six faculty members who founded the César Chávez Center for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. David Gutierrez is professor of Chicano history at the University of California, San Diego, beginning in 2004 and the author of the acclaimed book Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants and the Politics of Ethnicity (1995).

Film, Television, and Theater Mexican American dancer and choreographer José Arcadia Limón (1908–1972) was a pioneer of modern dance and choreography. Edward James Olmos (1947–) received critical acclaim for his portrayal of the pachuco in the stage and film version of Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit (1981) and for his role as Jaime Escalante in the film Stand and Deliver (1988). In addition to his appearances in other movies of merit, Olmos starred in Miami Vice, a popular television series of the 1980s. Paul Rodríguez (1955–), who has worked on a number of television series and movies, is perhaps the most popular and widely recognized comedian of Mexican descent in the United States. The head of his own company, Paul Rodríguez Productions, he released his first comedy album in 1986 entitled You're in America Now, Speak Spanish. The son of Mexican migrant farmworkers, Luis Valdez (1940–) is the founding director of the Teatro Campesino, an acting troupe that was originally organized to dramatize the oppressive existence of the migrant worker. In addition to directing the stage and film version of Zoot Suit, he wrote and directed the 1987 film La Bamba, about the Mexican American rock star Ritchie Valens. Guadalupe “Lupe” Ontiveros (1942–2012) was a film, television, and theater actress recognized for her roles in Selena, Desperate Housewives, and Real Women Have Curves. She also played Dolores in Luis Valdez's historic play Zoot Suit in 1978 and went on to perform the role in the Broadway and film versions. Salma Hayek (1966–), a Mexican American film actress, director, and producer, was born in Veracruz, Mexico, and began her career in Mexico as a telenovela actress. She received a Golden Globe, an Academy Award, and a Screen Actor's Guild Award for her performance as artist Frida Kahlo in the 2002 film Frida Kahlo. Eva Longoria, (1975–), a celebrated American television and film actress of Mexican descent, earned numerous accolades for her performance as Gabrielle Soulis in the long-running television series Desperate Housewives. Longoria was recognized several times by People magazine as one of the most beautiful people, and she made the top spot on Forbes magazine's list of the highest-paid television actresses for 2011.

Folklore Born in Brownsville, Texas, Americo Paredes (1915–1999) achieved national and international recognition for his research and scholarship in the area of folklore and Mexican American popular culture and served as president of the American Folklore Society. Among his many noteworthy publications are With His Pistol in His Hand (1958), Folktales in Mexico (1970), and A Texas Mexican Cancionero (1976).

Labor César Chávez (1927–1993) was born in Yuma, Arizona, to a family of farmworkers. Chávez attended more than thirty schools as a youth because of the mobile pattern of existence of migrant agriculture. In 1962, after working as a community organizer in the CSO, he moved to Delano, California, and soon cofounded and became the head of the United Farm Workers. From the mid-1960s until his death, Chavez dedicated his life to improving the living conditions, wages, and bargaining power of Mexican and Mexican American farmworkers by means of organized work stoppages, demonstrations, hunger strikes, and boycotts. Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta (1930–) was a civil rights activist and labor leader who cofounded the United Farm Workers alongside Chávez. Huerta received many awards recognizing her advocacy on behalf of women, workers, and immigrants, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States Presidential Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights, and the Eugene V. Debs Foundation Outstanding American Award.

Literature Lucha Corpi (1945–) was a notable poet and novelist whose works often address the Page 214  |  Top of Articlestruggles of women in contemporary society. She gained popularity among readers with her Gloria Damasco series of mystery novels but also published lesser-known works, including the 1989 Delia's Song. Rolando Hinojosa (1929–) was one of the first Chicano writers to achieve national as well as international fame. His Estampas del valle y otras obras: Sketches of the Valley and Other Works, a series of “sketches” that portray Mexican American life in a fictional town in Texas, won the Premio Quinto Sol for Chicano literature. Another of his works on the same theme, Klail City y sus alrededores, won the prestigious international award, Premio Casa de las Americas, in 1976. Born in Linares, Mexico, literary critic Luis Leal (1907–2010) was a highly esteemed, productive scholar of Latin American and Chicano literature. In addition to teaching at numerous universities, he wrote and edited more than sixteen books. Leal was honored by the National Association for Chicano Studies in 1988, as well as a recipient of the National Humanities Medal. Chicana novelist, poet, and essayist Ana Castillo (1953–) is the author of the acclaimed novels So Far From God (1993) and The Guardian (2007), as well as her collection of poetry I Ask the Impossible (2000). Sandra Cisneros (1954–), one of the most widely read Chicana authors in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, was nationally recognized for her novel House on Mango Street (1984)—which became required reading in schools nationwide—and her later short story collection Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991). Lorna Dee Cervantes (1954–) was one of the most prominent Chicana poets in the late twentieth century. Of Mexican and Native American (Chumash) origin, Dee Cervantes authored the award-winning poetry collection Emplumada (1981; American Book Award) and her more recent Ciento: 100 100-Word Love Poems 2011). Jimmy Santiago Baca (1952–), a celebrated Chicano poet from New Mexico, earned numerous awards for his poetry, including the American Book Award, the International Award, and the International Hispanic Heritage Award. Baca's best-known works are Immigrants in Our Own Land (1990)—a semiautobiographical epic poem—and Martin and Meditations on the South Valley (1987). In 2004 Baca founded a nonprofit organization, Cedar Tree, Inc., to fund the numerous writing workshops with children and adults that he organizes across the country, primarily among marginalized communities, including prisoners and at-risk youth.

Music Ritchie Valens (1941–1959) was a celebrated Mexican American singer, guitarist, and songwriter whose career was tragically cut short when he died in a small-plane crash in Iowa only eight months after his recording career had begun. Upon his untimely death, Valens was already a recognized pioneer in rock and roll and was regarded as one of the forefathers of Chicano rock. Valens' most famous hit was “La Bamba,” which topped the record charts in 1958. Eduardo Mata (1942–1995) is among the most respected conductors in the world. The former director and conductor emeritus of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, he was awarded the White House Hispanic Heritage Award in 1991. Singer and musician Lydia Mendoza (1916–2007), through her many recordings, was the first interpreter of rural popular Tejano and border music to acquire star status. Grammy award-winning Tejano singer and entertainer Selena Quintanilla Perez (1971–1995), best known as Selena, had achieved international fame at the time of her murder in April 1995. Dolores Janney Rivera (1969–2012), a.k.a. Jenni Rivera, was a singer-songwriter of banda and norteña music, as well as an actress, television producer, and entrepreneur who was dearly loved by the Mexican American community. Carlos Augusto Alves Santana (1947–) is an award-winning guitarist and singer who gained fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band Santana. Known for his fusion of rock and Latin American music, Santana has won ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards.

Politics After her election as a state assembly-woman in California in 1982, Gloria Molina (1948–) was voted into the Los Angeles City Council in 1987. In 1991 she was elected to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, thus becoming the first Hispanic in California to be selected by voters to serve at these three levels of government. Hilda Lucia Solis (1957–) served as the twenty-fifth United States Secretary of Labor during President Barack Obama's first presidential term. A member of the Democratic Party, Solis served in the United States House of Representatives from 2001 to 2009, and in 2000 she became the first female recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Born in Mexico City, Republican politician Rosario Marin (1958–) served as Treasury Secretary from 2001 to 2003 under George W. Bush, becoming the highest-ranking Latina in his administration. In 2005 Alberto R. Gonzales (1955–) became the first Hispanic United States Attorney General after his appointment by President George W. Bush, making him the highest-ranking Hispanic to work in the executive branch.

Religion The first Mexican American to be named as a bishop of the Catholic Church in the United States, Patrick F. Flores (1929–) worked in the diocese of Galveston-Houston and became the director of the Bishop's Committee for the Spanish-Speaking. He was a strong defender of the civil rights of Hispanics in the United States for more than four decades and won many honors for these efforts, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1986. Virgilio Elizondo was a Roman Catholic priest and theologian who taught Pastoral and Hispanic theology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He is a major theologian in liberation theology and Hispanic theology. In 2007 Elizondo was named the corecipient of the 2007 Community of Christ International Peace Award along with Dolores Huerta.

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Science A renowned physicist and educator, Mexican American Alberto Vinicio Baez (1912–2007) and his co-researcher, Paul Kirkpatrick, developed the Kirkpatrick-Baez Lamar x-ray telescope, which was later approved for flight on the Freedom Space Station. A pioneer in x-ray radiation, optics, and microscopy, Baez also made noteworthy achievements in the field of environmental education; he served as chairman of the Committee on Teaching Sciences of the International Council of Science Unions and as chairman emeritus of Community Education, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, in Glantz, Switzerland. Chemist Mario Molina (1943–) earned national prominence by theorizing, with fellow chemist F. Sherwood Rowland, that chlorofluorocarbons deplete the Earth's ozone layer. Elsa Salazar Cade (1952–) was an award-winning Mexican American science teacher and entomologist.


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El Chicano

William Harrison, Publisher
P.O. Box 110
Colton, California 92324
Phone: (909) 381-9898
Fax: (909) 384-0406

El Mundo

Subsidiary of the Oakland Post newspaper.

William Fonsea, Editor
P.O. Box 405
Oakland, California 94612
Phone: (510) 287-8200
Fax: (510) 287-8247

Mexican American Sun

Dolores Sanchez, Editor-in-Chief
111 S. Avenue 59
Los Angeles, California 90042
Phone: (323) 341-7970
Fax: (323) 341-7976

Saludos Hispanos Magazine

Rosemarie Garcia-Solomon, Managing Editor
31938 Temecula Parkway
Temecula, California 92592
Phone: (323) 726-2188


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Radio Latina (104.5 FM)

Southern California radio station that broadcasts in Spanish across San Diego and Tijuana.

2403 Hoover Avenue
National City, California 91950
Phone: (619) 336-7800


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Telemundo Media

National Spanish-language cable network with nationwide and local programming across the country.

Emilio Romano, President
2340 West 8th Avenue
Hialeah, Florida 33010
Phone: (305) 884-8200

Univision Communications, Inc.

National media company that owns and operates the Spanish-language broadcast networks Univision Network and UniMás, as well as the Spanish-language cable network Galavisión.

Randy Falco, President and Chief Executive Officer
605 Third Avenue
New York, New York 10158-0180
Phone: (212) 455-5331
Fax: (212) 867-6710
URL: http:///


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Mexican American Legal Defense nd Education Fund

Founded in San Antonio in 1968 in response to a historical pattern of discrimination against Mexican Americans. Through litigation and community education, it protects and promotes the rights f Latinos in the United States in the areas of employment, education, immigration, political access, and language.

Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel
634 South Spring Street
11th Floor
Los Angeles, California 90014
Phone: (213) 629-2512
Fax: (213) 629-0266

National Association for Chicano and Chicana Studies

Founded in 1971, with membership consisting of college professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and others whose professional or personal interests Page 216  |  Top of Articlecenter on sociological, historical, political, or literary themes or concerns pertaining to Mexican Americans. It sponsors an annual conference and publishes selected proceedings.

Julia E. Curry Rodriguez, Executive Director
P.O. Box 720052
San Jose, California 95972-0052
Phone: (408) 924-5310
Fax: (408) 920-0711

National Council of La Raza

The nation's largest constituency-based Hispanic organization. Its goal is to reduce poverty and discrimination and improve life opportunities for all Hispanics nationally. Nearly 200 formal affiliates serve 37 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.

Janet Murguía, President and CEO
1126 16th Street NW
Suite 600
Washington, D.C. 20036-4845
Phone: (202) 785-1670
Fax: (202) 776-1792

Southwest Voter Registration Education Project

Founded in 1975. Conducts nonpartisan voter registration drives, compiles research on Hispanic and Native American voting patterns, and works to eliminate gerrymandered voting districts. It publishes National Hispanic Voter Registration Campaign.

Antonio Gonzalez, President
1426 El Paso Street
Suite B
San Antonio, Texas 78207
Phone: (800) 404-VOTE; or (210) 223-2918
Fax: (210) 922-7095


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Chicano Studies Institute

Part of the University of California, Santa Barbara, the institute supports and conducts research on historical and contemporary issues related to the Mexican-origin population of the United tates. It also encourages and facilitates academic investigations and training of minority students and sponsors events that increase public awareness and appreciation of Mexican and Mexican American culture.

Laura Romero, Director
Room 4518
South Hall
UC Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California 93106-6040
Phone: (805) 893-3895
Fax: (805) 893-4446

Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS)

Part of the University of Texas at Austin. The center provides financial and technical support for research by faculty and graduate students and offers courses as part of the Ethnic Studies curriculum of the College of Liberal Arts.

Domino Renee Perez, Director
F 9200
Austin, Texas 78712
Phone: (512) 471-4557
Fax: (512) 471-9639

Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC)

Part of the University of California, Los Angeles. The center promotes the study of people of Mexican descent and other Latinos in the United States. It publishes Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies.

Chon A. Noriega, Director
193 Haines Hall
Los Angeles, California 90095-1544
Phone: (310) 825-2363
Fax: (310) 206-1784

Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center

Latino arts and cultural institution sponsoring instructional programming and presentations.

Patty Ortiz, Executive Director
1300 Guadalupe Street
San Antonio, Texas 78207
Phone: (210) 271-3151

Mexic-Arte Museum

An arts museum founded by Sylvia Orozco in 1983. It exhibits include work of Mexican artists, re-Cortez artifacts, and photographs of the Mexican Revolution.

Sylvia Orozco, Executive Director
419 Congress Avenue
Austin, Texas 78701
Phone: (512) 480-9373

Mexican Museum

Pre-Hispanic, colonial, folk, Mexican, and Mexican American fine arts. The museum includes a permanent collection as well as temporary exhibits.

David J. de la Torre, Director
Fort Mason Center
Building D
Laguna and Marina Boulevard,
San Francisco, California 94123
Phone: (415) 202-9700

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National Museum of Mexican Art

Founded in 1987, it houses one of the country's largest Mexican art collections, including more than 7,000 works of art from Mexico. It is the only Latino museum in the United States that is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The museum also hosts presentations of current and past Mexican literary works.

Carlos Tortelero, President
1852 West 19th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60608
Phone: (312) 738-1503

Plaza de La Raza

Offers instruction in theater, dance, music, and visual and communication arts. Its exhibits include Mexican American folk art of the surrounding region.

Maria Jimenez-Torres, Interim Executive Director
3540 North Mission Road
Los Angeles, California 90031
Phone: (323) 223-2475
Fax: (323) 223-1804

Southwest Hispanic Research Institute/Chicano Studies

Part of University of New Mexico. Established in 1980, the institute coordinates and conducts investigations of interdisciplinary scope. The Visiting Scholars Program, funded by Rockefeller Foundation, provides economic support to scholarly research of regional focus. The institute also sponsors a colloquium series that allows faculty to present findings of research to the academic and local community.

Christine M. Sierra, Director
1829 Sigma Chi Road NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131
Phone: (505) 277-2965
Fax: (505) 212-0342


Chambram-Dernersesian, Angie, ed. The Chicano/a Cultural Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Gutiérrez, David G., ed. Between Two Worlds: Mexican Immigrants in the United States. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1996.

———. Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Jimenez, Tomas. Replenished Ethnicity: Mexican Americans, Immigration, and Identity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.

Limon, Jose. American Encounters: Greater Mexico, the United States, and the Erotics of Culture. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998.

Meier, Matt S., and Feliciano Rivera. Mexican Americans/American Mexicans. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993.

Orozco, Cynthia. No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009.

Saldívar-Hull, Sonia. Feminism on the Border: Chicana Gender Politics and Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Vargas, Zaragoza. Crucible of Struggle: A History of Mexican Americans from Colonial Times to the Present Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Vento, Arnoldo Carlos. Mestizo: The History, Culture, and Politics of the Mexican and the Chicano: The Emerging Mestizo-Americans. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1997.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3273300123