Mexican Americans: the ambivalent minority

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Free Press, 1993 - Political Science - 463 pages
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"Some of us have been here for three hundred years, some for three days". This comment, often repeated by Mexican Americans, affirms their status as one of America's oldest ethnic groups, as well as one of its newest and fastest growing. Not surprisingly, many observers (including some Mexican Americans) are concerned about the impact of the burgeoning number of Mexican immigrants on our society - anxieties exacerbated by leaders whose demands for bilingual schools and ballots challenge the goal of assimilation. Yet for Skerry the critical question is not whether Mexican immigrants will join the American mainstream, but how - on what terms. Those terms, he argues, will be forged in the political arena, where enormous changes have been wrought during the past twenty-five years. Gone are the strong local party organizations that once helped newcomers adapt. In their stead are nationalized parties with weak local roots, and civil rights efforts such as the Voting Rights Act, which offer Mexican Americans powerful incentives to define themselves not as an aspiring immigrant ethnic group but as a racially oppressed minority. These divergent political styles emerge from Skerry's comparison of the two American cities with the most visible Mexican American communities, San Antonio and Los Angeles. In Texas, where Mexican Americans have indeed been racially subjugated, traditional political institutions and effective community organizing have afforded them much political success, and moderated their deep-seated resentments. Paradoxicallyin California, where Mexican Americans have enjoyed considerable social and economic mobility, their political efforts have been much less successful andcharacterized by angry protest and racial claims. Noting that the California model of politics, detached from local communities and propelled by money and media, is setting the national norm. Skerry warns that Mexican Americans are being encouraged to dwell on the undeniable injustices of the past rather than to seize the opportunities of the present. If left unchallenged, the temptation of race politics threatens to fulfill the prophecy of those who insist that Mexican Americans cannot make it into the mainstream.

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Contents

The Primacy of Politics
3
Getting Ahead and Getting Even
33
PART
128
Copyright

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About the author (1993)

Peter Skerry is a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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