Aguila_Mendez - Arizona State University

Gonzalo Mendez's life is extremely telling and I believe worthy of a biography. His life's journey
personifies many of our nation's most hallowed themes:
 His life in the United States begins as an immigrant fleeing political oppression in his
native land
 A good student, he had to drop out of school to support his family
 As an adult he became a very successful businessman and local civic leader
For Mexico, the loss of citizens such as Gonzalo Mendez is the greatest tragedy and most
significant barrier for this perpetually developing nation.
 My students frequently ask why does Mexico have so many problems?
o Is it the drug trafficking, corruption, its despotic heritage, etc…
 Well the most significant reason is because it annually loses it best, brightest and most
ambitious people as represented by Gonzalo Mendez
Gonzalo Mendez lived the quintessential life for a Mexican who in 1919 immigrated to the
United States towards the end of the military phase of the Mexican Revolution.
 Comparable to our U.S. Civil War, but multi-sided and not defined by geographical
 Fleeing Pancho Villa an archetypical villain or national hero was a shared experience for
many Mexican immigrants in the United States
o For many Tejanos family lore stipulates that grandfathers and uncles either
proudly rode with Villa or deplorably, they were shot by Villa
 US Secretary of Labor exempted Mexicans from the 1917 Immigration Act
o Employers such as the Arizona cotton growers claimed the labor shortage caused
by the draft was a threat to national security
His wife, Felicitas Gómez was Puerto Rican
 1917 The Jones–Shafroth Act granted Puerto Ricans US citizenship
 1926 immigrated to Arizona to pick cotton before migrating to Southern
Mendez and Gómez were both farmworkers and after they married in 1935, they opened the
Arizona Café.
 Success of café allowed them to buy three houses and they aspired to run a farm
 The Munemitsus family, were Japanese Americans who because they were relocated and
interned in Arizona feared losing their family farm.
 The Mendez's signed a lease agreement to run the farm in Westminster until the
Munemitsus family was freed.
 He also managed another farm and had over thirty employees including braceros (19421964), which were a pivotal labor source for commercial agriculture throughout the
Gonzalo Mendez contemplated pursuing US citizenship before his marriage, but decided to wait
because the waiting time could last up to three years.
He applied after he was married because the wait for a spouse of an American citizen was
only 6-9 months.
However, even then the process was delayed because his photographs were not the right
color and size.
Immigration authorities also demanded clearer proof of his Mexican citizenship
Today the wait can be up to 20 years