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Chicanos: political and social issues.


From El Tratado of Guadalupe-Hidalgo to the Mexican- American Civil Rights Movement there has been two main issues that have been difficult for Chicanos to overcome.

1) The political issues.

When the US defeated Mexico in the Mexican-American War, the peace treaty, El Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) gave the US 55% of Mexico's land. The US was given 10 states: California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas, (parts of) Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. The peace treaty gave the Mexican citizens that lived in these states, US citizenship, which unfortunately were not respected until later on in the years(Lipski).

During this year (1848), American farmers and ranchers took these Mexican-American's land, and I don't think it wasn't by force. One of the explanation for the lose of the land was that the title of ownership was not in English. Mexican-American's in the SW faced racial discrimination, lynchings, they weren't allowed any education or they were separated from the white-Caucasian Americans.

Speaking about the lynchings. Between 1848-1928 there were about 600 Mexicans and Mexican-American's who were lynched in the SW. Anzaldúa's speaks about the lynchings in her book, Borderlands/ La Frontera The New Mestiza, and she says,

"After Mexican-American reissters robber a train in Brownsville, Texas on October 18, 1915, Anglo vigilante groups began lynchings Chicanos. Texas Rangers would take them into the brush and shoot them. One hundred Chicanos were killed in a matter of months, whole families lynched" (30).

When the Mexicans and Mexican- Americans who lived in Texas were either thrown out/ kicked out/ or lost their land, they found an opportunity in California. The opportunity was the California Gold Rush (1849). They became laborers working in mines, but yet again, as they were working for the white man, they were getting skimped. The white man was taking their money and some brave Mexicans and Mexican-Americans stood up for themselves, but unfortunately 163 Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were lynched during this time (Carrigan).

Basically, after WWI (1918-1930) there was a shortage of farm laborers in the US, which means that the US needed farmers and ranchers (Lipski). Who do they call upon? Take a guess.. YEP that's right. Mexicans. The US government called it the Bracero Program. The Bracero Program- the largest U.S. contract labor program brought millions of Mexicans to work in the United States. From 1492 to 1964 about 4.6 million of contracts were signed which allowed Mexicans to come work in farms, rail, and mining industries. (UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education). Let me mention that it gave Mexican laborers "temporary" work in the US agriculture (Lipski). That sounds awesome right? Giving Mexicans the opportunity to come to the United States to work so they can support their families! But it is not, because these Mexicans would work long hours for small amount of wages. The braceros (the Mexicans in the program) were underpaid and badly treated. SHOCKER RIGHT? (not really). Under the time of the Bracero Program, civil rights activists, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta fought for the laborers rights. One important documentary, Wrath of Grapes 1918 Pesticide Poisoning of Grape Workers speaks about the conditions that the farm laborers had to experience which caused many health conditions like miscarriages, deaths, cancer, asthma, and children born with health problems. The documentary speaks about a 5 year-old, Felipe Franco, he was born without arms or legs. His mother was a farm worker and she was exposed to many pesticide while she was pregnant of him and she did not know that these chemicals were deadly and dangerous. These are the effects that the Bracero Program has caused. Cherríe Moraga was inspired by the documentary and she wrote a play Heroes and Saints and Other Plays (1992). The play is about how the poisonous pesticides affectedg the Mexican-American population who were living and working in these rural farms. It also touches on how the children were born with cancer or birth "defects" (I use quotation marks because I don't like that word, I feel like everyone has a flaw, and I mean that by everything has something that no one has and makes them unique/ yes they may be born without a body part, but that is not a bad thing so why call it a defect?.). The protagonist, Cerezita, is born with just a head and she needs a technological equipment to maneuver around. The main character is based on Felipe Franco from the documentary.

(Cerezita on the bottom right)

2. The social issues.

First I want to talk about the word Mestizo. A person who is Mestizo has mixed Indian and Spaniard blood.

"1521, Nacío una nueva raza, el mestizo, el mexicano. A race that had never existed before. Chicanos, Mexican- Americans, are the offspring of those first matings" (27).

Now I want to talk about how Mexican-Americans and Chicanos have always had this unfavorable, abrogating view point from the Northern/White/ Caucasian American.

The term Chicano has changed because of the way Caucasian-Americans perceive this population.

In the middle of the 17th century (1650's), Mexicans (from Mexico), perspectives of Chicano's were people of Mexican descent who were born or raised in the United States and who lived in poverty and exploitation (Lipski 77). The word was a degrading term.

In Zootsuit (1981), a film directed by Luis Valdez, the protagonist's brother tells his dad that he's going out in "Chicano style" and his father says, "haven't I told you not to use that word. It means you're trash. You're MEXICANOS. ME-XI-CA-NOS." This film was based on the Zootsuit Riots of 1943.

The Chicano Movement (1960's) was about Mexican-American acknowledgement, realization, and empowerment. The Chicano Movement spoke about political issues like the lost of land/ restoration of land, the right to vote, better education, farm workers right's, and social rights like the right to learn/ be aware about the Mexican-American history. The Chicano Movement allowed the term to blossom and glow. The term was/is viewed in a positive aspect. It has some sense of belonging-ness now. Chicanos are more than just Mexican-Americans, they are blood. They are part of la raza. Chicanos = family/ familia. They stick together no matter what, and you can see this in Chicano films like Blood in Blood Out, Stand and Deliver, and Mi Vida Loca.

Lipski, John. Varities of Spanish in the United States.

Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/ La Frontera The New Mestiza.

Carrigan, William D. The lynching of persons of Mexican origin or descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928.


mividayourlife@gmail.com

Washington, DC United States

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