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Mexican American
Mexicano Americano
Romualdo Pacheco
Notable Mexican Americans:
Romualdo Pacheco, César E. Chávez, Ellen Ochoa, Eva Longoria, Carlos Santana, and General Richard Cavazos
Total population

Mexican Americans
9% of the U.S. population[1]

Regions with significant populations
United States
California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada
See also: List of Mexican American communities
American English, Spanish, Spanglish, and a minority of Indigenous Mexican Languages
Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, with a minority of Protestants), Aztec religion, Maya religion and Atheism
Related ethnic groups
Other Mexican people, Mestizos, Amerindians, Spanish people, Latins, Hispanics, Latinos and Chicanos

Mexican Americans (Spanish: Mexicano Americano) are Americans of Mexican ancestry. Mexican Americans account for 9% of the country's population: about 28.3 million Americans listed their ancestry as Mexican as of 2006. Mexican Americans form the largest Hispanic group in the United States [1] and also the largest group of White Hispanics. [2]

Mexican Americans trace their ancestry to Mexico, a country located in North America, bounded on the north by the United States; and many different European countries, especially Spain, which was its colonial ruler for over three centuries. Most Mexican American settlement concentrations are found in metropolitan and rural areas across the United States, with the highest concentrations in the Southwest and the Midwest. Los Angeles, Chicago, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Houston, Santa Ana, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio are particular areas for large Mexican American communities.

Other cities in the Upper Midwest with thriving Mexican American communities are Detroit, Kansas City, Missouri, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Denver, and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. There are also isolated concentrations of Mexican Americans in mostly rural areas in the Northwest: Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; the Plains: Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas; and the Southeast: Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina.

Growing populations, that consist mostly of recently arrived immigrants from Mexico, are also present in other parts of the rural Southeastern United States, in states such as Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas. A growing population is also present in urban areas such as Washington, D.C., New York City, Miami and Philadelphia.

Racial and ethnic classification of Mexican Americans[edit | edit source]

Template:Latinos in the United States Template:Chicano and Mexican-American series Although the majority of Mexican Americans are mestizos,[How to reference and link to summary or text] there are also those of full-blooded White ancestry and those of full-blooded Amerindian ancestry. There may also be Mexican Americans of mulatto, zambo, or full-blooded African ancestry as well as Mexican Americans of Asian descent. In the 2000 census, White Mexican Americans were the largest White Hispanic group.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Before the United States' borders expanded westward, New World regions dominated by the Spanish Empire in the 16th century held to a complex caste system that classified persons by their fractional racial makeup and geographic origin.[3][4] See Casta.

As the United States' border expanded, the Census Bureau changed the traditional 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 U.S. 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.[5]
  • From 1850 through 1920 the Census Bureau expanded its racial categories to include all different races including Mestizos, Mulattos, Amerindians and Asians, but continued to classify Mexicans and Mexican Americans as White.[5]
  • The 1930 U.S. census form asked for "color or race." The 1930 census calculators received these instructions: “write ‘W’ for White; ’Mex’ for Mexican.”[6]
  • In the 1940 census, Mexican Americans were re-classified as White, due to widespread protests by the Mexican American community and the World War II-era Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration's policies of promoting national, "patriotic" unity by reorganizing racial categories to make all ethnic groups "white" and or "Americans" if not white. Instructions for enumerators were "Mexicans - Report 'White' (W) for Mexicans unless they are definitely of indigenous or other nonwhite 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.[5] 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.
  • In 1970, Mexican Americans classified themselves as White. Hispanic individuals who classified themselves racially as Other were re-classified as White by the bureau. During this census, the bureau attempted to identify all Hispanics by use of the following criteria in sampled sets:[5]
  • 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.[5] This is perhaps due to an increase of non-white Latino immigrants into the country.

For certain purposes, respondents who wrote in "Chicano" or "Mexican" (or indeed, almost all Hispanic origin groups) in the "Some other race" category are automatically re-classified into the white race group.[7]

Politics and debate of racial classification[edit | edit source]

Throughout U.S. history, Mexican Americans have been socially classified as "White" and "Amerindian" by United States people. Census criteria and legal constructions generally classify them as "White" or "Indigenous".[8]

In times when Mexicans were uniformly allotted white status, they were permitted to intermarry with what today are termed "non-Hispanic whites",[9] however, registrars often informally denied marriage licenses to Mexicans who they believed looked too dark to marry an Anglo.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Mexican Americans could vote and hold elected office in places such as Texas, especially San Antonio. They ran the state politics and constituted most of the elite of New Mexico since colonial times. However, 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.[10]

They 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.[11]

All Mexicans were legally considered "white" because of early treaty obligations to Spaniards and Mexicans for citizenship status at a time when white-ness was considered a prerequisite for U.S. citizenship.[12][13]

Although Mexican Americans were legally classified as "White" or "Amerindian", many organizations, businesses, and homeowners associations had official policies to exclude Mexican Americans.[14][15][16] [17]

Today, Mexican Americans are divided. Most recently arrived Mexican Americans consider themselves as mestizos.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

See also: White American

Economic and social issues[edit | edit source]

Illegal immigration issues[edit | edit source]

Illegal Mexican immigrants have long met a significant portion of the demand for cheap labor in the United States. Fear of deportation keeps many illegal immigrant workers from taking advantage of social welfare programs[How to reference and link to summary or text] as well as interaction with public authorities and makes them highly vulnerable to exploitation by employers. Many employers, however, have developed a "don't ask, don't tell" attitude, indicating a greater comfort with or casual approach toward hiring illegal Mexican nationals. In May 2006, millions of illegal immigrants, Mexicans and other nationalities, walked out of their jobs across the country in protest to proposed changes in immigration laws (also in hopes for amnesty to become naturalized citizens like similar the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which granted citizenship to Mexican nationals living and working illegally 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, illegal 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, U.S. 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, U.S. 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, and African American workers claimed the Mexican laborers are advancing further than native-born blacks, which has caused some racial tensions between black 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", 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.[18] It has been recently noted that many Mexican immigrants are climbing the socioeconomic ladder[How to reference and link to summary or text], but this was also the case in the past by many previous Mexican immigrants who came (legally or not) and worked hard towards their way up the ladder for the "American dream".

Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, has said that immigration is necessary in order to slow the problem of a growing working-age 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 20 percent.[19] 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.[20]

Discrimination and stereotypes[edit | edit source]

Throughout U.S. history, Mexican Americans have and continue to endure various types of negative stereotypes which have long circulated in media and popular culture.[21][22]Mexican Americans have also faced discrimination based on ethnicity, race, culture, and use of the Spanish language.[23]

Mexican Americans have found themselves targeted by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan[24] It is estimated that at least 597 Mexicans and Mexican Americans were lynched between 1848 and 1928 in the Southwest. Mexican Americans were lynched at a rate of 27.4 per 100,000 of population between 1880 and 1930. This statistic is second only to that of the African American community during that period, which suffered an average of 37.1 per 100,000 of population. Between 1848 to 1879, Mexicans were lynched at an unprecedented rate of 473 per 100,000 of population. More problematic still is the fact that, despite the recent flourishing of academic literature on lynching, scholars also persistently overlook anti-Mexican violence. [25]

Since the majority of illegal immigrants in the U.S. 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.[26][27] In the post-war McCarthy era, the Justice Department launched Operation Wetback.[28]

In the 1940s, imagery in newspapers and crime novels portrayed Mexican American Zoot suiters as disloyal foreigners or murderers attacking White-Anglo police officers and servicemen. Anti-zoot suiter sentiment sparked a series of attacks on young Mexican American males in Los Angeles which became known as the Zoot Suit Riots. The worst of the rioting occurred on June 9, during which 5,000 servicemen and civilians gathered in downtown Los Angeles and attacked Mexican-American zoot suiters and non-zoot suiters alike. The rioting eventually spread to the predominantly African American neighborhood of Watts.

During World War II, more than 300,000 Mexican Americans served in the US armed forces.[29] 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.[30] 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.

Mexican American school children, especially those of mestizo and mulatto descent, were subject to racial segregation in the public school system. They were forced to attend "Mexican schools" throughout the Southwestern United States.[31]. In 1947, the Mendez v. Westminster ruling declared that segregating children of "Mexican and Latin descent" in Orange County and the state of California was unconstitutional. This ruling helped lay the foundation for the landmark Brown v Board of Education case which ended racial segregation in the public school system.[32]

Mexican Americans were not selected as jurors in court cases which involved a Mexican American defendant in many counties in the Southwestern United States.[33] In 1954, Pete Hernandez, an agricultural worker, was indicted of murder by an all-Anglo jury in Jackson County, Texas. Hernandez believed that the jury could not be impartial unless members of other races were allowed on the jury-selecting committees, seeing that a Mexican American had not been on a jury for more than 25 years in that particular county. Hernandez and his lawyers decided to take the case to the Supreme Court. The Hernandez v. Texas Supreme Court ruling declared that Mexican Americans and other racial groups in the United States were entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.[34]

In many areas across the Southwest, Mexican Americans lived in separate residential areas, due to laws and real estate company policies.[35] This group of laws and policies, known as redlining, lasted until the 1950s, and fall under the concept of official segregation.[36][37] In many other instances, it was more of a general social understanding among Anglos that Mexicans should be excluded. For instance, signs with the phrase "No Dogs or Mexicans" were posted in small businesses and public pools throughout the Southwest well into the 60's.[38]

In modern times, organizations such as neo-nazis, white supremacist groups, American nationalist and nativist groups have all been known and continue to intimidate, harass and advocate the use of violence towards Mexican Americans and other ethnic Latinos in the population.[39][40][41] Other organizations seeking to apprehend immigrants that have crossed into the United States illegally have also been accused of discrimination. It has recently been reported that members of Neo-Nazi organizations have indeed participated in demonstrations by the Minuteman Project and other anti-illegal-immigration organizations.[42][43][44]In 2006, it was revealed that Laine Lawless, former Minuteman Project member and founder of Border Guardians (believed to be a nativist anti-immigration organization), sent emails to leaders of the National Socialist Movement (a neo nazi organization) in which she encouraged violence against "illegal immigrants" and Spanish speaking individuals.[45]

In 2006, Time Magazine reported that the number of hate groups in the United States increased by 33 percent since 2000, primarily due to anti-illegal immigrant and anti-Mexican sentiment.[46]

According to FBI statistics, the number of anti-Latino hate crimes increased by 35 percent since 2003. In California, the state with the largest Mexican American population, the number of hate crimes committed against Latinos has almost doubled.[47][48]

Social status and assimilation[edit | edit source]

Barrow (2005) finds increases in average personal and household incomes for Mexican Americans in the 21st century. U.S. born Mexican Americans earn more and are represented more in the middle- and upper-class segments more than recently arriving Mexican immigrants. It should be noted, however, that Mexican Americans are not well represented in the professions. Most of the immigrants from Mexico come from the lower classes with lineage of family employed in lower skilled jobs. Thus, the kind of Mexican that arrives in the United States doesn't have a history of being involved in professions. Recently, some professionals from Mexico have been migrating, but to make the transition from one country to another it involves a lot of re-training and re-adjusting to conform to US standards--i.e. professional licensing is required.[How to reference and link to summary or text] According to James P. Smith of the Research and Development Corporation, the children and grandchildren of Latino immigrants come very close to closing 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.[49]

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 U.S. Census and national and Los Angeles opinion surveys, Citrin et al. (2007) show that Hispanics 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. Moreover, a clear majority of Hispanics reject a purely ethnic identification and patriotism grows from one generation to the next.

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 residence in public housing 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]

However, Mexican and Hispanic communities are saidTemplate:Weasel-inline to be more solid or separated than ever by an increase of "enclavism" in the late 20th century, a new form of self-segregation among non-Anglo groups, esp. in urban centers and older suburbs at the same time.[How to reference and link to summary or text] It's been saidTemplate:Weasel-inline that Anglo and Mexican American communities throughout the history of the Southwestern states were like "separate worlds" as the U.S. and Mexico are separate countries, especially before the 1960s since residential segregation and discrimination became illegal.

References[edit | edit source]

  • 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 1-55885-201-8
  • 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[edit | edit source]

Martha Menchaca (2002). Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans, 19–21, University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292752547.

William A. Nericcio (2007). "Tex(t)-Mex: Seductive Hallucination of the 'Mexican' in America"; utpress book; book galleryblog

John R. Chavez (1984). "The Lost Land: A Chicano Image of the American Southwest", New Mexico University Publications.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Detailed Tables - American FactFinder. B03001. HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN - Universe: TOTAL POPULATION. 2006 American Community Survey. URL accessed on 2007-12-15.
  3. Racial Classifications in Latin America. URL accessed on 12-25-2006.
  4. A History of Mexican Americans in California: Introduction.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Gibson, Campbell (2002). Historical Census Statistics on Population Totals By Race, 1790 to 1990, and By Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, For The United States, Regions, Divisions, and States. Working Paper Series No. 56. URL accessed on 2006-12-07.
  6. US Population in the 1930 Census by Race. URL accessed on 2006-12-07.
  7. Surveillance Epidemology and End Results. Race and Nationality Descriptions from the 2000 US Census and Bureau of Vital Statistics. 2007. May 21, 2007.
  8. Gross, Ariela J.. Texas Mexicans and the Politics of Whiteness. Law and History Review.
  9. De Genova, Nicholas (2006). Racial Transformations: Latinos And Asians, 96, Duke University Press.
  12. Haney-Lopez, Ian F. (1996). "3 Prerequisite cases" White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race.
  13. Haney-Lopez, Ian F. (1996). "Appendix "A"" White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race.
  17. Pulido, Laura. Black, Brown, Yellow, and Left: Radical Activism in Los Angeles, 53, University of California Press.
  21. Flores Niemann Yolanda, et al. ‘’Black-Brown Relations and Stereotypes’’ (2003); Charles Ramírez Berg, ’’Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, & Resistance’’ (2002); Chad Richardson, ‘’Batos, Bolillos, Pochos, and Pelados: Class & Culture on the South Texas Border’’ (1999)
  31. Moore, J. W., & Cuéllar, A. B. (1970) Mexican Americans. Ethnic groups in American life series. Englewood, Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. pp. 78-79. ISBN 0135794900
  34. h
  50. 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

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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