Chicano Migration Who is in charge of the past? The Spanish language is the second most spoken language here in the United States. Jose just replaced Michael as the most popular name last year in two southwestern states. According to Mireya Navarro, America is home to 31 million people of Latin ancestry, a number that is rapidly growing. In fact, “In the next five years the number is expected to surpass African-Americans as the largest minority group and will most likely make up a fourth of the nation’s population in 50 years”(Navarro, “Latinos Gain Visibility in Cultural Life of U.S.,”Race, Class, and Gender in the United States, 1998, p. 364).
The question that arises from all of this is, why don’t we hear as much form the Latin American public as we do the African Americans? When we think of minorities we immediately assume the group being spoke of is of African descent. In the society where my partner Jennifer grew up, there is only one Latino (Puerto Rican) family and they are by no means on the low end of the social class. They are a very well-respected family. On the other hand, the city in which I grew up, it is crawling with Latinos. They live above and below the shops and restaurants in town, everywhere you turn you can see someone of Latino descent. But still, a minority member in society to us is a Black person.
We have this stereotypical view of minority groups because that is what has been hammered at us through grade school, and even into high school. We learn time and time again of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks. We are taught about discrimination and segregation of the Black people, but who or what can we think of related to the Mexican population off the top of our heads? Nothing. Jennifer, I would hardly know anything of the Latin American population of the United States if she did not choose to study Spanish as my second language in high school, and from watching the television show “Cops.” Before we started this critique, neither one of us knew that the word Chicano referred to a rural Mexican Immigrant.
We assumed it was the name of someone who was of Asian descent-boy were we wrong! “Chicano came to denote those who fought for the rights of Mexican Americans and fought against Anglo American racism” (Garca, Ignacio M, Chicanismo, 1997, p. 8). Even today we still have very mixed emotions for the Latino minority group. Do we feel sorry for them, or do we feel threatened, and why? The immigration of Latin Americans is not much of a different history compared to the other minority groups trying to survive in this melting pot called the United States of America. The difference that exists between the Latin American minority group and the others is their way of immigrating into this country. As everyone knows, Mexico is adjacent to the United States.
All the Chicanos had to do was pack up a few things and walk over the border. They didn’t even need passports; they could enter and exit whenever they wished. Perhaps this may be a piece to the puzzle as to why we don’t feel as sorry for the Latinos as we do the other immigrant population. Many of the other minority groups of the time, the Chinese, Irish, Japanese, Jews, had packed up their whole families and some of their belongings, that could be carried by hand, jumped on a boat sailed for days to this promise land and were stuck here. It was too easy for the Mexicans; they could go back if they didn’t think the grass was as green as expected on this side of the river. Some did go back but many didn’t, they stayed in the southern states working on plantation farms, in the fields, and as servants around and within the plantation house.
They were not making nearly enough money to survive, and they complained every step of the way. A stereotypical view of their population is that we ” .. Saw Mexican Americans as passive, unmotivated, and responsible for accepting much of their own suffering” (Garca, p.47). The Blacks were brought here by the Whites and forced into slavery; the Mexicans seemed to come and endure the pain by choice. They could have gone back if they wanted.
The Chicanos came into the United States at the same time as the Japanese. But when we think of the Japanese we envision a well-dressed man, electronic equipment and expensive cars. On the other side, when the word Mexican is mentioned we envision a dirty old man with a bottle of Tequila. The Japanese worked in the fields right next to the Mexicans, what then is the difference between the two minorities? The only answer to the aforementioned questions is that the Japanese population Americanized themselves where the Mexicans had elected not to. Latin Americans avoided behaviors and attitudes that associate with the dominant group. “This oppositional identity appears to interfere with achievement.
If doing well means you have to ‘act white,’ which feels like a betrayal of yourself and your people, then you are not going to try to excel.”(Arends, Richard I., Exploring Teaching, p.130). It was easier for the Japanese to conform to American society because their homeland was a half a world away. As for the Latino community, their homeland was right next-door. There was a constant flow of news and gossip across the border; perhaps that is why many of the Chicanos did not coincide with the American standards. They did not want to be looked down upon in their homeland.
This is what confuses us about the Mexican population: they want to be rich and give their children the so-called ” American Dream,” but at the same time they are not able to give it to them. Latin Americans are not making enough money to make ends meet, and sending their children to school means two, three, or even more, fewer hands to help out in the fields. Losing the help in the fields means losing money in their pockets and food on their tables. Don’t get us wrong, Mexicans do really want to send their children to schools to receive a better education than the one that they alone are able to g …