A Page in Untold Hispanic History
Within the Hispanic community, there are some who don't feel they really need to be involve because they are viewed as "others" or if we really want to go with the demeaning labels, mojados, wetbacks.
Spring resident Martinez, 39 [and born in the U.S.], said that "when people think of Mexicans, they don't think of people like me." They think of the immigrant and the laborer, not someone who went to college and listens to pop radio.Here in the US, Hispanics is not considered as a race, but an ethnicity. From the biological point of view, races simply do not exist. From the cultural and political point of view, however, the concept of "race" is extremely important. Mexican national identity has been constructed in terms of the idea that Mexicans are the product of a creative mixing of Indians and Europeans. In Miriam Jimenez Roman's article entitled "Africa's Legacy in Mexico: What is a Mexican?," Roman writes:
in the interest of a national identity based on a mixture of indigenous and European cultural mestizaje. In practice, this ideology of "racial democracy" favors the European presence; too often the nation's glorious indigenous past is reduced to folklore and ceremonial showcasing.Mexican Americans were considered an ethnicity minority only after the end of the U.S.-Mexico War of 1848 and the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, when Mexico ceded the territory that today is California, New Mexico, Nevada, and parts of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, and also approved the prior annexation of Texas.
The treaty promised US citizenship to former Mexican citizens and all Native Americans -who were Mexican citizens - in the ceded territories.
Since 1848 Native Americans and Mexican Americans have struggled to achieve political and social equality within the United States, often citing the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as a document that promised civil and property rights. Although the treaty promised U.S. citizenship to former Mexican citizens, the Native Americans in the ceded territories, who in fact were Mexican citizens, were not given full U.S. citizenship until the 1930s. Former Mexican citizens were almost universally considered foreigners by the U.S. settlers who moved into the new territories. In the first half century after ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, hundreds of state, territorial, and federal legal bodies produced a complex tapestry of conflicting opinions and decisions bearing on the meaning of the treaty. The property rights seemingly guaranteed in Articles VIII and IX of the treaty (and in the Protocol of Queretaro) were not all they seemed. In U.S. courts, the property rights of former Mexican citizens in California, New Mexico, and Texas proved to be fragile. Within a generation the Mexican-Americans became a disenfranchised, poverty-stricken minority.It must be noted, these events took place before the ratification of the 14th Amendment in 1868.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Shedding Indeginous Roots For "Whiteness"
Anglo-Americans never considered Mexicans their racial equals and, moreover, regarded them as mixed peoples. In 1897, a federal district court upheld the right of Mexicans to naturalize under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Ricardo Rodriguez, a native of Mexico who had lived in Texas for ten years, petitioned to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Government attorneys argued against his eligibility on the grounds that Rodriguez was "not a white person, not an African, nor of African descent." U.S. District Judge Thomas Maxey wrote:
"as to color, [Rodriguez] may be classed with the copper-colored or red men. He has dark eyes, straight black hair, and high cheek bones."Knowing that Mexicans were considered mestizos, the judge had a hard time making his ruling, however, Judge Maxey concluded that because Rodriguez knew "nothing of the Aztecs or Toltecs, [h]e is not an Indian" and therefore Rodriguez was given citizenship. Since then, many communities like their counterpart in Mexico have been trying to "deinidianised" after the Revolution of 1910 by ceasing to identify themselves as Indians. However, in the US, Mexicans were still considered a race as Mae Ngai notes:
by the late 1920s, a Mexican "race problem" had emerged in the Southwest, impelled by contradictions wrought by the burgeoning of commercial agriculture, an all-time high in Mexican immigration, and the formation of a migratory, landless agricultural proletariat and of segregated communities.Even the 1930 Census Bureau, Mexicans were considered as a separate race, as persons born in Mexico or with parents born in Mexico and who were "not definitely white, Negro, Indian, Chinese, or Japanese." It was not until the 1940, with the help of Mexico and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the US finally gave in and reclassified persons of Mexican descent as "white."
In 1929, during the height of a nativist movement, business leaders created the LULAC. It was during this time the US was at the height of the nativist movement.
When the United States of North America annexed a third of Mexico's territory following the Mexican War, nearly 77,000 Mexicans became U.S. citizens. For generations, these citizens were to be plagued by a prejudicial attitude which would result in overt acts of discrimination and segregation which in turn brought about the curtailment of many of their civil rights, privileges, and opportunities. The sign, "No Mexicans Allowed" was to be found everywhere.It was during this height in America's darkest period, discrimination against Mexican Americans ran wild. According to LULAC:
Prejudicial attitude and discrimination acts in Texas had reached such extreme proportions that Mexican Americans started organizations as defensive measures against such un-American practices. Outstanding among these were three organizations: The Order of the Sons of America with councils in Sommerset, Pearsall, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio. The second was The Knights of America in San Antonio. And the third was The League of Latin American Citizens with councils in Harlingen, Brownsville, Laredo, Penitas, La Grulla, McAllen, and Gulf.
Discrimination against Mexican Americans was awful. One of the best kept secret in American history is that in those years there were more Mexican Americans hung then the total number of blacks that had been hung during the civil war.It was during this time, Mexican Americans were caught between being a "noble savage" and less than a second class, Hispanics had no other reason but to denounce their heritage just to survive.
In those days, Mexican Americans had to be real careful anytime they gathered. If they gathered in large numbers, they would cause suspicions and faced charges of communism. Yes, there were many that felt insulted and considered LULAC members as a bunch of "vendidos." They could not understand why LULAC members would go out of their way to embrace an anglo society that had been so cruel to Mexican Americans. However, the founders of LULAC had seen many Mexican American organizations flourish and disappear within a couple of years, and without accomplishments. LULAC founders were determined not to let this occur to LULAC. Therefore, the founders of LULAC, in order to avoid suspicions of un-American activities and a safe haven for its members, forewent many of their convictions. Many of the official rites which LULAC adopted had never be adopted by any other Mexican American organization. Adopted was the American Flag as the official flag, America the Beautiful as the official song, and The George Washington Prayer as the official prayer. Also, adopted were Robert Rules of Order as the governing rules during meetings and conventions.So why do some Mexican Americans look down on foreign born Hispanic? It's no secret that many older Mexican Americans resent being lumped together in the "minority" status with immigrants who, they believe, have not suffered the degree of discrimination and exclusion they have. Perhaps some Mexican Americans remember the days when Mexican Americans insisted on their status as whites in the days before affirmative action. Or perhaps some Mexican Americans still have the old caste system ingrained for centuries where the more indigenous you are, the more backward and traditional they are seen. As more young Hispanics are beginning to accept their indigenous roots and as Mexico, Central and South American indigenous groups are excreting their rights, we have to wonder if Hispanics Americans and foreign born Hispanics can find common ground.