What defines Mexican Americans in the United States? When did they come to this country and how have the contributed to the development of this nation?
Mexican Americans have been on this land before the United States was ever founded. Many Mexican Americans became citizens after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the Mexican War. (Scupin, 2012) The majority of Mexican Americans were initially located in the Southwest United States in the territories that were once Mexico but currently they can be found throughout the entire nation. The border between the United States and Mexico had remained open with tides of immigration flowing both ways until the Border Patrol began in 1924. During the World Wars Mexicans were encouraged to come to the United States as a form of cheap labor but that ended in the 50's. (Scupin, 2012) In the 1980s the immigration reform and Control Act was put in place to stop employers from hiring illegal immigrants knowingly but it also allowed amnesty to workers already in the United States.
Following 9/11 tightening the borders and increased border patrol has become more of a hot topic than ever before. Immigration both legal and illegal continues to be an ongoing issue within the Unites States. From debates on allowing parents of ‘Anchor Babies’ to remain in the country until the children are 18 all the way to deporting children who were brought here while in diapers even though this is the only country they have known. Mexican Americans have strong family and cultural ties they have maintained which has allowed them to keep their own identity as a people. This by no means detracts from them being American but it does show how full assimilation has not occurred and makes one question the necessity of assimilation.
Mexican Americans have faced many challenges throughout the history of the United States. From Operation Wetback in 1954 straight through to Arizona SB 1070 in 2010 the government has allowed for ongoing racial profiling, detaining, and deportation of Mexican Americans often based solely on their looks. Mexican Americans have made many contributions to the United States since its inception. There is documented evidence that Mexican troops assisted allies during the Revolutionary War and donated money to support the American colonists under George Washington. There were also Mexican troops from Louisiana that fought the British. (Rivera, J., 1993) Mexican Americans also fought in the Civil War and have been an ongoing presence in American armed services throughout history. (Balkaran, S.,2014) During the Depression many Mexican Americans were rounded up, even if they were citizens, and repatriated to Mexico due to Americas economic hardships despite the fact they were historically exploited for cheap labor. (Scupin, 2012)
Following the start of World War II they were again needed for cheap labor but they were also encouraged to become soldiers. Even after returning from another American war they faced racism but in serving their country and having seen how they could be treated fairly it made them more politically minded. They have defended and died for this country. Aided in the growth and expansion by teaching mining and agricultural skills. (Scupin, 2012) They rallied with other marginalized groups for workers unions time and again to get safer conditions and equal pay. The term 'Yes We Can' used during the Obama campaign originated with Cesar Chavez during a workers strike as 'Si, se puede'. Currently only Mexico itself has a larger number of Mexican population and one can not overlook the purchasing power of such a vast number of individuals and how that feeds the countries economy. (Balkaran, S.,2014) In the Southwest it is shown that Mexican landowners donated sites for schools and Mexican legislators helped establish educational institutions. It was a Mexicans that helped establish the University of Arizona and the Los Angeles Teachers College now known as UCLA. (Rivera, J., 1993) The list of contributions by Mexican Americans throughout the years are numerous and vast. They are rooted in the very foundations of this countries freedom, work ethic, equal rights movement, consumer market, arts, and educational systems.
Just as the contributions are too numerous to fully list so are the accomplishments. In World War One Mexican Americans won more Medals of Honor than any other ethnic group. (Scupin, 2012) Warner Brothers purchased from the Rodriguez Brothers the first system used for talking films. Mexican Americans have been in Congress, have served as state treasurer's, as Latin ambassadors, and a multitude of public offices. (Rivera, J., 1993) There have been numerous Mexican American influences in popular music from Ritchie Valens, Carlos Santana, and Linda Ronstadt. Civil rights activist Cesar Chavez is known across the country and as mentioned above was relevant in recent elections. Wonder Woman actress Linda Carter is Mexican American and will forever be a role model to girls of all nationalities. Physicist Albert Baez developed the X-ray Microscope which was a great contribution to science. Those are just the people I can name from memory. From Taco Tuesday to Homies figures in vending machines the influence of Mexican Americans is inescapable and touches on all walks of life.
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