Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the 20th Century

Mexicans and MexicanAmericans in the 20th Century
From Migrant Laborers to Permanent
Aliens and Citizens
Please Turn off your Cell Phones
Former New Mexico Governor
Bill Richardson says,
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Central Analytical Questions
• Why after 1900 did
Mexicans dramatically
increase their bordercrossing activities to the
United States?
• How did U.S. immigration
policies affect Mexican
border-crossing activities?
• What were the long term
effects of a permanent and
growing Mexican
population in the U.S.?
Southern Arizona Dessert
How did U.S. immigration policies
influence Mexican border-crossing?
• Prior to 1917, U.S. immigration officials were not
primarily concerned about Mexican migration at the
southern border
• Why not? Because they were more concerned about illegal
Chinese immigration due to Chinese Exclusion
• Immigration Act of 1917 put restrictions on all immigrants
 Literacy Tests
 Medical Exams
 Head Tax
 Public Charge Evaluations
 But exempted Mexicans until 1921
How did U.S. immigration policies
influence Mexican border-crossing?
After 1921, Mexicans experience new
procedures at El Paso border
 Procedures relate to Medical
• Fumigation, delousing, and
• Medical exam involves placement
in a special room
• 1st Class and Second Class
migrants were separated-only
second class examined
• Some migrants were forced to
bathe, their clothes washed and
• Literacy tests also only applied to
second class travelers
• Head tax was $8.00
Border Inspection, 1924
How did U.S. immigration policies
influence Mexican border-crossing?
• Immigration Act of 1921
 Established first quota on number of people eligible to immigrate
to the U.S. from the Eastern Hemisphere
 Did not apply to Western Hemisphere immigration
How did U.S. immigration policies
influence Mexican border-crossing?
• Immigration Act of 1924 (The National Origins Act)
Toughened quota on Eastern Hemisphere
Tougher quota does not apply to Western Hemisphere
Adds a $10 fee to secure a visa prior to departure
Adds first border patrol, which only operates at Ports of entry
But it is first effort by US to rigorously police its border
• Impact of 1924 law
 Higher fees reduce legal immigration by nearly 60%, from 90K per year at
El Paso to 32K
 Tougher policing at Ports of Entry reduced the frequency with which
migrants practiced a cyclical movement, thus helping to foster permanent
 This was an unintended consequence of the new law
General Features of the Migration
• In the 20th century, Mexicans became immigrants to the United States
• By the end of the century, Mexicans became the newest and largest
immigrant group in American history
• Generally, their migration included three types of persons:
 The temporary worker or bracero
 The legal immigrant
 The undocumented or “illegal” immigrant
• About these three groups were can note they migrate in very large
numbers and have low rates of naturalization and high return rates (est.
• The typical immigrant was male (>90%), a young male, a married
male, or a male with a large family
Why after 1900 did Mexicans dramatically increase
their border-crossing activities to the United States?
• Push and Pull Factors
 Push: those variables which occur within the
country of origin that drive people from their
 Pull: those variables which occur within the
receiving country that draw people to this place
and not some other place
Why after 1900 did Mexicans dramatically increase
their border-crossing activities to the United States?
• Push Factors
 Unsettled economic conditions
• Population movement to cities followed a growing rural crisis:
land monopolization led to a decline in the independent
• Tenant farming and sharecropping followed but led to greater
economic debt and rebellion
• Mexicans began migrating to escape starvation:. 25K to US
1900 to 1910
 Revolution in 1910
• Between 1910 and 1920, 170K migrate
• Between 1920 and 1930, 500k migrate
Why after 1900 did Mexicans dramatically increase
their border-crossing activities to the United States?
• Push Factors
 Dramatic population growth between 1950-1980
• Mexican version of baby boom
• Mexico's population increased from 30M to 70M
 Collapse of oil prices in the 1980s
• Devastated Mexican economy
• Made an already bad situation of high poverty and
unemployment even worse
 NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement (1993-Present)
• Devastating Mexican Industrial and Agricultural producers
(see next slide)
• Causes massive new movements of farmers to urban areas in
Mexico and to US
NAFTA’s Impact on Mexico
Why after 1900 did Mexicans dramatically increase
their border-crossing activities to the United States?
Pull Factors
 Economic opportunity related to dramatic expansion of the Southwestern
 A rapid expansion occurred because of Federal intervention throughout
• Newlands Act (The National Reclamation Act of 1902)
• Ensured an adequate water supply for the arid region
• Water made for a tremendous agricultural expansion in the Southwest
 California's Imperial/San Joaquin valleys:fruit/vegetable in
Lower Rio Grande Valley: Cotton Salt River Valley, Arizona:
Cotton in Michigan, Minnesota, and Colorado sugar beet fields
• Public lands policy: Made available to private interests
Why after 1900 did Mexicans dramatically increase
their border-crossing activities to the United States?
Pull Factors
 State supported labor recruitment: bracero program
• A temporary contract labor system used for agricultural workers
 Lasted from 1942-1967
 4M Mexicans are temporary employees
 During War never more than 63K employed
 Peak years were mid-1950s when >400K employed
 By 1967, <8K employed
 Conducted by treaty with Mexico
 Government paid transport, medical care, and guaranteed the
prevailing wage
 Workers had contracts, savings accounts, and the protection of
the Government of Mexico
 Emergence of the “Fast Food Nation” and growth of service sector since
Why after 1900 did Mexicans dramatically increase
their border-crossing activities to the United States?
Pull Factors
 Fast-Food Nation, a closer look shows the relationship of union-breaking
with use of low-paid immigrant workers
• McDonald(ization) of work
 30K restaurants world wide today
 1M hires per year
 Nation’s largest purchaser of beef, pork, and potatoes; 2nd largest purchaser of
 World’s largest owner retail property
 World’s biggest advertiser
 Employs 3.5M (mostly young people, but includes 1M migrants), making
America’s largest low wage force
• Food Supply Industry
 Beef: Regulated until 1970, then Reagan era deregulation produced Oligopoly in
which four firms control 84% of market (Conasia, IBP, Excel, and National Beef)
 Chicken: In 2000, 8 chicken processors control 66% of market, mostly in south
 These industries employ largely illiterate Mexican undocumented workers and
operate with a 100% turnover rate, pay a flat $9 per hour, without other benefits,
and have a 33% injury rate because of ever increasing throughput practices
Consequences of Push and Pull: 1900-1930
Migration created expanded Mexican colonies North of the border: A major
demographic achievement
 Between 1900 and 1930, 1.5M Mexicans migrated North, about 10% of the Total
Mexican population
 Key border crossing: At El Paso-Juarez crossing, recently connected by railroad to the
Sonora interior
• 60% of migrants to Los Angeles come from or through El Paso
Mexicans became an urban phenomena, despite deportations
Three major cities with major Mexican populations generated
 Los Angeles, Ca.
• Sonora Town replaced by East Los Angeles (but not a barrio, Mexicans live in mixed
communities on East Side such as Boyle Heights and Belvedere (30K)
• Mexican Population in L.A.
1900 = 5% of pop. (5K)
1930 = 20% of pop. (208K)
1990 = Nearly 1M Mexican Americans in LA
 San Antonio, Tx.
• 41,500 in 1920
 El Paso, Tx.
• 40,000 in 1920
Consequences of Push and Pull: 1900-1930
Rise of permanent residence produced attendant adaptations in family,
religious practices, entertainment, and consumer behavior, in short a new
collective identity
 Patronize Mexican businesses
 Attend religious services hence Maintain Spanish language persistence. Attend
religious festivals celebrate Mexican holidays
 They have their own radio stations to listen to news from Mexico
 Site of continuous migration
 Not a site for segregation by race, but housing conditions were poor, disease and
infant mortality were higher
 Hence distinctive communities within 200 miles of the Mexican border, its
proximity plays a key role in influencing identity so long as Spanish language and
customs flourish
 Site for an acculturation process.
• Mexicans adopt some Anglo sports: Baseball, Basketball in city schools
Consequences of Push and Pull:
Contemporary Moment
Mexican became the largest sending nation in the world
 Immigration Act of 1965 created a special treatment for Mexico and Canada
• They were allowed to send 40K immigrants to US per year compared to 20K per other
• If Canada sends less than 40K per year, Mexico gets the difference
 After 1965, on average Mexican sent more immigrants to U.S. than all the
rest of Latin America combined
 In the 1970s, more than 600K to U.S.
 In the 1980s, more than 700K to U.S.
 The U.S. also took in over 400K in amnesty of illegal immigrants
 That means in the 1980s, more than 1M Mexicans to U.S.
 According to the 1990 Census, one out of five immigrants living in the
United States was Mexican-born
 An even with all this migration, Mexico still had a backlog of requests to
migrate to the U.S. of over 300K by the 1980s
Consequences of Push and Pull:
Contemporary Moment
Mexican became the largest sending nation in the world
 Heavy migration added dramatically to the diversity of American society
 Spanish speaking became America's number two language in 1970
• An estimated 35% of Mexican households spoke Spanish at home according to a 1976
• In 2003, Latinos became the country's largest minority group, at 42.7
million (66% Mexican), and as the fastest-growing segment of the
population, with a 3.3% growth rate
• Census Bureau data show Latino population growth is driven more by
births than by immigration
 Following 1990 economic depression in California, immigrants
began to spread out across the U.S.
Density of Latino/as 1980
Percentage of Latino/as In
the United States, 1990
Latinos Percentage Change by State,
Death on the Border: Contemporary
Risks of Border Crossing
Rise of the Devil’s Highway
since 2000
 Efforts to tighten security at
the border have resulted in
countless personal tragedies
 Below, body bags overflow
an Arizona public morgue
Border Crossing Deaths
Fencing Out the Mexicans?
• Under the Clinton and
Bush Administrations,
Congress has funded
beefed up security at the
Mexican border
• New security includes
more border patrol,
motion sensors, satellite
imaging, and construction
of a wall under “Operation
Virtual Fence
The "virtual fence" pilot project (Photo By David Sanders, AP)
• The pilot virtual fence
included 9 mobile
towers, radar, cameras,
and vehicles retrofitted
with laptops and
satellite phones or
handheld devices
• They were to be linked
to a near-real-time,
map-like projection of
the frontier agents could
use to track targets and
direct law enforcement
Summary on Recent Immigration
• Given the push and pull
factors shaping Mexican
immigration to the U.S., it
is doubtful the US will
succeed in stopping the
flow of workers
• Neither US, nor Mexican
gov’t have incentive to
control the migration
 Mexico’s 2nd largest source
of foreign exchange comes
from the $6B Mexicans
send home from the US
 American labor needs have
always trumped restriction
Gold Mine at El Paso, Texas,
where 200 Mexican miners
once worked
What were the long term effects of a permanent and
growing Mexican population in the U.S.?
• Options for the Mexican American Community
 Los Angeles: A Case Study
• Heavy Mexican immigration in 1920s produced two social
 By White L.A., which demanded assimilation
 By the L.A. Mexican Consulate, which promoted Mexican
• Deportation disrupted L.A. Mexican community in 1930s
• Not until late 1930s and 1940s that L.A. Mexican communities
generate local leadership and put forward own definition of a
local identity
 What were the options?
• Mexican Americans
Outside California
 LULAC(League of
United Latin American
• Corpus Christi, TX
• “Mexican in cultural
and social activities,
American in philosophy
and politics”
• Embrace duality of
ethnic life
• L.A. Mexican American
Responses Pre-WWII
 Mexican American
Movement (MAM)
• 2nd generation high school
and college students
publish Mexican Voice
• Break with parents on
loyalty to Mexican state
• Argument for education
failed to address reality of
working class Mexican
youth (53% and 45%
dropout rates)
• In 1940s, alienated
Mexican American youth
join Zoot Suit movement
Zoot Suit
• Clothing worn out to
night clubs and Jazz
Wide at knee
Pegged at cuff
High waisted
Cocky attitude
Shows African
American influence
 Source of conflict with
Zoot Suit Riots, 1943
• Sailors, Marines, and
Soldiers attack Zoot
Suiters and Mexican
Communities, June 3-10,
 Fights begin in downtown
 Fights shift to East L.A.
 Police arrest Pachucos
 Governor’s Investigation
blamed riots on media and
police racism
Post WW II Leadership
• Ed Roybal, 1916-2005
 First Mexican
American elected to
the L.A. City Council,
1949 from East L.A.
by ethnic coalition
 Key concerns: street
lights, better housing
and increased restraints
on police
 Elected to Congress,
Ed Roybal
Latino Mayor of Los Angeles
• Elected by a coalition
of west side Jewish
liberals and east side
Hispanics, plus
organized labor in
• Posed to run for reelection in 2009
• Possible Governor
Antonio Villaraigosa
• Increasingly important in politics of region
• Forefront of unionization movement in
• Significant economic mobility for middle
• Hence, future is looking very bright for
Mexican population of Southwest