Mexican americans

Mexican American
Template:Image array
Total population

Mexican Americans
34,038,599 (2012)
10.85% of the US population.[1]

Regions with significant populations
Southwest, West Coast, Upper Midwest. There are also emerging populations in the South and Northeast.
Spanish, American English, Spanglish, and a minority of Indigenous Mexican languages.
Predominantly Roman Catholic; minority of Protestants.

Mexican Americans (Spanish: Mexicano estadounidense) are Americans of full or partial Mexican descent. As of July 2012, Mexican Americans make up 10.9% of the United States' population with over 34 million Americans listed as being of full or partial Mexican ancestry.[1] As of July 2012, Mexican Americans comprise 64.3% of all Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.[1]

The United States is home to the second largest Mexican community in the world second only to Mexico itself comprising nearly 22% of the entire Mexican origin population of the world. Canada is a distant third with a small but fast-growing Mexican Canadian population of 96,055 (0.3% of the population) as of 2011.[2]

In addition, as of 2008 there were approximately 7,000,000 undocumented Mexicans living in the United States. Upgrading their legal status became a major issue in 2013.[3] Over 60% of all Mexican Americans reside in the states of California and Texas.[4]

History of Mexican Americans

Mexican American history spans more than 400 years and varies from region to region within the United States. In 1900, there were slightly more than 500,000 Hispanics living in New Mexico, California and Texas.[5] Most were Mexican Americans of indigenous Mexican, Spanish, and other hispanicized European settlers who arrived in the Southwest during Spanish colonial times. Approximately ten percent of the current Mexican American population can trace their lineage back to these early colonial settlers.[6]

As early as 1813, some of the Tejanos who colonized Texas in the Spanish Colonial Period established a government in Texas that looked forward to independence from Mexico. In those days, there was no concept of what a Mexican was. Many Mexicans were more loyal to their states/provinces than to their country as a whole. This was particularly true in frontier regions such as Zacatecas, Texas, Yucatán, Oaxaca, New Mexico, etc.[7]

As revealed by the writings of colonial Tejano Texians such as Antonio Menchaca, the Texas Revolution was initially a colonial Tejano cause. By 1831, Anglo settlers outnumbered Tejanos ten to one in Texas.[8] The Mexican government became concerned by their increasing numbers and restricted the number of new Anglo-American settlers allowed to enter Texas. The Mexican government also banned slavery within the state, which angered slave owners.[9] The American settlers along with many of the Tejanos rebelled against the centralized authority of Mexico City and the Santa Anna regime, while others remained loyal to Mexico, and still others were neutral.[10][11]

Author John P. Schmal wrote of the effect Texas independence had on the Tejano community:[12]

"A native of San Antonio, Juan Seguín is probably the most famous Tejano to be involved in the War of Texas Independence. His story is complex because he joined the Anglo rebels and helped defeat the Mexican forces of Santa Anna. But later on, as Mayor of San Antonio, he and other Tejanos felt the hostile encroachments of the growing Anglo power against them. After receiving a series of death threats, Seguín relocated his family in Mexico, where he was coerced into military service and fought against the US in 1846–1848 Mexican-American War. Although the events of 1836 led to independence for the people of Texas, the Hispanic population of the state was very quickly disenfranchised to the extent that their political representation in the Texas State Legislature disappeared entirely for several decades."

Californios were Spanish speaking residents of modern day California who were the original Hispanics (Mexicans (regardless of race) and local Hispanicized Indians) in the region (Alta California) before the United States acquired it as a territory. Relations between Californios and Anglo settlers were relatively good until military officer John C. Fremont arrived in Alta California with a force of 60 men on an exploratory expedition in 1846. Fremont made an agreement with Comandante Castro that he would only stay in the San Joaquin Valley for the winter, then move north to Oregon. However, Fremont remained in the Santa Clara Valley then headed towards Monterey.

When Castro demanded that Fremont leave Alta California, Fremont rode to Gavilan Peak, raised a US flag and vowed to fight to the last man to defend it. After three days of tension, Fremont retreated to Oregon without a shot being fired. With relations between Californios and Anglos quickly souring, Fremont rode back into Alta California and encouraged a group of American settlers to seize a group of Castro's soldiers and their horses. Another group, seized the Presidio of Sonoma and captured Mariano Vallejo.

William B. Ide was chosen Commander in Chief and on July 5, he proclaimed the creation of the Bear Flag Republic. On July 9, US forces reached Sonoma and lowered the Bear Flag Republic's flag then replaced it with a US flag. Californios organized an army to defend themselves from invading American forces after the Mexican army retreated from Alta California to defend other parts of the country.

The Californios defeated an American force in Los Angeles on September 30, 1846. In turn, they were defeated after the Americans reinforced their forces in what is now southern California. The arrival of tens of thousands of people during the California Gold Rush meant the end of the Californio's ranching lifestyle. Many Anglo 49ers turned to farming and moved, often illegally, onto land granted to Californios by the old Mexican government.[13]

The United States first came into conflict with Mexico in the 1830s, as the westward spread of Anglo settlements and of slavery brought significant numbers of new settlers into the region known as Tejas (modern-day Texas), then part of Mexico. The Mexican-American War followed by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848 and the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, extended US control over a wide range of territory once held by Mexico, including the present day borders of Texas and the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California.

Although the treaty promised that the landowners in this newly acquired territory would enjoy full enjoyment and protection of their property as if they were citizens of the United States, many former citizens of Mexico lost their land in lawsuits before state and federal courts or as a result of legislation passed after the treaty.[14] Even those statutes intended to protect the owners of property at the time of the extension of the United States' borders, such as the 1851 California Land Act, had the effect of dispossessing Californio owners ruined by the cost of maintaining litigation over land titles for years.

20th Century

While Mexican Americans were once concentrated in the Southwest – California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas – they began creating communities in St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and other steel producing regions when they obtained employment during World War I. More recently, Mexican illegal immigrants have increasingly become a large part of the workforce in industries such as meat packing throughout the Midwest, in agriculture in the southeastern United States, and in the construction, landscaping, restaurant, hotel and other service industries throughout the country.

Mexican-American workers formed unions of their own and joined integrated unions. The most significant union struggle involving Mexican-Americans was the United Farm Workers' long strike and boycott aimed at grape growers in the San Joaquin and Coachella Valleys in the late 1960s. Its struggle propelled César Chávez and Dolores Huerta into national prominence changing from a workers' rights organization that helped workers get unemployment insurance to that of a union of farmworkers almost overnight.

Mexican American identity has also changed markedly throughout these years. Over the past hundred years, Mexican Americans have campaigned for voting rights, stood against educational and employment discrimination and stood for economic and social advancement. At the same time, many Mexican Americans have struggled with defining and maintaining their community's identity.

In the 1960s and 1970s, some Latino/Hispanic student groups flirted with Mexican nationalism, and differences over the proper name for members of the community. Discussion over self-identification as Chicano/Chicana, Latino/Latina, Mexican Americans, or Hispanics became tied up with deeper disagreements over whether to integrate into or remain separate from mainstream American society, as well as divisions between those Mexican Americans whose families had lived in the United States for two or more generations and more recent immigrants.

During this time rights groups such as the National Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee were founded. The states with the largest percentages and populations of Mexican-Americans are California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. There has also been very high increasing populations in Oklahoma. Pennsylvania and Illinois.[15]

Mexican Americans are primarily Roman Catholic with a large minority of Evangalical Protestants. Notably, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report in 2006,[16] Mexican Americans are significantly less likely to have abandoned Catholicism for Protestant churches than other Hispanic groups.

Race and ethnicity

Main article: Mexicans

The Mexican population is mainly conformed by Mestizos, individuals with a genetic background consisting of Amerindian and European contributions. Genetic heterogeneity in Mexicans results from a complex demographic history that started with the peopling of North and Central America about 15,000 yrs ago, including the settlement of at least 60 different indigenous groups in Mexico. Source

Per the 2010 US Census, the majority (52.8%) of Mexican Americans self identify as being of the White race.[17] The remainder self identifying as "Some other race" (39.5%), "two or more races" (5.0%), Native American (1.4%), Black (0.9%), and Asian / Pacific Islander (0.4%).[17] Mexican Americans are predominantly of European and Native American descent.[18]

Mexicans are the product of the mixture of 35 ethnic groups. According to a report by the Mexican Genome Project, which sampled 300 mestizos from six Mexican states and one indigenous group, the gene pool of the Mexican mestizo population was calculated to be 55.2% percent indigenous, 41.8% European, 1.8% African, and 1.2% Asian.[19] According to the last Mexican census to record race (which was in 1921), 10 percent of the Mexican populace identified itself as white, 59 percent as Mestizo (Native American-European mixture), 29 percent as Native American, and 2 percent as "other", foreigner (regardless of race), or did not specify a race.[20]

US census bureau classifications

As the United States' borders expanded, the United States Census Bureau changed its racial classification methods for Mexican Americans under United States jurisdiction. The Bureau's classification system has evolved significantly from its inception:

  • From 1790 to 1850, there was no distinct racial classification of Mexican Americans in the US census. The only racial categories recognized by the Census Bureau were White and Black. The Census Bureau estimates that during this period the number of persons that could not be categorized as white or black did not exceed 0.25% of the total population based on 1860 census data.[21]
  • From 1850 through 1920 the Census Bureau expanded its racial categories to include all different races including Mestizos, Mulattos, Amerindians and Asians, and classified Mexicans and Mexican Americans as "White".[21]
  • The 1930 US census revoked generic white status for Mexican Americans due to protest over a diluted definition of "whiteness". The new form asked for "color or race" and census workers were instructed to "write ‘W’ for White; ’Mex’ for Mexican."[22]
  • In the 1940 census, Mexican Americans were re-classified as White, due to widespread protests by the Mexican American community. Instructions for enumerators were "Mexicans – Report 'White' (W) for Mexicans unless they are definitely of indigenous or other non-white race." During the same census, however, the bureau began to track the White population of Spanish mother tongue. This practice continued through the 1960 census.[21] The 1960 census also used the title "Spanish-surnamed American" in their reporting data of Mexican Americans, which included Cuban Americans, Puerto Ricans and others under the same category.
  • From 1970 to 1980, there was a dramatic population increase of Other Race in the census, reflecting the addition of a question on Hispanic origin to the 100-percent questionnaire, an increased propensity for Hispanics to not identify themselves as White, and a change in editing procedures to accept reports of "Other race" for respondents who wrote in Hispanic entries such as Mexican, Cuban, or Puerto Rican. In 1970, such responses in the Other race category were reclassified and tabulated as White. During this census, the bureau attempted to identify all Hispanics by use of the following criteria in sampled sets:[21]
    • Spanish speakers and persons belonging to a household where the head of household was a Spanish speaker
    • Persons with Spanish heritage by birth location or surname
    • Persons who self-identified Spanish origin or descent
  • From 1980 on, the Census Bureau has collected data on Hispanic origin on a 100-percent basis. The bureau has noted an increasing number of respondents who mark themselves as Hispanic origin but not of the White race.[21]

For certain purposes, respondents who wrote in "Chicano" or "Mexican" (or indeed, almost all Hispanic origin groups) in the "Some other race" category were automatically re-classified into the "White race" group.[23]

Politics and debate of racial classification

Since the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which granted citizenship rights to Mexican people in the newly acquired US territory of the Southwest, Mexican Americans have been legally considered "White". Since legal citizenship in the United States required "White" racial status,". new Mexican Americans had to be classified as white whether or not they were considered white in reality. Thus Mexican Americans were white by law, but not usually classified as such socially (depending on class and whether an individual had any degree of perceived indigenous ancestry).

According to legal scholars, Anglos rarely distinguished between Mexicans and Mexican Americans and painted a picture of Mexicans as an economic and cultural threat to America. In the early 1900s, Mexican Americans increasingly were denied many of the rights of citizens. Like the African American population, many were placed in segregated schools with inferior educational resources, barred from restaurants, movie theaters, bathrooms, and public swimming pools, and denied the possibility of living in white neighborhoods," in addition to being barred from serving on juries in most of the Southwest; yet none of this segregation was formally encoded in law.

Thus while for legal purposes, Mexican Americans were counted as White, in everyday reality most Mexican Americans were not considered "White, did not enjoy "White" status or privileges, and were in fact typically subjected to systematic discrimination and "Jim Crow" style racial segregation. The legal designation of white racial status actually worked against Mexican American civil rights in lawsuits claiming racial discrimination. Such suits were typically denied on the basis that Mexican Americans were not subject to racial discrimination, despite all evidence to the contrary, because they were legally white.[24]

In times and places where Mexicans were allotted white status, they were permitted to intermarry with what today are termed "non-Hispanic whites", though social customs typically only approved of such marriages if the Mexican partner was not of any discernable indigenous heritage.[25] Legally, Mexican Americans could vote and hold elected office, though they were also constrained from voting in most places by literacy tests and poll taxes. While Mexicans of Spanish descent ran the state politics and constituted most of the elite of New Mexico since colonial times, property requirements and English literacy requirements were imposed in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas in order to prevent Mexican Americans from voting. Some eligible voters were intimidated with the threat of violence if they attempted to exercise their right to vote.[26]

Mexicans were also allowed to serve in all-white units during World War II. However, many Mexican American war veterans were discriminated against and even denied medical services by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs when they arrived home.[27]

In the past, Mexicans were legally considered "White" because either they were considered to be of full Spanish heritage, or because of early treaty obligations to Spaniards and Mexicans that conferred citizenship status to Mexican peoples at a time when whiteness was a prerequisite for US citizenship.[28][29] Although Mexican Americans were legally classified as "White" in terms of official federal policy, many organizations, businesses, and homeowners associations and local legal systems had official policies to exclude Mexican Americans. Throughout the southwest discrimination in wages were institutionalized in "white wages" versus lower "Mexican wages" for the same job classifications.[27][30][31][32]

Mexican Americans legally classified as "White", following anti-miscegenation laws in most western states until the 1960s, could not legally marry African or Asian Americans (See Perez v. Sharp). However, most were not socially considered white, and therefore, according to Historian Neil Foley in the book The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans did marry non-whites typically without reprisal.

Economic and social issues

Immigration issues

Since the 1960s, Mexican immigrants have met a significant portion of the demand for cheap labor in the United States.[33] Fear of deportation makes them highly vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Many employers, however, have developed a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude toward hiring undocumented Mexican nationals. In May 2006, hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants, Mexicans and other nationalities, walked out of their jobs across the country in protest to support immigration reform (many in hopes of a path to citizenship similar to the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted citizenship to Mexican nationals living and working without documentation in the US).

In the United States in states where Mexican Americans make up a large percentage of the population such as California and Texas, undocumented as well as legal immigrants from Mexico and Central America in addition to Mexican Americans combined often make up a large majority of workers in many blue-collar occupations: the majority of the employed men are restaurant workers, janitors, truck drivers, gardeners, construction laborers, material moving workers, or perform other types of manual or other blue collar labor (Source, US Census Bureau, American community survey data.).

Many women also work in low wage service and retail occupations. In many of these places with large Latino populations, many types of blue-collar workers are often assumed to be Mexican American or Mexican or other Latino immigrants (Although a large minority are actually not. -Source, US Census Bureau, American community survey data.) because of their frequent dominance in those occupations and stereotyping.

Occasionally, tensions have risen between Mexican immigrants and other ethnic groups because of increasing concerns over the availability of working-class jobs to Americans and immigrants from other ethnic groups. However, tensions have also risen among Hispanic American laborers who have been displaced because of both cheap Mexican labor and ethnic profiling. African American workers in lower-wage jobs have been displaced by undocumented Mexican laborers and their neighborhoods have been transformed from majority black to majority Latino, which has caused some racial tensions between African Americans and Mexicans in the Southwest US.

Even legal immigrants to the United States, both from Mexico and elsewhere, have spoken out against illegal immigration. However, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in June 2007, 63% of Americans would support an immigration policy that would put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship if they "pass background checks, pay fines and have jobs, learn English", while 30% would oppose such a plan. The survey also found that if this program was instead labeled "amnesty", 54% would support it, while 39% would oppose.[34]

Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, has said that the growth of the working-age population is a large factor in keeping the economy growing and that immigration can be used to grow that population. According to Greenspan, by 2030, the growth of the US workforce will slow from 1 percent to 1/2 percent, while the percentage of the population over 65 years will rise from 13 percent to perhaps 20 percent.[35] Greenspan has also stated that the current immigration problem could be solved with a "stroke of the pen", referring to the 2007 immigration reform bill which would have strengthened border security, created a guest worker program, and put illegal immigrants currently residing in the US on a path to citizenship if they met certain conditions.[36]

Discrimination and stereotypes

Throughout US history, Mexican Americans have and continue to endure various types of negative stereotypes which have long circulated in media and popular culture.[37][38] Mexican Americans have also faced discrimination based on ethnicity, race, culture, poverty, and use of the Spanish language.[39]

Since the majority of illegal immigrants in the US have traditionally been from Latin America, the Mexican American community has been the subject of widespread immigration raids. During The Great Depression, the United States government sponsored a Mexican Repatriation program which was intended to encourage people to voluntarily move to Mexico, but thousands were deported against their will. More than 500,000 individuals were deported, approximately 60 percent of which were actually United States citizens.[40][41] In the post-war McCarthy era, the Justice Department launched Operation Wetback.[41]

During World War II, more than 300,000 Mexican Americans served in the US armed forces.[14] Mexican Americans were generally integrated into regular military units, however, many Mexican American war veterans were discriminated against and even denied medical services by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs when they arrived home.[27] In 1948, war veteran Dr. Hector P. Garcia founded the American GI Forum to address the concerns of Mexican American veterans who were being discriminated against. The AGIF's first campaign was on the behalf of Felix Longoria, a Mexican American private who was killed in the Philippines while in the line of duty. Upon the return of his body to his hometown of Three Rivers, Texas, he was denied funeral services because of his race.

In the 1948 case of Perez v. Sharp, Andrea Perez—a Mexican-American woman listed as White—and Sylvester Davis—an African American man—the Supreme Court of California recognized that interracial bans on marriage violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution.

In 2006, Time magazine reported that the number of hate groups in the United States increased by 33% since 2000, with illegal immigration being used as a foundation for recruitment.[42] According to the 2011 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics Report, 56.9% of the 939 victims of crimes motivated by a bias toward the victims’ ethnicity or national origin were directed at Hispanics.[43] In California, the state with the largest Mexican American population, the number of hate crimes committed against Latinos has almost doubled from 2003 to 2007.[44][45] In 2011, hate crimes against Hispanics declined 31% in the United States and 43% in California.[46]

Social status and assimilation

Barrow (2005) finds increases in average personal and household incomes for Mexican Americans in the 21st century. US-born Mexican Americans earn more and are represented more in the middle and upper-class segments more than most recently arriving Mexican immigrants.

Most immigrants from Mexico, as elsewhere, come from the lower classes and from families generationally employed in lower skilled jobs. They also are most likely from rural areas. Thus, many new Mexican immigrants are not skilled in white collar professions. Recently, some professionals from Mexico have been migrating, but to make the transition from one country to another involves re-training and re-adjusting to conform to US laws —i.e. professional licensing is required.

According to James P. Smith of the Research and Development Corporation, the children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants tend to lessen educational and income gaps with native whites. Immigrant Latino men make about half of what native whites do, while second generation US-born Latinos make about 78 percent of the salaries of their native white counterparts and by the third generation US-born Latinos make on average identical wages to their US-born white counterparts.[48]

Huntington (2005) argues that the sheer number, concentration, linguistic homogeneity, and other characteristics of Latin American immigrants will erode the dominance of English as a nationally unifying language, weaken the country's dominant cultural values, and promote ethnic allegiances over a primary identification as an American. Testing these hypotheses with data from the US Census and national and Los Angeles opinion surveys, Citrin et al. (2007) show that Hispanics generally acquire English and lose Spanish rapidly beginning with the second generation, and appear to be no more or less religious or committed to the work ethic than native-born non-Mexican American whites. However, the children and grandchildren of Mexican immigrants were able to make close ties with their extended families in Mexico, since United States shares a 2,000 mile border with Mexico. Many had the opportunity to visit Mexico on a relatively frequent basis. As a result, many Mexicans were able to maintain a strong Mexican culture, language, and relationship with others.[49]

South et al. (2005) examine Hispanic spatial assimilation and inter-neighborhood geographic mobility. Their longitudinal analysis of seven hundred Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban immigrants followed from 1990 to 1995 finds broad support for hypotheses derived from the classical account of assimilation into American society. High income, English-language use, and embeddedness in American social contexts increased Latin American immigrants' geographic mobility into multi-ethnic neighborhoods. US citizenship and years spent in the United States were positively associated with geographic mobility into different neighborhoods, and coethnic contact was inversely associated with this form of mobility, but these associations operated largely through other predictors. Prior experiences of ethnic discrimination increased and therefore decreased the likelihood that Latino immigrants would move from their original neighborhoods, while residing in metropolitan areas with large Latino populations led to geographic moves into "less Anglo" census tracts.[50]


Based on 2000 census data, US-born ethnic Mexicans have a high degree of intermarriage with non-Hispanic Whites:[51]

  • 50.6% of US-born Mexican men and 45.3% of US-born Mexican women married US-born Mexicans;[51]
  • 26.7% of US-born Mexican men and 28.1% of US-born Mexican women married non-Hispanic Whites; and[51]
  • 13.6% of US-born Mexican men and 17.4% of US-born Mexican women married Mexico-born Mexicans.[51]

In addition, based on 2000 data, there is a significant amount of ethnic absorption of ethnic Mexicans into the mainsteam population with 16% of the children of mixed marriages not being identified in the census as Mexican.[52]

Segregation issues

In 2000, over nine million Mexicans Americans lived in areas considered highly segregated socially.[53]

Segregated neighborhoods

Neighborhoods with a high percentage of individuals who claim Latino ancestry are commonly referred to as "barrios" or "colonias." When translated from Spanish to English, barrio signifies "district" or "quarter" while colonia is the corresponding Mexican Spanish word.

A barrio has been defined as "a place where Latino immigrants can express communal culture and language within the larger American culture."[53] In other words, the barrio is a sort of sanctuary for Spanish-speaking immigrants who may not yet be fully adjusted to the United States. In the barrio, they can converse in their native language, allowing one to communicate, find a job, and seek help with less pressure of speaking a second language. It is a place where Latino culture thrives and a source of comfort to a recent immigrant, as it would offer him or her a place to work and live while perfecting fluency of the English language.

However, some argue that the barrio also represents the inequality faced by many Mexican Americans in the United States.[53] Barrios usually offer a lower quality of education, provide poorer jobs than other neighborhoods, and generally receive less government attention than wealthier more integrated Hispanic neighborhoods.

Housing market practices

Studies have shown that the segregation among Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants seems to be declining. One study from 1984 found that Mexican American applicants were offered the same housing terms and conditions as Anglo Americans. They were asked to provide the same information (regarding employment, income, credit checks, etc.) and asked to meet the same general qualifications of their Anglo peers.[54]

In this same study, it was found that Mexican Americans were more likely than Anglo Americans to be asked to pay a security deposit or application fee.[54] Mexican American applicants were also more likely to be placed onto a waiting list than the Anglo Americans applicants.[54]

Latino segregation versus Black segregation

Historically, it has been portrayed that African Americans have faced much harsher treatment concerning segregation than any other racial, ethnic, or ancestral group. However, throughout the Southwest during the first fifty years of the 20th century, Mexican Americans faced segregation, despite being legally classified as "White" (The legal classification of all Mexicans as white was a convention originally enacted to enforce the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican American war in 1848.

According to the Treaty Mexicans remaining in the new US territory would have the right of citizens, which at that time was only granted to "White" people. According to legal scholar Claire Sheridan, referring to the legal, social and political status of Mexican Americans in the early 20th century: "Anglos rarely distinguished between Mexicans and Mexican Americans and painted a picture of "Mexicans" as an economic and cultural threat to America. In this period, Mexican Americans increasingly were denied many of the rights of citizens.

Like the African American population, many were placed in segregated schools with inferior educational resources, barred from restaurants, movie theaters, bathrooms, and public swimming pools, and denied the possibility of living in white neighborhoods. Yet none of this segregation was formally encoded in law. For legal purposes, Mexican Americans were white. They were counted as white in the census and, unlike non-whites (other than those from Africa), were able to naturalize. However, law clashed with perceptions of racial reality, creating a citizenship status for Mexican Americans that many considered to be legal fiction.

This gap between their legal and social standing was reflected in local interpretations of the law and in the regulation of their political participation through mechanisms such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and blue ribbon jury commissions. This unequal treatment continued through the war years and into the 1950s. Mexican Americans' unequal status was especially evident in their representation on juries. While not prohibited by law from serving, they were almost universally excluded on the grounds that they were not qualified to serve.

Despite the similarities between Mexican American and African American patterns of segregation, there were important differences. The racial demarcations between whites and blacks in a state like Texas were inviolable, whereas those between whites and Mexican Americans were not. Although rare, it was possible for Mexican Americans to attend white schools and colleges, mix socially with whites and, on occasion, marry whites: all of these things were impossible for African Americans, largely due to the legalized nature of black-white segregation. Racial segregation was rarely as rigid for Mexican Americans as it was for African Americans, even in situations where African Americans enjoyed higher economic status than Mexican Americans.[55]

When comparing the contemporary segregation of Mexican Americans to that of Black Americans, some scholars claim that "Latino segregation is less severe and fundamentally different than Black residential segregation."[53] Some studies suggest that contemporary segregation of Latinos is more likely to be due to factors such as lower socioeconomic status and immigration while the segregation of African Americans is more likely to be due to larger issues of the history of racism in the US.

Segregated schools

During certain periods, Mexican American children sometimes were forced to register at "Mexican schools", where classroom conditions were poor, the school year was shorter, and the quality of education was substandard.[56]

Various reasons for the inferiority of the education given to Mexican American students have been listed by James A. Ferg-Cadima including: inadequate resources, poor equipment, unfit building construction, shortened school year (see below), failure to prevent drop out, limited access to high school, a watered down curriculum, poor instruction, disproportionate suspension, expulsion, harassment and non-enforced attendance rules.

In 1923, the Texas Education Survey Commission found that the school year for some non-white groups was 1.6 months shorter than the average school year.[56] This may be connected to the fact that minority labor was needed during this time. As the agricultural field required the cheap labor provided by exploited minorities, it has been suggested that the minority school year was shortened to allow for these students to work instead of receive the extra 1.6 months of education.

Some have interpreted the shortened school year as a "means of social control"[56] implementing policies to ensure that Mexican Americans would maintain the unskilled labor force required for a strong economy. A lesser education would serve to confine Mexican Americans to the bottom rung of the social ladder. By limiting the number of days that Mexican Americans could attend school and allotting time for these same students to work, in mainly agricultural and seasonal jobs, the prospects for higher education and upward mobility were slim.

Immigration and segregation

Immigration hubs are popular destinations for Latino immigrants. They are increasing in size and continue to be highly segregated. The largest immigration hubs include Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. The highly segregated areas of these cities have historically served the purpose of allowing immigrants to become comfortable in the United States, accumulate wealth, and eventually leave.[57] The historical view of immigration hubs sees these cities as temporary starting points for immigrants. They are not expected to live their entire lives within the United States inside segregated areas. Rather, they are expected to accumulate enough wealth to start a life within the larger society.

This model of immigration and residential segregation, explained above, is the model which has historically been accurate in describing the experiences of Latino immigrants. However, the patterns of immigration seen today no longer follows this model. This old model is termed the standard spatial assimilation model. More contemporary models are the polarization model and the diffusion model.

The spatial assimilation model posits that as immigrants would live within this country's borders, they would simultaneously become more comfortable in their new surroundings, their socioeconomic status would rise, and their ability to speak English would increase. The combination of these changes would allow for the immigrant to move out of the barrio and into the dominant society. This type of assimilation reflects the experiences of immigrants of the early twentieth century.[53] Recent, more contemporary, models of residential segregation are the polarization model and the diffusion model are described below.

Polarization model suggests that the immigration of non-Black minorities into the United States further separates Blacks and Whites, as though the new immigrants are a buffer between them. This creates a hierarchy in which Blacks are at the bottom, Whites are at the top, and other groups fill the middle.[57] In other words, the polarization model posits that Asians and Amerindians are less segregated than their African American peers because White American society would rather live closer to Asians or Amerindians than African Americans.

The diffusion model has also been suggested as a way of describing the immigrant's experience within the United States. This model is rooted in the belief that as time passes, more and more immigrants enter the country. This model suggests that as the United States becomes more populated with a more diverse set of peoples, stereotypes and discriminatory practices will decrease, as awareness and acceptness increase. The diffusion model predicts that new immigrants will break down old patterns of discrimination and prejudice, as one becomes more and more comfortable with the more diverse neighborhoods that are created through the influx of immigrants.[57] Applying this model to the experiences of Mexican Americans forces one to see Mexican American immigrants as positive additions to the "American melting pot," in which as more additions are made to the pot, the more equal and accepting society will become.


The issue of overcrowding is closely related to the issue of segregation and immigration. As immigrants enter the country, they are likely to settle in areas where their friends, family, or simply other who share their culture, have settled. It is not uncommon for many members of families, extended families, or friends, to live in what is considered "overcrowded" conditions.

A large aspect of the segregation of Latinos within the United States is overcrowding. Rates of overcrowding among Latinos, especially in American suburbs, are high. The US Census Bureau considers a residence to be overcrowded if there is more than one person per room[58]

There are various explanations for overcrowding. One widely held belief about overcrowding is based on a stereotype of living in close proximity simply to cultural preference. To expand on that point, it is widely believed that immigrant Hispanic families live in dense households because of their desire to remain in close proximity with extended family. However, this view does not paint the entire picture. Some families may live under one roof by choice and it is possible that Hispanic people may have different cultural standards than other population groups, thus allowing them to be more comfortable living with extended family underneath the same roof. However, one cannot reduce all problems of Hispanic overcrowding to cultural preference, as this offers an incomplete understanding of the issue at hand.[58]

Hispanic people may live in overcrowded conditions out of economic necessity and simply because they choose to live differently than others. Lack of affordable housing and a poor selection of well-paying occupations may combine to create the necessity of many living close together.[58] Because one certain family may find very few opportunities for sufficient housing or find themselves without adequate funds for a house of their own, they may be forced to live in crowded conditions.

The Chicano movement and the Chicano Moratorium

In the heady days of the late 1960s, when the student movement was active around the globe, the Chicano movement conducted actions such as the mass walkouts by high school students in Denver and East Los Angeles in 1968 and the Chicano Moratorium in Los Angeles in 1970. The movement was particularly strong at the college level, where activists formed MEChA, an organization that seeks to promote Chicano unity and empowerment through education and political action, but also espouses revanchist ideals centered around "taking back" the American southwest for Mexicans.

The Chicano Moratorium, formally known as the National Chicano Moratorium Committee, was a movement of Chicano anti-war activists that built a broad-based but fragile coalition of Mexican-American groups to organize opposition to the Vietnam War. The committee was led by activists from local colleges and members of the "Brown Berets", a group with roots in the high school student movement that staged walkouts in 1968, known as the East L.A. walkouts, also called "blowouts".

The best known historical fact of the Moratorium was the death of Rubén Salazar, known for his reporting on civil rights and police brutality. The official story is that Salazar was killed by a tear gas canister fired by a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department into the Silver Dollar Café at the conclusion of the August 29 rally.

Mexican American communities

Large Mexican American populations by both size and per capita exist in the following American cities:

  • Las Vegas, Nevada – 31% of the population of the city is Hispanic in which 25% of that is of Mexican descent.
  • Chicago – 1.4 million of Mexican ancestry in the Chicago metropolitan area[62] and the fourth largest Mexican community in the USA.
  • Tucson – 30% of the almost 1 million people in the metro area.[64]
  • San Antonio, Texas – over half of the population in the city proper (52%, 685,000) and second largest Mexican population of any city in the US.[65]
  • San Diego, California – slightly less than one-third of the city's population is Hispanic, primarily Mexican American; however, this percentage is the lowest of any significant border city.
  • El Paso, Texas – largest Mexican-American community bordering a state of Mexico.
  • San Francisco Bay Area – also with over one million Hispanics, many of whom are Mexican Americans, both US-born and foreign-born (see also Oakland about 10–20% Hispanic and San Francisco – the Mission District section- the city is 10–20% Latino).
    • Oakland – California's third largest Mexican-American city by percentage (over 25%) after Long Beach (about 30%). Many live in the Fruitvale district.
    • San Jose, California – Nearly one-third of the city's population is Mexican-American or of Hispanic origin; San Jose has the largest Mexican-American population within the Bay Area.
  • Denver, Colorado – Colorado has the eighth largest population of Hispanics, seventh high percentage of Hispanics, fourth largest population of Mexican-Americans, and sixth highest percentage of Mexican-Americans in the United States. According to the 2010 census, there are over 1 million Mexican-Americans in Colorado.[66] Over one-third of the city's population is Mexican-American or Hispanic/Latino, as well as approximately one-fourth of the entire Denver Metropolitan area. About 17% of the cities population is foreign born, mostly from Latin America.[67]

Major US destinations

In the 1990s and 2000s, the Midwestern United States became a major destination for Mexican immigrants. But Mexican-Americans were already present in the Midwest's industrial cities and urban areas. Especially Mexicans/Latinos came into states like Illinois (mostly in Chicagoland), Indiana especially the Northern section, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan (i.e. the Detroit metropolitan area), Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin due to needs of the region's industrial manufacturing base.

Another destination of Mexican and Latin American immigration was the Northeastern United States, in places such as the Monongahela Valley, Pennsylvania; Mahoning Valley, Ohio; throughout Massachusetts and the state of Rhode Island; New Haven, Connecticut along with other Latin American nationalities; Washington, D.C. with Maryland and Northern Virginia included; the Hudson Valley and Long Island of New York state; the Jersey Shore region and the Delaware Valley, New Jersey.

Communities that consist mostly of recent-arrived immigrants from Mexico, are also present in other parts of the rural Southeastern United States, in states such as Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas and Oklahoma. A growing Mexican-American population is also present in urban areas such as Orlando, Florida with the Central Florida region included; the Atlanta metro area; Charlotte, North Carolina- with a majority Hispanic enclave of Eastland; New Orleans which increased after Hurricane Katrina in Sep. 2005; the Hampton Roads, Virginia area; the states of Maine, New Hampshire and Delaware; and Pennsylvania esp. in the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

List of states by Mexican American population

State/Territory Mexican
(2010 Census)[63]
 Alabama 122,911 2.6
 Alaska 122,911 3.0
 Arizona 1,657,668 25.9
 Arkansas 138,194 4.7
 California 11,423,146 30.7
 Colorado 757,181 15.1
 Connecticut 50,658 1.4
 Delaware 30,283 3.0
 District of Columbia 8,507 1.4
 Florida 629,718 3.3
Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia 519,502 5.4
 Hawaii 35,415 2.6
 Idaho 148,923 9.5
 Illinois 1,602,403 12.5
 Indiana 295,373 4.6
 Iowa 117,090 3.8
 Kansas 247,297 8.7
 Kentucky 82,110 1.9
 Louisiana 78,643 1.7
 Maine 5,134 0.4
 Maryland 88,004 1.5
 Massachusetts 38,379 0.6
 Michigan 317,903 3.2
 Minnesota 176,007 3.3
 Mississippi 52,459 1.8
 Missouri 147,254 2.5
 Montana 20,048 2.0
 Nebraska 128,060 7.0
 Nevada 540,978 20.0
 New Hampshire 7,822 0.6
 New Jersey 217,715 2.5
 New Mexico 590,890 28.7
 New York 457,288 2.4
 North Carolina 486,960 5.1
 North Dakota 9,223 1.4
 Ohio 172,029 1.5
 Oklahoma 267,016 7.1
 Oregon 369,817 9.7
 Pennsylvania 129,568 1.0
 Rhode Island 9,090 0.9
 South Carolina 138,35 3.0
 South Dakota 13,839 1.7
 Tennessee 186,615 2.9
 Texas 7,951,193 31.6
 Utah 258,905 9.4
 Vermont 2,534 0.4
 Virginia 155,067 1.9
 Washington 601,768 8.9
 West Virginia 9,704 0.5
 Wisconsin 244,248 4.3
 Wyoming 37,719 6.7
Total US 31,798,258 10.3

US communities with largest population of Mexican Americans

The top 25 US communities with the highest populations of Mexicans (Source: Census 2010)[63]

  1. Los Angeles, CA - 1,209,573
  2. San Antonio, TX - 705,530
  3. Houston, TX - 673,093
  4. Chicago, IL - 578,100
  5. Phoenix, AZ - 519,635
  6. El Paso, TX - 486,186
  7. Dallas, TX - 439,460
  8. San Diego, CA - 325,812
  9. New York, NY - 319,263
  10. San Jose, CA - 268,538
  11. Austin, TX - 229,865
  12. Fort Worth, TX - 219,653
  13. Fresno, CA - 211,431
  14. Tucson, AZ - 193,994
  15. Long Beach, CA - 151,983
  16. Brownsville, TX - 150,945
  17. Denver, CO - 149,366
  18. Corpus Christi, TX - 148,800
  19. Albuquerque, NM - 146,035
  20. Las Vegas, NV - 140,104
  21. Bakersfield, CA - 137,102
  22. Riverside, CA - 127,165
  23. East Los Angeles, CA - 111,441
  24. Sacramento, CA - 105,467
  25. Mesa, AZ - 99,666

US communities with high percentages of Mexican ancestry

The top 25 US communities with various Mexican American populations are:[73]

US communities with highest proportion of residents born in Mexico

The top 25 US communities with the highest proportion of residents born in Mexico are as follows:[74]

Notable Mexican Americans

See also





  • Barrow, Lisa and Rouse, Cecilia Elena. "Do Returns to Schooling Differ by Race and Ethnicity?" American Economic Review 2005 95(2): 83–87. Issn: 0002-8282 Fulltext: in Ingenta and Ebsco
  • Jack Citrin, Amy Lerman, Michael Murakami and Kathryn Pearson, "Testing Huntington: Is Hispanic Immigration a Threat to American Identity?" Perspectives on Politics, Volume 5, Issue 01, February 2007, pp 31–48
  • De La Garza, Rodolfo O., Martha Menchaca, Louis DeSipio. Barrio Ballots: Latino Politics in the 1990 Elections (1994)
  • De la Garza, Rodolfo O. Awash in the Mainstream: Latino Politics in the 1996 Elections (1999) * De la Garza, Rodolfo O., and Louis Desipio. Ethnic Ironies: Latino Politics in the 1992 Elections (1996)
  • De la Garza, Rodolfo O. Et al. Latino Voices: Mexican, Puerto Rican, and Cuban Perspectives on American Politics (1992)
  • Arnoldo De León, Mexican Americans in Texas: A Brief History, 2nd ed. (1999)
  • Erlinda Gonzales-Berry, David R. Maciel, editors, The Contested Homeland: A Chicano History of New Mexico 2000, ISBN 0-8263-2199-
  • Nancie L. González; The Spanish-Americans of New Mexico: A Heritage of Pride (1969)
  • Hero, Rodney E. Latinos and the U.S. Political System: Two-Tiered Pluralism. (1992)
  • Garcia, F. Chris. Latinos and the Political System. (1988)
  • Samuel P. Huntington. Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity (2005)
  • Kenski, Kate and Tisinger, Russell. "Hispanic Voters in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential General Elections." Presidential Studies Quarterly 2006 36(2): 189–202. Issn: 0360-4918 Fulltext: in Swetswise and Ingenta
  • David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986 (1987)
  • Pachon, Harry and Louis Desipio. New Americans by Choice: Political Perspectives of Latino Immigrants. (1994)
  • Rosales, Francisco A., Chicano!: The history of the Mexican American civil rights movement. (1997). ISBN 978-1-55885-201-3
  • Smith, Robert Courtney. Mexican New York: Transnational Lives of New Immigrants (2005), links with old village, based on interviews
  • South, Scott J.; Crowder, Kyle; and Chavez, Erick. "Geographic Mobility and Spatial Assimilation among U.S. Latino Immigrants." International Migration Review 2005 39(3): 577–607. Issn: 0197-9183
  • Suárez-Orozco, Marcelo M. And Mariela M. Páez. Latinos: Remaking America. (2002)
  • Villarreal, Roberto E., and Norma G. Hernandez. Latinos and Political Coalitions: Political Empowerment for the 1990s (1991)

Further reading

  • William A. Nericcio (2007). "Tex(t)-Mex: Seductive Hallucination of the 'Mexican' in America"; book galleryblog
  • John R. Chavez (1984). "The Lost Land: A Chicano Image of the American Southwest", New Mexico University Publications.

External links

  • University of California Santa Barbara
  • California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives – Digital Chicano Art - University of California Santa Barbara
  • University of California System
  • ImaginArte – Interpreting and Re-imaging Chican@Art - University of California Santa Barbara
  • Manifest Destinies: The Making of the Mexican American Race (book)
  • – Network of the Mexican American Community
  • Archived 2009-11-01)
  • Think Mexican – News, Culture, and Information on the Mexican Community


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