Mexican American/Chicano

People have been crossing the border that now exists between the United States and Mexico since before either of them became a nation. That crossing continues, sometimes in conformity with the laws of both countries, and sometimes not. When railroad tracks were laid on both sides of the border, and then across it, the flow of people increased.

Transportation, manufacturing and agriculture expanded in the American southwest at the same time that the Mexican Revolution of 1910 was beginning. The revolutionaries were fighting against the political and economic oppression of the Porfirio Diaz regime; many of them promised to bring more social and economic equality to Mexico and improve the lives of people who had been exploited and discriminated against by Diaz and his supporters. First, however, they had to fight against the Mexican Army that supported Diaz. Then they fought among themselves for control of the new government and to make sure it carried out their promises. The chaos this created made it hard for many Mexicans to find a safe place to live, or a job. It attracted more of them to the United States. Many of these emigrants were witnesses to the Revolution, or had read or heard about its details. They brought their experiences and stories with them when they came north. Some of those stories were collected by student interviewers and are part of this collection.

One of the places those Mexican emigrants found jobs in the early part of the twentieth century was on ranches and farms in southern California. Rancho Los Alamitos, just east of the town of Long Beach, was one of them. On this ranch, owned and operated by Fred and Florence Bixby, Mexican workers tended sheep, cattle and horses, as well as raising fruits and vegetables, and weeding flower gardens. The discovery of oil on the ranch allowed the Bixbys to maintain their rural lifestyle, even after the end of the Second World War, as commercial and residential developments approached its boundaries. Interviews with Mexican ranch workers were conducted by one of the Bixby's granddaughters, Joan Hotchkis, as part of her research into her family's history.

After the violence of the Mexican Revolution subsided, Mexicans continued coming to the United States. Meanwhile, the children and grandchildren of those who had arrived earlier began to demand more opportunities and an end to discrimination. In the 1960s, some of them advocated better schools, labor unions for farm workers, an end to the Vietnam war, greater access to higher education and more relevant school curricula. When changes were slow to develop, they organized demonstrations such as the East Los Angeles high school strike of 1968 and the Chicano Moratorium march of 1970. College and university students, who were among the leaders of these and other actions, organized themselves into Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Aztlan (MEChA). And in the 1970s, students in some of the early Chicano Studies classes, created as a result of this organizing, conducted interviews with some of the participants in these events. Although their interviews are short, they offer some useful insights into these significant events.

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