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Mexican American

Cesar chavez crop2.jpg2008-1018-017-MarkSanchez.jpg
George Lopez at Kids' Inaugural 1-19-09 hires 090119-N-1928O-136a.jpgJessica Alba cropped.jpgRomualdo Pacheco
Bill Richardson at an event in Kensington, New Hampshire, March 18, 2006.jpgRodriguez, Robert (2007).jpgEva Longoria @ Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara 09.jpg
Alberto Gonzales - official DoJ photograph.jpgEllen Ochoa.jpgCavazos GeneralRichard USArmy.jpg

César ChávezOscar De La HoyaMark Sanchez
George LopezJessica AlbaRomualdo Pacheco
Bill RichardsonRobert RodriguezEva Longoria
Alberto GonzalesEllen OchoaRichard E. Cavazos
Total population
Mexican Americans
12.5% of the U.S. population.[1]
Regions with significant populations
West, Midwest, South, Northeast

American English, Spanish, Spanglish, and a minority of Indigenous Mexican Languages.


Christianity (predominantly Roman Catholic, and a large minority of Protestants), Islam, Judaism, and other religions.

Related ethnic groups

Other Mexican people, Mestizo, Indigenous people of the Americas, Spanish people, Europeans, Latin, Hispanic/Latino.

Mexican Americans are Americans of Mexican descent. They account for more than 12.5% of United States' population: 30.7 million Americans listed their ancestry as Mexican as of 2006, forming about 64% of all Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.[2] The United States is home to the second largest Mexican community in the world.[3] Most Mexican Americans are descended from the Indigenous peoples of Mexico and Europeans[4][5], especially Spaniards. Mexican American settlement concentrations are in metropolitan and rural areas across the United States, usually in the Southwest. However, many cities in the South and the Northeast have seen substantial increases in the Mexican foreign-born and Mexican American population.


Mexican American communities

Large Mexican-American population by size and percentage in the cities of:

  • San Antonio, Texas - over half of the city's population.
  • Los Angeles, California - home to over 1 million of Mexican ancestry, another 2 million throughout Los Angeles County. Largest Mexican populated city in the United States.
  • Santa Ana, California - about two-thirds are Mexican or Hispanic, largest Mexican-American community in California.
  • San Diego, California - slightly more than one-fourth 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.
  • Chicago, Illinois - largest Mexican community outside a border state and second largest in the USA.
  • Houston, Texas - third largest Mexican community in the United States.
  • Phoenix, Arizona - fourth largest Mexican-American population.
  • Dallas, Texas - fifth largest Mexican-American population and over 1.5 million Mexicans in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex (3rd largest foreign born Mexican population in the US per MSA).
  • Inland Empire, California (Riverside / San Bernardino Counties) - About a third of the population are of Mexican descent.
  • San Francisco Bay Area - also with over one million Hispanics, many of whom are Mexican Americans, both U.S. born and foreign-born (see also Oakland about 10-20% Hispanic and San Francisco - the Mission District section).
    • 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.

Western United States

Other cities and regions with large Mexican-American populations are:






New Mexico










Mexican Americans form the largest ancestral group in El Paso, Texas (city and county), where the population is more than 80 percent Mexican American, and Mexican.[citation needed]

Los Angeles city and county was reputed as the largest Mexican population outside of Mexico. The Mexican community of Los Angeles increased with the entire city's population over the last 120 years (1890 to 2009). In the 1900 census, a figure of about 319 Mexicans out of 110,000 total residents was reported in the city limits, but expanded greatly to 350,000 out of L.A. city's 1.5 million residents by the 1940 census. Due to massive deportation of Mexican immigrants and assimilation of many second-generation children of Mexican parentage, the growth rate has eventually slowed in the mid 20th century. But growth rates regenerated from a larger Mexican immigration wave since 1970 that added one million more by the year 2000, thus Los Angeles once again became a "majority" Hispanic city (over 50% of the population).[citation needed]

While there is a significant Central American community within Los Angeles, and less so in Los Angeles County as a whole. The combined proportion of Mexican Nationals, and Mexican Americans to all other Hispanic/Latino Nationalities in both Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County have seen the Mexican American population increase dramatically, to nearly 40 to 49% of the population in 1995 and 2000 census reports.[citation needed]

Imperial County, California is about three-fourths Latino, the majority being of Mexican descent.[citation needed] Other counties of Southern California like Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura have high percentages of both Mexican-Americans and other Latino ethnic groups. Although the San Francisco Bay Area has a high percentage of both Mexican-Americans and other Latino ethnic groups, the city of San Jose has the highest percentage of Mexican-Americans within the Bay Area. Most commonly you will see that the Mexican-American culture is very strong within San Jose due to the high percentage of Mexicans and other Latino ethnic groups.[citation needed]

Growing population

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. Another destination was the Northeastern United States, in places such as the Monongahela Valley, Pennsylvania; Mahoning Valley, Ohio; New Haven, Connecticut along with other Latin American nationalities; Washington, D.C. with Northern Virginia included; 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 and Arkansas. 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, which according to several sources has had one of the largest proportional increases in Mexican immigrants in the nation.[citation needed]

Mexican-Americans are numerous in Florida (esp. Miami and Tampa); Siler City, North Carolina; Raleigh, North Carolina; Ridgeland, South Carolina; Dalton, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Greenville, Tennessee; Memphis, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; East St. Louis, Illinois- primarily in Fairmont City, Illinois; East Chicago, Indiana; Gary, Indiana; Goshen, Indiana; Buena Vista County, Iowa (Storm Lake, Iowa); Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Cherokee County, Iowa; Dubuque, Iowa (more live in nearby Postville, Iowa); Sioux City, Iowa; Wichita, Kansas; Lexington, Nebraska; Detroit; Minneapolis; Saint Paul, Minnesota; Cleveland, Ohio; Cleveland, Tennessee; Philadelphia and its' metro area; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Syracuse, New York; Jackson, Mississippi; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. James, Minnesota; Farmingville, New York, Louisville, Kentucky and state of South Dakota.

Map based on the 2000 Census showing predominant nationality group by county. Counties with a plurality of population are shown in pink, predominantly in the Southwest

US communities with high percentages of Mexican ancestry

The top 25 US communities with various Mexican populations are:[6]

  1. San Elizario, Texas in El Paso 99.00%
  2. Tornillo, Texas 87.20% singular, 98.50% in addition to.
  3. Lopezville, Texas 87.48% singular, 95.00% in addition to.
  4. Progreso, Texas 87.54% singular, 92.50% in addition to.
  5. Cameron Park, Texas 90.79%
  6. Presidio, Texas 89.92%
  7. Alton, Texas 89.62%
  8. Hidalgo, Texas 89.43%
  9. Cactus, Texas 89.40%
  10. Penitas, Texas 89.37%
  11. Palmview, Texas 89.16%
  12. Roma, Texas 88.76%
  13. Fort Hancock, Texas 88.21%
  14. Calexico, California 87.72%
  1. Somerton, Arizona 87.42%
  2. Coachella, California 79.59% singular, 87.00% in addition to.
  3. San Benito, Texas 87.00%
  4. Huron, California 86.92%
  5. Parlier, California 86.42%
  6. Lost Hills, California 86.27%
  7. Mecca, California 20.49% singular, 85.50% in addition to.
  8. Heidelberg, Texas 85.31%
  9. San Juan, Texas 84.00% singular, 99.00% in addition to.
  10. Granger, Washington 83.94%
  11. La Joya, Texas 83.92%
  12. San Joaquin, California 54.00% singular, 83.85% in addition to.
  13. East Los Angeles, California 40.92% singular, 82.50% in addition to.

U.S. communities with the highest proportion of residents born in Mexico

Top 25 U.S. communities with the highest proportion of residents born in Mexico are:[7]

  1. Mattawa, WA 67.8%
  2. Lost Hills, California 65.3%
  3. Pajaro, California 64.6%
  4. Kettleman City, California 61.8%
  5. Santa Cruz, Texas 61.0%
  6. Cantua Creek, California 60.2%
  7. Muniz, Texas 59.6%
  8. Salem, New Mexico 59.3%
  9. London, California 58.7%
  1. Lakeview Estates, GA 55.5%
  2. Cactus, Texas 55.2%
  3. Desert Shores, California 54.4%
  4. Mecca, California 54.2%
  5. Alto Bonito, Texas 54.1%
  6. San Joaquin, California 53.9%
  7. Planada, California 53.1%
  8. Citrus City, Texas 52.3%
  1. Royal City, WA 52.0%
  2. Westley, California 51.8%
  3. Gadsden, Arizona 50.9%
  4. Las Lomas, Texas 50.9%
  5. Richgrove, California 50.1%
  6. Chualar, California 50.1%
  7. Huron, California 50.1%
  8. Calexico, California 49.8%

History of Mexican Americans

Mexican American history is wide-ranging, spanning more than four hundred years and varying 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.[8] 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.[9]

As early as 1813 the Tejanos who colonized Texas in the Spanish Colonial Period established a government in Texas that looked forward to independence from Mexico. 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.[10] The Mexican government became concerned by their increasing numbers and restricted the number of new Anglo settlers allowed to enter Texas. The Mexican government also banned slavery within the state, which angered slave owners.[11] The Anglos 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.[12][13]

Author John P. Schmal wrote of the effect Texas independence had on the Tejano community:[14]

"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 either of Mexican or European descent and Native Americans who became integrated into the society before the California Gold Rush. Relations between Californios and Anglo settlers were relatively good until military officer John C. Fremont arrived in 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 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 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 California. The Californios defeated an American force in Los Angeles on September 30, 1846, but were defeated after the Americans reinforced their forces in 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 the land granted to Californios by the old Mexican government.[15]

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 U.S. 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.[16] 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.

While Mexican Americans were once concentrated in the states that formerly belonged to Mexico—for a period of about 22 years (previously belonging to Spain) principally, 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 and Hispanic student groups flirted with nationalism and differences over the proper name for members of the community—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.

Race and ethnicity

Admixture Graph, Bertoni et al. 2003.

Per the 2000 U.S. Census, a plurality of 47.3% of Mexican Americans self identify as White, closely followed by Mexican Americans who self identify as "Some other race", usually Mestizo (European/Indian) with 45.5%.[2] Respondents who claim two or more races accounted for 5.1%, Blacks for 0.7%, and all other races for 1.4%. Mexican Americans are predominantly of European and Indian descent.[17] Before the United States' borders expanded westward in the 19th century, New World regions colonized by the Spanish Empire since the 16th century held to a complex caste system (casta) that classified persons by their fractional racial makeup and geographic origin.[18][19]

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 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.[20]
  • 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"[20] All Mexicans were legally (though not always socially) considered "White" either because they were, or if not fully, because of treaty obligations to Spaniards and Mexicans that conferred citizenship status at a time when white-ness was a prerequisite for U.S. citizenship.
  • 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."[21]
  • 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 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.[20] 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 not to 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:[20]
  • 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.[20]

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.[22]

Politics and debate of racial classification

This article is part of the series
Chicanos and Mexican Americans

Chicano · La Raza · Latino
Mexican American · Hispanic
Pre-Chicano Movement
Mexican-American History
Mexican-American War
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
San Elizario Salt War
Sleepy Lagoon trial · Zoot Suit Riots
Chicano Movement
Chicanismo · Aztlán
Plan Espiritual de Aztlán
Plan de Santa Bárbara
Land grant struggle
Chicano Blowouts · Chicano Moratorium
Farm worker rights campaign
Católicos por La Raza
Supreme Court cases

Hernandez v. Texas  ·   Plyler v. Doe
Mendez v. Westminster

Brown Berets
Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional
League of United Latin American Citizens
American GI Forum
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Mexican American Political Association
National Council of La Raza
Chicano Spanish words
Chicano Spanish · Chicano English
New Mexican Spanish
Spanish in the United States
Chicano rap · Chicano rock
Tejano music
Chicano literature
Estrada Courts murals
Cholo · Pachuco
Lowrider · Zoot suit
Teatro Campesino · Chicano Park
Tex-Mex cuisine
Dia de los muertos
Cinco de Mayo
U.S. communities with Hispanic majority
Notable Chicanos
Notable Hispanics

Throughout U.S. history, Mexican Americans have been legally "White", but not always socially classified as such, depending on the individual's degrees of perceived ancestry. Census criteria and legal constructions generally classify them as "White"; or "Indigenous" although in the 2000 census, over 40% were reported as "other race"."[23]

In times and places where Mexicans were allotted white status, they were permitted to intermarry with what today are termed "non-Hispanic whites".[24] 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.[25]

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.[26]

In the past, Mexicans were legally considered "White" because either they were, or if not fully, because of early treaty obligations to Spaniards and Mexicans that conferred citizenship status at a time when white-ness was a prerequisite for U.S. citizenship.[27][28] 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.[26][29][30][31]

Mexican Americans 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, there's a documented trend of intermarriage rates in the Mexican American community with Indian Americans from India or Pakistan (see Punjabi Mexican American for information about the subject).

Economic and social issues

Illegal immigration issues

Since the 1960s, illegal Mexican immigrants have met a significant portion of the demand for cheap labor in the United States [32]. Fear of deportation 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 known as Wetbacks (it turned into an ethnic slur against anyone of Mexican/Hispanic descent, nearly the same tone like nigger is to African-Americans). In May 2006, hundreds of thousands 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. 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.[33]

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.[34] 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.[35]

Discrimination and stereotypes

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.[36][37] Mexican Americans have also faced discrimination based on ethnicity, race, culture, poverty, and use of the Spanish language.[38]

Mexican Americans have found themselves targeted by hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan[39] 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.[40]

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.[41][42] In the post-war McCarthy era, the Justice Department launched Operation Wetback.[42]

"Authorities meet to discuss the Zoot Suit Riots" (photo: Los Angeles Daily News)

In the 1940s, imagery in newspapers and crime novels portrayed Mexican American Zoot suiters as disloyal foreigners or murderers attacking White 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.[16] 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.[26] 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 descent, were subject to racial segregation in the public school system. They were forced to attend "Mexican schools" throughout the Southwestern United States.[43] 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.[44]

Mexican Americans were not selected as jurors in court cases which involved a Mexican American defendant in many counties in the Southwestern United States.[45] In 1954, Pete Hernandez, an agricultural worker, was indicted of murder by an all-white 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.[46]

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 many areas across the Southwest, Mexican Americans lived in separate residential areas, due to laws and real estate company policies.[47] This group of laws and policies, known as redlining, lasted until the 1950s, and fall under the concept of official segregation.[29][30] In many other instances, it was more of a general social understanding among whites 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 '60s.[26]

In modern times, organizations such as neo-Nazis, white supremacist groups, American nationalist and nativist groups have been known and continue to intimidate, harass and advocate the use of violence towards Mexican Americans and other ethnic Latinos in the population.[48][49] 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.[50][51][52] 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.[53]

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.[54]

According to the annual Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics Report,[55] in 2007, Hispanics comprised 61.7 percent of victims of crimes motivated by a bias toward the victims’ ethnicity or national origin. Since 2003 the number of both victims of anti-Hispanic crimes and incidents increased by nearly 40 percent. In 2004, the comparable figure was 51.5 percent. In California, the state with the largest Mexican American population, the number of hate crimes committed against Latinos has almost doubled.[56][57]

Social status and assimilation

Cinco de Mayo dancers greeted by former Pres. George W. Bush."The holiday, which has been celebrated in California continuously since 1863, is virtually ignored in Mexico."[58]

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 most recently arriving Mexican immigrants. It should be noted, however, that Mexican Americans are not well represented in the professions.

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.[citation needed]

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.[59]

Adaptation of Mexican food tailor for the mainstream America market

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 (in general but not Mexicans specifically) 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.

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.[60]

However, Mexican and Hispanic communities are said to became more culturally separate than ever by an increase of "enclavism" in the late 20th century, a new form of self-segregation among non-Anglo groups, especially in urban centers and older suburbs. It's been said that Mexican American and Anglo 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 when residential segregation and discrimination became illegal.

Segregation Issues

In 2000, over nine million Mexicans Americans lived in areas considered highly segregated socially.[61]

Segregated Neighborhoods

Map of Los Angeles County showing percentage of population self-identified as Mexican in ancestry or national origin by census tracts. Heaviest concentrations are in East L.A, Echo Lake/Silver Lake, South Central, San Fernando and San Pedro/Wilmington.

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."[61] 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.[61] Barrios usually offer a lower quality of education, provide poorer jobs than other neighborhoods, and generally receive less government attention than wealthier neighborhoods.

Housing Market Practices

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Studies have shown that the segregation among Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants seems to be declining. One study 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.[62]

However, 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.[62] Another interesting aspect of this study is that the Mexican American applicants were more likely to be placed onto a waiting list than the Anglo Americans applicants.[62]

Latino Segregation versus Black Segregation

Historically, Blacks have faced much harsher treatment concerning segregation than any other racial, ethnic, or ancestral group. When comparing the segregation of Mexican Americans to that of Black Americans, there are two important facts that one must understand.

First, "Latino segregation is less severe and fundamentally different than Black residential segregation."[61] Studies have shown that the separation 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 such as racism. While the segregation of both African Americans and Latinos can be explained by the fact that they are largely confined to blue-collar occupations and are therefore unable to accumulate enough wealth enabling a home outside of the ghetto/barrio, African Americans more often face segregation regardless of socioeconomic status.[citation needed] The segregation of Mexican Americans is less severe and can be seen as an intermediary phenomenon that may slowly become less and less apparent.[citation needed] While Asians and Amerindians may find themselves less segregated as they move up the socioeconomic ladder, many African Americans often continue to be spatially separated from Whites regardless of their socioeconomic status.

Secondly, like the segregation towards African Americans, segregation toward darker Latinos is much more severe than it is for others with lighter skin.[61] For instance a white Hispanic, would have an easier job finding residence within a "white" neighborhood than a more Amerindian one.

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.[63]

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.[63] 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."[63] In other words, policies were implemented to ensure that Mexican Americans would maintain the unskilled labor force required for a healthy 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

When an immigrant enters the United States, it is likely that he or she will seek shelter and occupation within an "immigration hub."

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.[64] 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.[61] 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.[64] 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 Blacks.

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.[64] 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 U.S. Census Bureau considers a residence to be overcrowded if there is more than one person per room[65]

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.[65]

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.[65] 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

Chicano's march for their rights in Northern California's largest city, San Jose in 2006.

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. 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, leading some to claim that he had been targeted. While an inquest found that his death was a homicide, the deputy sheriff who fired the shell was not prosecuted.

Mexican-Americans in Pro sports


American Football



Martial Arts

Professional Wrestling

Ice hockey



See also


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Further reading

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

External links

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