Mexican Immigration

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Mexican Immigration

A ccording to the U.S. Census, there were 20.6 million Mexican Americans in 2000. They made up 7.3 percent of the total U.S. population of 281 million people and 58.5 percent of the total Hispanic American population of 35.3 million. Mexican Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the nation. They have a high birth rate compared with other U.S. ethnic groups, causing a rapid population increase. But recent immigration has also greatly increased the population of Mexican Americans. There were about 7.9 million foreign-born Mexican Americans in 2000, and Mexico is the country of origin of the largest number of recent immigrants, contributing 27.7 percent of the total number of foreign-born residents of the United States in 2000. Hispanic Americans are considered the second largest ancestry group in the nation (after German Americans). If Latino groups are considered individually, however, Mexican Americans form the fifth largest ancestry group in the nation, after German, African American, Irish, and English Americans.

Historical background

In the nineteenth century citizens of Mexico became Americans in two ways: by emigrating from Mexico to the United States or, for those in Mexico's far north, by staying put when their homelands were ceded (turned over) by Mexico to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican-American War (1846–48). The many Mexicans living in Texas were the first to become Mexican Americans in this way.

In 1821 Spain lost its colonial rule of Mexico in the Mexican War of Independence (1810–21). (For more information on Spain and the settlement of the Southwest, see Chapter 4 on Spanish immigration.) One of the problems facing the new, independent Mexican government was the settling of the province of Texas. It had too few people to sustain itself, and it was very far away from the seat of government in Mexico City. The Mexican government decided to allow Anglo-Americans (white European Americans living in the United States) to settle there. Conflicts soon arose as the Anglo-Americans in Texas defied Mexican rule. These conflicts led to battle and the eventual defeat of Mexican forces by the Anglo-Texans in 1836. The Anglo-Texans declared independence and created the Republic of Texas.

Mexican Immigration: Fact Focus

  • The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican-American War (1846–48) allowed the United States to buy New Mexico, Arizona, California, and parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado for $15 million. Under the terms of the treaty, Mexicans in the ceded areas were given one year to choose either Mexican citizenship, in which case they would have to relocate south of the new border, or to stay where they were and become citizens of the United States with all the rights of citizenship.
  • During the period between the secularization (transferring from church to civil management) of the missions and the acquisition of California by the United States, the Mexican ranch owners, often called rancheros or Californios, prospered and lived in great wealth and luxury.
  • In the 1890s, after being swindled out of land by Anglo-American schemers, Hispanic New Mexicans organized Las Gorras Blancas (The White Caps). These bands of hooded nightriders tore down fences and tried to derail trains. Their hope was to scare Anglo-American landowners and railroad companies out of New Mexico.
  • Because of the labor shortage during World War I (1914–18), Mexican workers were presented many new opportunities in the United States in oil fields, weapons factories, meat-packing plants, and steel mills and in new communities in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Kansas City, and Chicago.
  • About two-thirds of all Mexican Americans in 2000 lived in either California (8,455,926, or 41 percent) or Texas (5,071,963, or 25 percent).
  • Chicano literature of the 1960s drew attention to the inequality faced by Mexican Americans in the Southwest and elsewhere and voiced the political, economic, and educational struggles of that decade.

Texas and the Mexican-American War

Government officials in Mexico City never accepted Texan independence, and they suspected that the United

Mexican Immigration: Words to Know

A person who is not a citizen of the United States.
A white resident of the United States who is not of Hispanic descent.
The way that someone who comes from a foreign land or culture becomes absorbed into a culture and learns to blend into the ways of its predominant, or main, society.
A Spanish-speaking section of a U.S. city or town.
Able to speak two languages fluently.
A group of people living as a political community in a land away from their home country but ruled by the home country.
To send an alien out of the country whose presence in the country is not legal.
Unfair treatment based on racism or other prejudices.
Leaving one's country to go to another country with the intention of living there. "Emigrant" is used to describe departing from one's country—for example, "she emigrated from Ireland."
A distinct cultural or nationality unit within a foreign territory.
Relating to a group of people who are not from the majority culture in the country in which they live, and who keep their own culture, language, and institutions.
To use someone unfairly for one's own profit.
Extended family:
A household that includes not just parents and children, but also other relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins.
First-generation immigrant:
Someone who was born in another country and then immigrated to the United States.
To travel to a country of which one is not a native with the intention of settling there as a permanent resident. "Immigrant" is used to describe coming to a new country—for example, "she immigrated to the United States."
Migrant workers:
Laborers who move regularly to find temporary work.
To move from one place to another, not necessarily across national borders.
A policy favoring the interests of people who are native-born to the country (though generally not concerning Native Americans) as opposed to its immigrants.
The process of becoming a citizen.
People from the northern part of Mexico.
Abusive and oppressive treatment.
Poll tax:
A tax of a fixed amount per person.
An assigned proportion.
Sending noncitizens back to their own country.
Born in the United States, but having parents who immigrated from another country.
The official endorsement on a passport showing that a person may legally enter the country.

States had supported the Texan rebellion. When the U.S. government immediately recognized the new republic, it caused more bad feelings between the nations. Then in February 1845, the U.S. Congress voted to accept Texas as a state. Mexico immediately broke off diplomatic relations (communication between nations) in response. Finally, a dispute over the border between the two countries erupted into battle. Texans claimed the Rio Grande as their southern border. Mexico said that the Nueces River, a few hundred miles to the north, was the actual border. The United States accepted the Texas claim. After U.S. troops got into clashes with Mexican troops, Congress declared war against Mexico in 1846. The Mexican-American War ended in February 1848, when the United States defeated Mexico and forced it to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The treaty officially set the border of Texas at the Rio Grande. It also allowed the United States to buy New Mexico, Arizona, California, and parts of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado for $15 million.

Under the terms of the treaty, Mexicans who suddenly found themselves living in the United States in one of the ceded areas were given one year to choose either Mexican citizenship, in which case they would have to relocate south of the new border, or to stay where they were and become citizens of the United States with all the rights of citizenship. About 80 percent—a total of seventy-five thousand Mexican people—remained in the United States. The U.S. government promised to protect their property and respect their religion and culture. In 1853 the United States negotiated the Gadsden Purchase with Mexico, paying $10 million for the southern parts of New Mexico and Arizona. Citizenship and property rights were extended to the Mexicans who lived in that area, as they had been under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Despite the promises of the treaties, discrimination and dishonesty kept these new American citizens from the rights and protections to which they were entitled. When Texas became a state, there was only one Hispanic Texan involved in writing the state constitution. Some at the constitutional convention wanted to deny Mexican Americans the right to vote. Although they were given the vote, they were not always given the chance to use it. The primary elections were for white voters only, and Mexicans were not considered white. For the main election, there was a poll tax—that is, each voter had to pay money to vote. Many poor Texans, including Mexican Americans, could not afford to vote. Finally, Anglo-Texans often harassed Mexican Texans who tried to vote.

When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War, New Mexico and Arizona found themselves part of the United States. At first things did not change much for Hispanic New Mexicans. Unlike Texas, Hispanic New Mexicans remained in the majority until the early 1900s. Hispanics were especially numerous in the northern parts of the territory near Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Most of the Anglo-Americans who arrived settled in southeastern New Mexico. Because they were in the majority, Hispanics in this territory continued to have a lot of political and economic power. From 1850 to 1911, Hispanics held the key political positions in New Mexico. They also controlled the territory's legislature until the 1890s.

Arizona was part of the territory of New Mexico until 1863. After Arizona separated from New Mexico, Hispanic Arizonans kept political power in Tucson, the capital of the territory. Hispanics and Anglo-Americans in Arizona cooperated during the 1860s and 1870s to keep up the region's valuable trade with the Mexican state of Sonora. In the 1880s the balance of power began to change. Railroads were built to connect Arizona with the eastern United States. A large group of new Anglo-American settlers arrived who preferred to trade with the United States rather than with Mexico. Arizona's capital was moved to Prescott, where Anglo-Americans were in the majority. Eventually, political and economic power in the Arizona territory shifted to the Anglo-American population. Hispanics did keep political power in southern Arizona, however. Until the 1950s all the Hispanics in Arizona's territorial and state legislatures had come from the area near the Mexican border.


Spanish control of California ended with the successful conclusion of the Mexican War for Independence in 1821. For the next quarter-century, California was a province of the independent nation of Mexico. At the time of independence, California's Catholic missions managed much of the best land and most of the industries of California. By many accounts, the twenty-one Franciscan missions resembled thriving Caribbean plantations and relied upon the labor of about fifteen thousand Native Americans, much as the plantations had relied upon the labor of African slaves. The missions were spread out over millions of acres and owned huge herds of cattle and other livestock. Mexico wished to eliminate the mission system and began the process of secularization (transferring from church to civil management) of California's missions around 1831. In theory, this vast expanse of land was held in trust for the Native Americans who labored in the mission system, but when the missions were secularized, the Mexican government sold millions of acres of the best land to the Mexican ranchers who had been hoping to get their hands on it for years.

In the first year of secularization the Mexican government authorized more than six hundred rancho (large land grants) grants in California to Mexican citizens. Many wealthy families managed to obtain multiple grants. Some of the ranchos were huge—more than three hundred thousand acres. All employed Native American laborers to work their land. It was an era when a few very wealthy people prospered and ruled the land while the rest had little.

During the period between the secularization of the missions and the acquisition of California by the United States, the large ranch owners, often called rancheros or Californios, prospered and lived in luxury. The rancho economy was based on the raising of huge herds of cattle. The rancheros traded hides and tallow (animal fat used for soap, margarine, and candles) for manufactured goods from foreign traders along the coast. As at the missions, herding, slaughtering, hide tanning, tallow rendering, and all the manual tasks were performed by Native American laborers on the ranchos.

The social system was entirely based on the family, or la familia. The ranchero acted as patriarch, or the lord of an estate. He lived in a large, elegant house with his family and servants. His house was surrounded by the living quarters of people over whom he had power: all his relatives, servants, workers, and other villagers. The ranch hands—vaqueros, or cowboys—and Native American laborers on the ranchos worked very hard for little pay and often under terrible conditions.

In 1848 Mexico ceded California to the United States. Before the Mexican-American War, Hispanic and Anglo-American Californians had usually cooperated with one another. Eight Mexican Californians worked on the state constitution with forty Anglos when California joined the union in 1849. But then the Gold Rush of 1849 attracted thousands more Anglos to California, and Anglos became the majority. In 1850 Hispanics were 15 percent of the population. Twenty years later they were only 4 percent. Political and economic power for Hispanic Californians decreased first in northern California, where many Anglos had come in search of gold. Eventually, the Anglo majority used its power to force out the Hispanics in southern California. The state legislature passed laws that taxed the six southern counties five times more than other counties. In 1855 it passed laws against the customs of Mexican Californians. Local officials used laws against vagrants (people who have no apparent home or work) and foreigners more often on Hispanics than on others. The 1850 Foreign Miners Tax Law made mining more expensive for Mexicans and Chinese than for Anglos. There was clearly discrimination against the Mexican American residents of California. Many returned to Mexico in disgust because of these laws.

Civil rights for Mexican Americans in the new Southwest

The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was supposed to protect the property of Hispanics in New Mexico, Arizona, and California. However, it failed to do so. As more and more Anglos came to the Southwest and California, more disputes over land arose. The wealthy Mexican ranchers with vast land holdings found that the land grants they had received from Mexico were often not recognized in the United States. Although the U.S. Congress passed the California Land Act of 1851 to better protect Mexican landowners, Mexican ranchers continued to lose land. Congress then passed the Homestead Act in 1862, allowing people to settle and claim empty lands. In California thousands settled on land already claimed by Hispanics. In most of the legal battles that followed, the Mexican landowners lost their land.

In the 1890s the United States built the Santa Fe Railroad from Kansas through northern New Mexico. Land speculators known as the Santa Fe Ring invented false schemes to cheat hundreds of Mexican Americans out of their farms and ranches. In response, many Hispanic New Mexicans organized Las Gorras Blancas (The White Caps). These bands of hooded nightriders tore down fences and tried to derail trains. Their hope was to scare Anglo landowners and railroad companies out of New Mexico. In the end they failed. In the early twentieth century, Hispanic New Mexicans lost more land.

After the Mexican-American War, the Mexican Americans saw their frontier towns greatly changed by Anglo settlers. Some of these first Mexican Americans decided to return to Mexico, the nation of their birth, to escape the problems. Others stayed in the United States. By the 1890s other Mexicans joined the Hispanic communities already in the Southwest and California.

Early Mexican immigration

Before the Mexican-American War, Mexicans had moved freely back and forth between Chihuahua, Sonora, and Baja California in the south and New Mexico, Arizona, and California in the north. They traveled from one region to another

to do business or to visit family. They established a large economic and social network that covered these areas and generally ignored the borders between the regions. Even after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo gave the northern regions to the United States, the borders between nations were usually ignored. When the people who lived south of the border moved north to find work or to follow family, they became the first Mexican immigrants to the United States. Almost all of these first immigrants were norteños, northern Mexicans.

The gold rush in California in 1849 attracted many Mexican miners from Sonora. These experienced miners arrived before the large group of Anglo forty-niners (prospectors who went to California during the gold rush) came west. The Mexicans introduced many of the mining techniques used in California mines. Mexican miners also took their skills to gold and silver mining centers in New Mexico and Arizona.

In the late 1800s, political and economic instability in Mexico prompted thousands of Mexicans to move across the border into the United States in search of better opportunities. The Mexican American population rose from 75,000 in 1890 to 562,000 in 1900. The majority of this group was poor and illiterate. They became unskilled laborers, working mostly on farms, in mines, or for the railroad. When the U.S. government restricted Asian immigration beginning in 1882, positions that the Chinese had formerly filled in railroad construction became available, and Mexicans leaped at the opportunity. Eventually, some 70 percent of tracklayers and 90 percent of maintenance crews on U.S. railroads were Mexican. The U.S. mining industry, particularly in Colorado, Arizona, and California, was built largely by Mexican immigrants, and much of U.S. agriculture for the past one hundred years or more has been accomplished through the contributions of Mexican migrant workers (laborers who move regularly to find temporary work).

By 1900 a railroad network connected Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California to most of northern Mexico and parts of central and southern Mexico, strongly linking the U.S. and Mexican economies. Many of the Mexicans who came to the United States during this time were from central or southern Mexico; the long trip to the Southwest was made possible by the railroads. There they often worked as migrant workers, moving from job to job as the season changed. Soon, these former subsistence farmers (farmers who grew the things they needed to survive) became used to working for money to meet their needs. Central and southern Mexicans were usually very mobile. They were far from their original homes and did not feel attached to the new land. As the railroad and other industries grew farther north, these immigrants followed. By the early twentieth century, Mexicans had traveled as far north as Kansas City, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois.

The Mexican Revolution

The Mexican Revolution of the 1910s caused many Mexicans to emigrate. After thirty-five years under the dictator Porfirio Díaz (1830–1915), many Mexicans felt that too much wealth was held by too few people while others suffered in poverty. Revolutionaries such as Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919), Pancho Villa (c. 1877–1923), and Francisco I. Madero (1873–1913) began to fight for change. During the first years of the revolution, there was little Mexican immigration to the United States. The working classes stayed to fight for the revolutionary cause. But soon the enthusiasm for a new Mexico turned to disappointment with the revolution. Mexico was being torn apart, and hopes for reform began to vanish in the violence and chaos. Many decided to leave. The first to emigrate were norteños, because their home was hit by the violence first. Most of the refugees from the north were from the lower and middle classes. However, some rich families also made the trip. They deposited their money in American banks along the border and lived comfortably. Eventually, the revolution pushed south. As it did, more people were uprooted.

World War I

As Mexico struggled with revolution, the rest of the world was also moving toward war. From 1914 to 1917, the United States managed to stay out of World War I (1914–18), but it supplied many of the European countries at war. With the extra production, the U.S. economy grew at a fast pace. Soon there were not enough workers for the factories. When the United States joined the war in 1917, many American workers went off to Europe to fight. The labor shortage increased and the United States turned to Mexico for workers.

Under pressure from the growing number of anti-immigration groups, Congress had passed the Immigration Act of 1917 in February of that year. The bill required that all immigrants be able to pass a test showing they could read and write before entering the country, and each immigrant also had to pay an eight-dollar tax. The law had been designed to keep out eastern Europeans, but it also stopped many Mexicans. Many Mexicans had little education. In some Mexican states, almost 85 percent were illiterate. In addition, the eight-dollar tax was more than many could afford to pay.

In June 1917 Congress made some changes in the law to encourage Mexican immigration. The changes would allow farm workers to enter even if they did not meet the literacy and tax requirements. Even so, immigration was complicated for Mexicans. For this reason, in 1917 legal immigration from Mexico decreased. Instead, U.S. employers seeking a source of cheap, reliable labor contributed to illegal immigration

Founding the Border Patrol

The United States Border Patrol was created in 1924 to stop illegal immigration from Latin America and Canada. Previously, a force of fewer than forty mounted inspectors rode the borders looking for Chinese immigrants attempting to enter the country in violation of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. Mexican workers had proved so valuable to the economy of the American Southwest that up to this point little effort had been made to prevent them from crossing the Rio Grande to work for cotton and sugar beet growers as agricultural laborers. But by 1924 the unions were protesting that the illegal immigrants were competing with American workers and keeping wages very low. There was also a sharp rise in racist views of Mexicans and strong anti-immigrant feelings.

The new Border Patrol started out with 450 officers, whose main job was to ride the Mexican border on horseback seeking out smugglers and the hiding places of illegal aliens. Opposition to the Patrol was considerable. Ranchers and farmers protested and interfered with the arrests of their laborers. The growers bitterly protested the increasingly difficult requirements for legal immigration. The 1924 law mandated not only a ten-dollar visa fee, which had to be paid to an American consul in Mexico, but also a six-dollar head tax for each applicant. Few Mexicans could afford these fees. Their average wage at the time was twelve cents for a ten-hour day in their homeland. For a small sum paid to smugglers, Mexican peasants could avoid the fees and easily find jobs paying $1.25 a day in Texas, Arizona, and California. In its first year of operation, the small Border Patrol staff reported turning back fifteen thousand aliens seeking illegal entry, although an estimated one hundred thousand farm workers successfully evaded the border guards. For that reason, in 1926 Congress doubled the size of the Patrol and made it a permanent part of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization.

In 1926 the Immigration Service backed away from strict enforcement of the law and entered into a "Gentlemen's Agreement" with agricultural interests in California and Texas. This called for registration of all Mexican workers in the states. They would each receive an identification card that allowed them to work, in exchange for an eighteen-dollar fee payable at three dollars per week. When Congressman John Box (1871–1941) of Texas heard about "immigration on the installment plan," he was outraged and called for an end to this "outlaw's agreement." He denounced Mexicans as racially inferior to white Europeans, since they were mainly Indian, and warned that their illegal influx had been so large that they threatened to reverse the results of the Mexican-American War. After that conflict, the United States had acquired California, and much of the Southwest, but now, according to Box, "bloodthirsty, ignorant" bandits from Mexico were becoming the largest population in those areas and retaking them. Because of this anti-Mexican hysteria, in 1929 Congress voted to double the size of the Border Patrol once again and demanded a crackdown on illegal entry.

by hiring smugglers, called coyotes, to bring the undocumented migrants across the border. The undocumented workers were easily exploited (unfairly used for someone else's profit) because they had no other choice. Employers could turn them in to immigration officials at any time. Some dishonest employers made a practice of hiring undocumented migrants, then turning the workers in to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) as soon as the job was done but before they had paid the workers their wages.

The economic growth caused by World War I attracted Mexicans to new areas in the United States. Mexican workers set up new communities in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Houston, Kansas City, and Chicago. Mexicans worked in oil fields, weapons factories, meat-packing plants, and steel mills. These World War I era immigrants often found themselves in cities and industries where few Hispanics lived. Adjusting was difficult and rising anti-Mexican attitudes in the United States did not help. Nevertheless, Mexican workers flooded across the border to take advantage of the new opportunities. As many as six hundred thousand Mexicans legally crossed the border between 1920 and 1929. They were given permanent visas, allowing them to do contract work in agriculture but not to become U.S. citizens. Thousands of other Mexicans entered the United States illegally. By 1929, the Mexican American population had reached approximately one million, not counting undocumented migrants.

During the 1920s, the United States saw continued economic growth. Farming, mining, and manufacturing were growing rapidly. Mexican labor was needed in American cities. A flood of workers began coming from the central Mexican states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, and San Luis Potosí. Like many other newcomers to the United States in the early twentieth century, these Mexicans came from peasant or farming backgrounds. They had little attachment to their nation, but they had a strong attachment to their patria chica (home region). They responded to the difficulties they faced in their new homes by gathering together with people from their own region. Communities with names such as El Michoacanito (Little Michoacán) and Chihuahita (Little Chihuahua) were started. The people in these communities shared similar jobs, food, music, and theater as well as physical features. A majority of these groups came to the United States in search of temporary work. Most intended to return to Mexico.

Despite positive attitudes, in the early part of the twentieth century, Mexican Americans faced segregation, abuse in the workplace, police brutality, and rejection by American society. Many Americans believed that Mexican immigrants were a threat to the racial and cultural integrity of the United States. In 1924 Congress passed the National Origins Quota Act to greatly decrease the immigration of people other than northern and western Europeans. At that time many wanted to include Mexico in the quota (assigned proportion) system, but industry employers and farmers and ranchers lobbied to keep their source of cheap labor coming, persuading Congress not to include Mexico or any of the Western Hemisphere in the 1924 law. Those who wanted to stop Mexican immigration failed.

The Great Depression

The Great Depression (1929–41), a time of economic crisis and high unemployment that began with the stock market crash in 1929, changed the evolution of Mexican communities in the United States. Mexican workers had been in high demand during the 1920s. But with unemployment as high as 30 percent during the 1930s, they began to be viewed as unwanted competition for jobs by other American workers. Some eighty-five thousand Mexican workers returned almost immediately to Mexico as the economy collapsed. Others were driven back across the border by frustrated European Americans who felt that the Mexicans were taking away their jobs. Anti-Mexican sentiment became especially violent in southern California, and about seventy-five thousand Mexican residents of that state decided to move back to Mexico. Many Mexicans who stayed in the United States were forced to go on welfare (receiving regular assistance from the government or private agencies because of need). European Americans saw them as a burden on an already overburdened economy and insisted that they be forced to leave.

The United States and Mexico decided to institute a program of cooperative repatriation (sending noncitizens back to their country). Some five hundred thousand Mexican Americans were removed to Mexico through this program before Mexico called it off because its economy could not support any more people either. Los Angeles established its own repatriation program from 1931 to 1934, deporting (sending an illegal alien out of the country) over thirteen thousand Mexican Americans, including a number of U.S.-born children.

World War II

The United States entered World War II (1939–45) in 1941. With many workers overseas fighting, there was again a labor shortage. Again, the United States turned to Mexico for workers. The U.S. government asked the Mexican government for a special arrangement to bring in Mexican workers in wartime. Mexican officials sharply reminded the United States of the long and exploitive history of U.S. relations with Mexican workers. During the Great Depression, the United States had forcibly returned hundreds of thousands of Mexican laborers to Mexico in an effort to protect the jobs of American citizens. Unless the United States was willing to guarantee some rights to the temporary workers, Mexico was unwilling to allow its citizens to cross the border.

The United States agreed to Mexico's demands and the bracero program was created. The safeguards it offered to Mexican workers in the United States included having individual contracts written in Spanish, paying living expenses, and providing adequate shelter and transportation costs. Workers were to be protected from discriminatory acts and were not subject to the U.S. military draft. Wages were to be set at an annually determined "prevailing wage" based on the locality in which the laborer was to be employed. Most important, these contracts were between the Mexican and the U.S. governments, not the worker and the employer. The idea was that the U.S. government, as the primary contractor, would "sublease" the workers' contracts to farmers. This meant that the U.S. government held the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that the contracts' provisions were upheld. It also gave the Mexican government the power to limit the number of workers allowed into the United States if discriminatory practices occurred or if contracts were violated.

The bracero program (the word comes from the Spanish word for "arm," brazo, referring to strong-armed workers)

The Zoot Suit Riots

During the years of World War II (1939–45), a young generation of Latinos in Los Angeles, California, had adopted a striking sense of style and a taste for night life. Young men called pachucos wore their hair in "duck tails" and donned zoot suits, complete with long coats with wide padded shoulders and high-waisted baggy trousers drawn in tight at the ankle. Unlike earlier generations, the pachucos were leaving the Mexican barrios (Spanish-speaking neighborhoods) and heading downtown to dance or go to the movies. Los Angeles became increasingly unfriendly to Mexican Americans during the war years, as it filled with military personnel on leave from local bases. Newspapers had been raising anxieties with sensational stories about Mexican crime and gang warfare. At first the fights that broke out between marines or sailors and the pachucos were scattered. But in June 1943 local newspapers incited a mob to do violence to the Mexican American community, as described in a report on the incident that was prepared for California's governor:

On Monday evening, June seventh, thousands of Angelenos [residents of Los Angeles], in response to twelve hours' advance notice in the press, turned out for a mass lynching [killing done by a mob]. Marching through the streets of downtown Los Angeles, a mob of several thousand soldiers, sailors, and civilians proceeded to beat up every zoot-suiter they could find. Pushing its way into the important motion picture theaters, the mob ordered the management to turn on the house lights and then ranged up and down the aisles dragging Mexicans out of their seats. Streetcars were halted while Mexicans, and some Filipinos and Negroes, were jerked out of their seats, pushed into the streets, and beaten with sadistic frenzy. If the victims wore zootsuits, they were stripped of their clothing and left naked or half-naked on the streets, bleeding and bruised. (Governor's Citizen's Committee Report on Los Angeles Riots, 1943.)

The violence continued for several nights. The police did almost nothing to stop the mobs of servicemen as they went through the barrios and assaulted the young men who lived there. In fact, many of the victims of the violence were arrested after they were assaulted. Some 150 were injured, but there were no deaths. After several days of rioting that police either could not or would not stop, the army and navy took action, forbidding their personnel to go into the city of Los Angeles and thus ending the rioting.

By some accounts, the servicemen who attacked the Mexican American youths were reacting to the fact that the zoot-suiters were not in military uniform. In fact, in World War II there were proportionately more Mexican Americans in the armed services than whites, and Mexican Americans were decorated for bravery more than any other ethnic group in the United States.

permitted Mexicans to enter the country to work under contract as farm and railroad laborers and helped the United States fill its labor needs. It was the subject of great controversy, though. Many civil rights groups charged that the temporary workers were badly exploited in the system. The braceros unfortunately displaced Mexican American workers already in the United States. The temporary workers were willing and able to work for less pay than the established Mexican Americans. In the end, the bracero program actually had little to do with the wartime labor shortage. The program was originally intended to last only from 1942 to 1947, but it continued (in somewhat less official form) until 1964, bringing many more workers into the United States after the war years. The original program peaked in 1944 with 62,170 braceros brought into the United States. After the war the peak was in 1956, when some five hundred thousand braceros were employed. Overall, about five million Mexicans came to the United States between 1942 and 1964 as seasonal workers.

Post-war immigration

The United States had hoped that the bracero program would discourage illegal immigration across the border by providing a legal way for Mexicans to work in the United States. However, because the program placed restrictions on where braceros could work and specified what they would be paid, it actually encouraged undocumented migration. Migrants entering the country illegally could work wherever they could find a job, and employers could pay them less than the braceros, so both sides profited from illegal immigration. The records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) show clearly that the bracero program increased, rather than decreased, undocumented migration. In 1942, the first year of the program, eight thousand undocumented Mexican migrants were deported. By 1951, some five hundred thousand were arrested and deported.

During the 1950s, emigration from Mexico doubled from 5.9 percent to 11 percent of the total number of immigrants to the United States. In the mid-1950s, however, competition for jobs in the United States increased. In 1954 the INS responded to this increased flow of undocumented migrants by creating a special mobile force to locate undocumented workers and encourage or force them to return to Mexico. These efforts became known as "Operation Wetback." Undocumented Mexican migrants were called wetbacks (or mojados), a derogatory term, because they often swam across the Rio Grande River to get into the United States. In 1954 alone, Operation Wet-back deported more than 1 million people of Mexican descent from the United States. By 1958, the United States had deported almost 3.8 million Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Very few of those forced to leave the country were allowed deportation hearings. In addition to the deportees, thousands more U.S. citizens of Mexican descent were arrested and jailed.

In 1964 the bracero program ended. Between 1942 and 1964, it had brought hundreds of thousands of Mexican manual laborers and farm workers to the United States to work each year. Many settled in northern Mexico near the U.S. border. Because there were few jobs in this area, the influx of unemployed braceros and deportees caused economic problems. The Mexican government tried to resolve the problem by creating two border programs that allowed foreign corporations to build and operate assembly plants on the border. These plants, known as maquiladoras, multiplied rapidly and transformed the border region. The maquiladoras attracted companies from the United States and around the world because they provided cheap labor close to American markets. The companies moving in there could take advantage of Mexico's weak labor unions and weak environmental laws. As they grew in number and in size, the maquiladoras employed hundreds of thousands of Mexicans, mostly women, in assembly work. But the maquiladoras did not significantly improve the border towns of Mexico. These cities did not create the sanitation and social services, schools, and hospitals necessary for their growing populations.

Undocumented workers

Economic and political difficulties in Mexico, combined with economic opportunities in the United States, have encouraged the flow of undocumented migrants from Mexico to the United States in large numbers up to the present time. Most Mexican Americans are not undocumented migrants. The vast majority entered the United States legally and have become U.S. citizens. Others are descendants of the original Mexican Americans who became U.S. citizens in 1848. Second-, third-, and later-generation Mexican Americans have family histories in the United States that go back much further than some European Americans' histories.

Still, the number of illegal immigrants arriving from Mexico has been a constant issue in the United States since the 1970s. In the early 1980s, despite the efforts of the INS, millions of illegal immigrants poured into the country across the Mexican border. In 1986, after eight years of debate and effort, Congress passed a new immigration bill, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). Under this act, fines were to be invoked against employers who hired illegal aliens, with criminal penalties imposed on those who had a pattern of illegally employing foreigners. The act further allowed illegal aliens who had been living in the United States since 1982 to apply to legalize their status. About three million previously illegal aliens opted to become U.S. citizens. The IRCA also made provisions for certain temporary foreign workers who entered the United States seasonally to harvest perishable crops—some 1.3 million people, most of them from Mexico, were allowed to become temporary aliens and then permanent resident aliens.

In late December of 1994 Mexico was thrown into economic turmoil. Over a million Mexicans lost their jobs, and the country's gross domestic product fell 10.5 percent in the first months of 1995. Unauthorized migration from Mexico to the United States increased.

Beginning in 1994, in an effort to stop undocumented workers from illegally crossing the border, the U.S. government established Operation Gatekeeper, an extensive border patrol system at Imperial Beach at the border between Mexico and southern California. The number of border agents was increased and new hi-tech equipment was put to use, costing

billions of dollars over the next few years. Illegal immigrants moved further inland where the climate is more severe and the crossing is very dangerous. Hundreds of immigrant deaths have been blamed on Operation Gatekeeper. In 1997 the Border Patrol initiated Operation Rio Grande, strengthening the Texas-Mexico border with more agents to deter people from crossing.

The unauthorized immigrants trying to cross the border face danger not only from the harsh terrain and climate but also from outlaws who prey on them at the border. Coyotes, or people smugglers, have made so much money guiding Mexican people across the border that many have given up dealing drugs and turned to trafficking in people instead. Many immigrants have been robbed of their money and some, including children, have been murdered by the coyotes.

The economic effects of illegal immigration continue to be controversial today. Some argue that undocumented laborers steal jobs from American workers and that undocumented aliens abuse the welfare and social services system. However, others argue—and several studies demonstrate—that undocumented laborers actually create jobs and thereby bolster the national economy. Furthermore, the data shows that undocumented aliens rarely use any form of public assistance and, for the most part, are ineligible for government assistance because of their immigration status. The debate continues as the United States considers a new "guest worker" program in 2004.

The Mexican American population today

Mexican Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States today. They are also the largest Hispanic group in the United States. The estimated Mexican American population in 2000 was 20.6 million, the largest Mexican population outside of Mexico. In February 2003, the INS estimated the number of unauthorized Mexicans living in the United States at about 7 million. It estimated that of all immigrants who are in the United States illegally, 70 percent are Mexican.

About two-thirds of all Mexican Americans in 2000 lived in either California (8,455,926, or 41 percent) or Texas (5,071,963, or 25 percent). Other states with high concentrations were Illinois (1,144,390); Arizona (1,065,578); and New Mexico (330,049). An estimated three million Mexican Americans lived in Los Angeles County in 2000. Other cities with large concentrations of Mexican Americans were Chicago, Illinois; Houston and San Antonio, Texas; and Phoenix, Arizona.


Many Mexican Americans speak only Spanish at home and with their Mexican American families and friends. Foreign-born Mexican Americans experience difficulties in the English-dominated United States, even though many cities with large Hispanic populations are de facto bilingual (in practice using two languages more or less equally), with signs and other public information printed in both Spanish and English. According to the 2000 Census, there are more than 28 million people in the country whose first language is Spanish, making up 10.7 percent of the total population. Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the country.

The majority of Mexican Americans can speak English. Those born or raised in the United States usually speak English fluently, while others use it as a second language. Newly arriving immigrants generally learn at least a small amount of English to get by. The result is that many Mexican Americans are truly bilingual. If they live in a primarily Mexican American community, they may use their English while at work or school and their Spanish while at home or in social situations. For many Mexican Americans it would be hard to imagine not being fluent in both languages. To give up Spanish would be denying a part of their heritage, and to not master English would make it hard to compete or even function very well in the United States.


Mexican Americans as a group continue to struggle against the racial and ethnic discrimination that confines them to the lower classes of society. Until 1965, the public schools for Hispanic children were frequently separate from the schools for other children, and they were not as good. Even after segregation was eliminated from public school systems in the United States in 1965, Mexican American children often did not get the same education that other American children received. Schools in Hispanic communities still often lack necessary resources.

During the 1960s Mexican Americans reacted against the policies that ignored their culture and native language. They fought for a bilingual and bicultural curriculum for their children. In 1974 Congress passed the Equal Education Opportunity Act. This law sought to assure equality in public schools by making available education in the Spanish language for students with limited abilities in the English language. Many state governments soon added laws to support bilingual education.

In 1998, California voters passed Proposition 227, which banned bilingual classroom education and English as a second language (ESL) programs, replacing them with a one-year intensive English immersion program for students with limited abilities in English. A solid majority of Hispanic voters voted against the bill, which went into effect in California schools in August 1998. Other states have followed California in banning bilingual classroom instruction.

Hispanic students have a higher dropout rate than any other group in the United States. In 1997 about 25 percent of Hispanic students dropped out of school compared with 13.4 percent of African American students and 7.6 percent of white non-Hispanic students. By 2000 Hispanic girls were dropping out at a rate of 26 percent, while Hispanic boys were dropping out at an alarming rate of 31 percent. According to advocates of bilingual education, a large proportion of the Mexican American dropouts are students who were born outside of the United States. Educators and parents are concerned that students with poor English skills are left out in school. They do not have access to the education that is equal to that of the English-speaking students, and many give up. On the other hand, those who defend the English-only classrooms believe total immersion in English is the only way that these students will learn the language and go on to succeed in this country.

Apart from language skills, many school systems in the areas where Mexican Americans are most concentrated are inferior to those in other areas. Living conditions in some inner-city areas also have a huge effect on the education of Mexican American students. A 1994 study at Rice University showed that first- and second-generation Mexican American students actually do better than do Mexican Americans whose families have been in the country for several generations. According to Rice sociology professor Angela Valenzuela, as quoted in the Rice News, students who spent some time in Mexico before immigrating to the United States "see that being Mexican does not automatically translate into being poor and underachieving, because in their home country, they are able to see Mexican adults in all kinds of prestigious occupations. So it's easier for them to think about pursuing a career as an accountant, a doctor, or a lawyer."

In 1994, 33 percent of Mexican Americans had less than a ninth-grade education. Nearly half of the population had a high school diploma, and 7.1 percent had a bachelor's degree.

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In 1998, while the white, non-Hispanic college participation rate was 67.3 percent, the rate for Latinos was 47.5 percent.

Work and income

On the whole, Mexican Americans work more and make less money than other U.S. groups. In 1999 non Hispanic whites were three times more likely to earn fifty thousand dollars or more per year than Hispanics. Hispanics were more likely to live in poverty than non-Hispanic whites as well. And Mexican Americans were among the most likely to live in poverty among Hispanic groups. However, Mexican Americans made steady gains in income level during the 1990s and into the 2000s. There has been a rise in Mexican-owned small businesses. Many Mexican Americans have not only been successful themselves but have employed other Mexican American workers.

The United States has depended on Mexican migrant workers for well over a century, especially on its farms. They have long worked in terrible conditions and been exploited. Although many federal programs were put into place to help migrant workers, in the 1990s and 2000s they continue to live and work under the worst conditions of any group of workers in the United States. But Mexican Americans have taken great strides to improve the situation of workers. They have been at the forefront of the U.S. labor movement since its beginnings in the 1880s. The best-known Mexican American labor organizer was César Chávez (1927–1993), founder of the National Farm Workers Association in 1962, which later became the United Farm Workers Union.

Mexican American culture


The majority of Mexican Americans are Catholic, although their system of beliefs may differ somewhat from Europeans' Catholic beliefs. One of the strong characteristics of Mexican American Catholicism is its deep respect for the Virgin Mary in all forms, but especially in the form of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In the Mexican belief, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico City in the sixteenth century to a Native American man named Juan Diego (1474–1548), a converted Catholic on his way to Mass. She told him in his native language, Nahuatl, that she was the Virgin Mary. After appearing to Juan Diego several times, she enlisted his aid in getting a temple built in Mexico City. In order to convince the archbishop that she had appeared to Juan Diego, she made beautiful roses miraculously bloom in winter.

The miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe appealed greatly to Native Americans early in the Spanish rule of Mexico. The brown Virgin surrounded by light, flowers, and nature combined symbols from both Native and Spanish religions. Our Lady of Guadalupe became one of the central figures in the Catholic religion. She has continued to be important to Mexican Americans in the United States. Wherever large groups of Mexican Americans live, they regularly organize pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.


Along with the standard holidays in the United States, Mexican Americans celebrate the fiestas patrias (holidays from the homeland). Cinco de Mayo is the commemoration of the defeat of the occupying French forces at the city of Puebla in the Battle of Puebla, which took place on May 5, 1862. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated across the United States with parades, music, Mexican food, arts and crafts, and traditional and modern dancing. Many cities and towns have annual festivals to commemorate the day. The festivals focus more on Mexican culture and pride in heritage than on the battle against the French. Every year, September 16 is celebrated in commemoration of Mexico's first proclamation of independence from Spain in 1810. In that year, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753–1811), a pastor in the town of Dolores, in the state of Guanajuato, prepared the people in his area for rebellion against Spanish rule. On September 16, Hidalgo and his colleagues proclaimed the rebellion in their famous "el Grito de Dolores," ("the cry of Dolores"). With this insurrection, the Spanish withdrew their forces from the frontier presidios (fortifications). It was not until 1821, however, that Mexico acquired its independence from Spain. The event is marked with parades, floats, traditional dress and music, and other festivities.

Los Dias de los Muertos. The Days of the Dead (Los Dias de los Muertos) is a traditional three-day celebration practiced throughout Mexico. For the people of the United States, the idea may take a bit of getting used to. The holiday honors the dead and welcomes them back for two days of feasting and festivities. The tradition of the Days of the Dead goes back to the Aztec kingdom, a huge native empire that flourished long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in what is now Mexico. The Aztecs believed that death was just one phase of a long cycle of life—not an ending but a transition. Each fall, they celebrated two feasts for the departed: one for children and one for adults. After the Spanish missionaries arrived, the traditional Aztec two-day feast came to be carried out on All Saints Day and All Souls Day and many of the deities of Mexico's native peoples were supplanted with Catholic saints. The holiday that evolved is a combination of indigenous and Spanish customs.

In Mexico, the Days of the Dead are a time to rejoice. On October 31, a Mexican family will go to the market and buy food, candles, incense and flowers. They buy, among other things, sugar calaveras (skulls), sweet breads called hojaldra and rosquette or pan de muertos—loaves of bread decorated with "bones"—and a type of marigold. At home, the families prepare ofrendas, altars laden with offerings of food, candles, incense, and flowers for the departed in their families. Then they go to the cemeteries and adorn the graves of their loved ones. Rituals at the cemeteries differ from town to town, but most feature feasting and mariachi music. After dark in many traditions, solemnity reigns. Many people remain at the cemetery throughout the night.

The overall tenor of the two days of welcoming the dead is one of happiness. Parades run through towns with coffins carrying the "dead" (who sit up and smile and accept the oranges that are tossed to them). Toys and trinkets abound, and the bakers' shelves are lined with holiday food. The dead are seen by the living as playful and happy beings who want to be entertained and feasted and cherished, and the holiday celebrates life, not death.

Chicano literature

In 1943 young Mexican Americans began to recognize that they no longer belonged to Mexico and they did not yet belong to the United States. They began to assert their own unique identity through their clothing, speech, and music. Many wore the baggy pants and feathered, widebrimmed hat in an outfit known as a zoot suit.

Young community leaders took this seed of a new Mexican American identity and began to shape it into the Chicano movement. Writers followed suit. The Chicano literature of the 1960s questioned the commonly accepted truths and drew attention to the inequality faced by Mexican Americans in the Southwest and elsewhere. Young writers lent their voices to the political, economic, and educational struggles of that decade. They read at meetings, boycotts, and protest marches. The most successful of these writers and speakers were those who tapped into the Hispanic oral tradition. Abelardo Delgado (1931–), Ricardo Sánchez (1941–1995), and Alurista (Alberto Urista; 1947–) informed and inspired workers and students through their powerful presentations of their poetry.

Perhaps the most important literary work of this period was the epic poem I Am Joaquín/Yo Soy Joaquín by Rodolfo "Corky" González (1926–), an ex-boxer and Presbyterian leader. The poem presents the author's sense of the Chicano movement—its history, mission, and identity. The short, bilingual pamphlet edition of the poem spread widely through the Chicano community. It was passed from hand to hand in neighborhoods. It was read at rallies. It was dramatized by street theaters and even produced as a slide show.


Chicano was an old colonial word from a time when the word México was pronounced "Méshico" and mexicano was pronounced meshicano. At one time the word "Chicano" carried a negative value, but for many in the United States it has come to signify pride in one's heritage. Today, the term Chicano is most often used by groups who helped define the Chicano identity, especially political activists.

In the 1980s the term Hispanic replaced Chicano in common usage. Hispanic refers to any person living in the United States who is of Spanish ancestry. By the 1990s, though, many felt that the word Hispanic was academic and a little sterile. Today the word Hispanic has been replaced in many circles by the word "Latino." The words Chicano or Chicana are often used by Mexican Americans when they wish to stress their national roots.

The grassroots organizations and cultural movements created a new interest in publishing small newspapers and magazines. In 1967 El grito was launched. This influential Chicano literary magazine gave a start to some of the most important writers in Chicano literature. This magazine and its publishing house, Editorial Quinto Sol, also helped define Chicano literature. By the end of the 1970s, however, most of the Chicano literary magazines and publishers had disappeared. In 1973, though, a new Hispanic magazine called Revista Chicano-Riqueña (Chicano-Rican Review) appeared. This magazine, edited by Nicolás Kanellos and Luis

Dávila (1927–1998), developed a following among academics in American universities. In 1979 Kanellos founded Arte Público Press, which quickly took a leading role in publishing the works of Hispanic women writers. It published the Chicano writers Ana Castillo (1953–) and Sandra Cisneros (1954–). It also published Los Angeles short-story writer Helena María Viramontes (1954–) and New Mexico novelist and playwright Denise Chávez (1948–). These writers produced some of the best-selling and most reviewed Chicano books of the decade.

The most recent generation of Chicano writers has begun to make inroads into the mainstream American literary scene. Some of these writers no longer speak or write in Spanish. Some no longer derive their inspiration from the oral tradition and political action of the Chicano movement. One poet in this group is Gary Soto (1952–). His poetry is finely crafted, down-to-earth, and rigorous. It is inspired by the life of the common workingman in the fields and factories. Noted poet and novelist Ana Castillo is considered one of the primary writers of the Chicana movement, and remains popular in the twenty-first century. Sandra Cisnero's important 1984 novel The House on Mango Street is still widely read in schools in the twenty-first century. Her 2002 semiautobiographical novel Caramelo is the story of a Mexican American family in Chicago. Spanning generations, the novel presents a sprawling cultural history of Mexican Americans.

Mexican Americans and television

In 1999 Hispanics nationwide protested their under-representation on television. Studies showed that 63 percent of Latinos did not feel that television represented them accurately. Hispanic groups, such as the National Council of La Raza, urged viewers to participate in a national brownout (large decrease in usage) of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC television networks on the week of September 12, to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Week.

The next year two noteworthy Mexican American television series aired. The cable channel Showtime came out with Resurrection Boulevard, a series about a working-class Mexican American family in East Los Angeles. Most of the roles in front of and behind the camera were filled by Hispanic people, making this a true milestone in TV. That same year CBS financed the pilot episode of a drama about a Mexican family, American Family, created by filmmaker Gregory Nava (1949–). But after financing it, CBS could not find a place for the show in its 2000-to-2001 schedule. Finally, PBS picked up the show, which debuted in January 2002. It starred Edward James Olmos (1947–), Sonia Braga (1950–), Esai Morales (1962–), and many others and was very successful.

In 2002 ABC TV debuted The George Lopez Show, a new comedy about a Mexican American family in Los Angeles. The show is based loosely on the life of stand-up comedian George Lopez, who plays a manager at an airplane parts plant in the show. In its first year, it was the most-watched show in its time slot, drawing about 12 million viewers per show, and its success in the following seasons may be instrumental in ensuring that there are more prime time network shows featuring Mexican American casts and themes in the future.

The first Spanish-language television station in the United States was San Antonio's KCOR-TV, which began airing in the 1950s. In its early years, KCOR aired shows from 5

P.M. to midnight. About half the shows were live variety and entertainment shows that featured Mexican performers. In the early twenty-first century, Spanish-language television is one of the most booming industries in the United States. While television audiences worldwide have been shrinking, Hispanic audiences have been growing. The two major Hispanic networks are Univisíon and Telemundo. In 2002 they had an average audience between them of about 3.7 million viewers. They no longer rely on variety shows and old movies. They include drama, talk shows, comedy, reality, news, highly popular soap operas called telenovelas, investigative journalism, sports, contemporary movies, entertainment magazines, dance videos, and specials. In 2002, Spanish-language programs earned about $2 billion in advertising.


Mexican American artists have been leaders among urban muralists in the United States. Their large paintings on interior and exterior building walls brighten many urban landscapes. Many of their murals depict the life and industry of the city or else represent some facet of the history and culture of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. Chicano murals are found in barrios (neighborhoods whose residents speak Spanish) throughout the Southwest, California, and the Great Lakes region. The number of murals varies from just a few in some cities, like Houston, to many hundreds in Los Angeles. They often show the complex political, social, and economic issues that Mexican Americans face every day. The murals are sometimes more important for their themes than for their artistic quality.

One of the most famous muralists at the beginning of the twenty-first century is Judith Baca (1946–). Her best-known work is The Great Wall of Los Angeles, a thirteen-foot high, half-mile long outdoor mural thought to be the longest mural in the world. In addition to her work as a muralist and painter, Baca helped found the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) in Los Angeles, an organization that fosters the development of Hispanic artists and has been responsible for more than a hundred new murals in the city of Los Angeles.

The many forms of Mexican American music, from conjunto (Texas Mexican border music featuring button accordion and Mexican twelve-string guitar) to Latin rock, have revolutionized music worldwide and in the United States. Mexican American film, theater, sports, newspapers and magazines, and dance, are all integral parts of the American culture. Mexican cuisine has contributed significantly to the eating habits of most Americans, from fast foods such as tacos and burritos, to classic Mexican dining including tamales, enchiladas, fresh tortillas, and a variety of chili and molé sauces. In fact, Mexican flavors have become such an important part of American dining, that the salsa Americans put on their tables has become a more popular condiment in the United States than its old standby, ketchup.

For More Information


Pitt, Leonard. The Decline of the Californios: A Social History of the Spanish-Speaking Californians, 1846–1890. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966.

Portes, Alejandro, and Rubén G. Rumbaut. Immigrant America: A Portrait. 2nd ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Suro, Roberto. Strangers Among Us: How Latino Immigration Is Transforming America. New York: Knopf, 1998.

Web Sites

Guzmázman, Betsy. "The Hispanic Population: Census 2000 Brief." U.S. Census Bureau. (accessed on March 3, 2004).

Medina, David D. "Statistics Tell the Story for Valenzuela." Rice News. (accessed on March 3, 2004).

"The Zoot Suit Riots: Governor's Citizen's Committee Report on Los Angeles Riots." Digital History. (accessed on March 3, 2004).

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