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The Tejano Diaspora

The Tejano Diaspora: Mexican Americanism and Ethnic Politics in Texas and Wisconsin

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Tejano Diaspora
    Book Description:

    Each spring during the 1960s and 1970s, a quarter million farm workers left Texas to travel across the nation, from the Midwest to California, to harvest America's agricultural products. During this migration of people, labor, and ideas, Tejanos established settlements in nearly all the places they traveled to for work, influencing concepts of Mexican Americanism in Texas, California, Wisconsin, Michigan, and elsewhere. InThe Tejano Diaspora, Marc Simon Rodriguez examines how Chicano political and social movements developed at both ends of the migratory labor network that flowed between Crystal City, Texas, and Wisconsin during this period.Rodriguez argues that translocal Mexican American activism gained ground as young people, activists, and politicians united across the migrant stream. Crystal City, well known as a flash point of 1960s-era Mexican Americanism, was a classic migrant sending community, with over 80 percent of the population migrating each year in pursuit of farm work. Wisconsin, which had a long tradition of progressive labor politics, provided a testing ground for activism and ideas for young movement leaders. By providing a view of the Chicano movement beyond the Southwest, Rodriguez reveals an emergent ethnic identity, discovers an overlooked youth movement, and interrogates the meanings of American citizenship.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0325-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Abbreviations in the Text (pp. xvii-xviii)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-14)

    In 1963, Crystal City, Texas, shot onto the national scene when a group of five Mexican Americans dubbed “Los Cinco” swept all seats on the common council. This “revolt” made its way onto the front pages of theWall Street Journal, theNew York Times, theLos Angeles Times, andLifemagazine. The events in Crystal City forced Americans to ask questions about the other “race” problem in the United States during a period of civil rights turbulence that focused on the dramatic African American freedom struggle in the South. Led by flamboyant Teamsters Union representative Juan Cornejo, Crystal City’s...

  6. 1 Post–World War II Mexican Americanism in Crystal City, Texas (pp. 15-37)

    In early 2003, theZavala County Sentinelran a newly discovered photo of nearly a dozen uniformed service men and women posing in downtown Crystal City. The image captured the high level of World War II military participation among Mexican Americans in this small South Texas city.¹ Many of the veterans pictured spent their lives as politically active citizens in motion between Texas, the Midwest, California, and beyond. In the early postwar years, some engaged in a civil and patriotic form of activism in an effort to remake their hometown in the image of the America they had imagined and...

  7. 2 Inclusion and Mexican Americanism HIGH SCHOOL ACCULTURATION AND ETHNIC POLITICS IN CRYSTAL CITY (pp. 38-59)

    In the late 1950s and early 1960s, mainstream public school systems of the Southwest became increasingly open to Mexican American students. A variety of changes, including statewide public school reform and a shift in attitudes among some parents, brought large numbers of Mexican American teens into high school for the first time, where they began an epistemological encounter with the meaning and practice of American citizenship.¹ Some Mexican American students in Crystal City embraced idealized forms of Americanism and their identity as Mexican-ancestry people while rejecting the racial hierarchies of South Texas. Much as Mexican American and African American veterans...

  8. 3 Activism across the Diaspora THE TEJANO FARMWORKER MOVEMENT IN WISCONSIN (pp. 60-97)

    On August 15, 1966, twenty-two-year-old Jesus Salas, a college student and the son of a migrant contractor and restaurant owner from Crystal City, Texas, organized a “March on Madison” to bring attention to the problems of Wisconsin’s migrant farmworkers. This was the third farmworker march of the year. In March, the fledgling National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) had led a march from Delano, California, to Sacramento, and put the plight of the farmworker on the national agenda. In June, Father Antonio Gonzalez, a Catholic priest whose family annually traveled to the cucumber harvest area of Wautoma, Wisconsin, had led a...

  9. 4 Making a Migrant Village in the City: TEJANOS AND THE WAR ON POVERTY IN MILWAUKEE (pp. 98-125)

    On November 25, 1968, a large group of “concerned south-side citizens” packed the Milwaukee offices of United Migrant Opportunity Services, Inc. (UMOS), a social service agency established under the auspices of the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), to protest the mismanagement of this poverty program. The demonstrators sought a meeting with UMOS management to call on the agency, created under the War on Poverty, to better serve the needs of migrants by hiring more former migrant farmworkers and promoting those already working for the organization to management positions. Many of the protesters filling the room at UMOS headquarters that night...

  10. 5 Circular Activist Flows and the Rise of La Raza Unida Party in Texas (pp. 126-153)

    As Mexican American and U.S. Latino activism became national in scope in the late 1960s, a variety of movements emerged from within the Mexican-ancestry community and the urban trans-Latino communities of the Midwest. As it had in the past, the migrant stream linking Crystal City to Wisconsin and other locations continued to facilitate the development of transregional activism; those who traveled back and forth brought a constantly changing set of ideas and fellow travelers with them as they turned the wheel of labor migration to serve the needs of political mobilization. This continuing and adaptive thread of activism shows some...


    Looking down the main street of Crystal City in the early twenty-first century, there is little sign that this was a center of radical politics or even that it was the economic center of the Winter Garden District. Many of the storefronts are empty or occupied by marginal businesses; most of the national chains have pulled out, and few of the palm trees that once graced the parklike center of town remain, replaced by empty parking spots. As one drives around the city, abandoned and vacant homes owned by residents of other parts of Texas, as well as Wisconsin and...

  12. Notes (pp. 161-204)
  13. Bibliography (pp. 205-228)
  14. Index (pp. 229-238)