One hundred years after Columbus’ arrival in the Caribbean, Spanish Conquistadors and Priests, push into North America in search of gold and to spread Catholicism. With the arrival of the British in North America, the two colonial systems produce contrasting societies that come in conflict as Manifest Destiny pushes the U.S into the Mexican territories of the South West. Apolinaria Lorenzana provides a window to the Spanish Mission System while Mariano Vallejo personifies the era of the Californio rancheros an elite class who thrive after Mexico gains its independence from Spain. Juan Seguín, a third generation Tejano or Texan, is caught between two worlds; his commitment to an Independent Texas and his identity as a Mexican. Through the Mexican American War, the U.S. takes a full half of Mexico’s territory by 1848. Over seventy thousand Mexicans are caught in a strange land and many become American citizens.As the Gold Rush floods California with settlers, complex and vital communities are overwhelmed. The elites, including Mariano Vallejo and Apolinaria Lorenzana lose their land. Mexicans and Mexican Americans are treated as second-class citizens, facing discrimination and racial violence. Resistance to this injustice appears in New Mexico as Las Gorras Blancas (The White Caps), burn Anglo ranches and cut through barbed wire to prevent Anglo encroachment. At the same time, New Mexicans manage to transform themselves through education, managing to preserve Hispano culture in New Mexico and their standing in the midst of an era of conquest and dispossession.
Widespread immigration to the U.S. from Latin countries begins first with a small group from Cuba, then a larger one from Mexico. Both flee chaos and violence in their home country and are attracted by opportunities in the United States. In 1898, the U.S. helps liberate Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spain but then seizes Puerto Rico as its colony. The first Puerto Rican arrivals (now U.S. citizens) establish a network in New York.Juan Salvador Villaseí±or whose story is told by his son, Victor, flees the violence of the Mexican revolution of 1910, along with his mother and two sisters. We follow Juan Salvador’s story; first through a grueling journey and poverty, then as a bootlegger, and finally as a successful businessman along with his wife and children in the United States.During the 1920s, immigration is encouraged with the expanding U.S. economy. Mexicans and Mexican Americans build a thriving community in Los Angeles and look forward to a bright future. But when the economic boom of that 1920s ends with the catastrophic Depression of the thirties, the pendulum swings. Immigrants encouraged to immigrate in the 20s are deported en masse in the 30s. Emilia Castaneda loses her home and her family when she and her father and brother are deported to Mexico, despite the fact that Emilia and her brother are U.S. citizens. Puerto Ricans, also caught in the depths of the Depression, rebel against U.S. rule on the Island, and eventually gain Commonwealth status from the U.S. Government. World War II is a watershed event for Latino Americans with hundreds of thousands of men and women serving in the armed forces, most fighting side by side with Anglos. After the war, Macario Garcia becomes the first Mexican National to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor for his exploits fighting in Europe, only to be refused service in a Texas diner. In the 1960s and 1970s a generation of Mexican Americans, frustrated by persistent discrimination and poverty, find a new way forward, through social action and the building of a new “Chicano” identity.
The movement is ignited when farm workers in the fields of California, led by C©sar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, march on Sacramento for equal pay and humane working conditions. Through plays, poetry and film, Luis Valdez and activist Corky Gonzalez create a new appreciation of the long history of Mexicans in the South West and the Mestizo roots of Mexican Americans. In Los Angeles, Sal Castro, a schoolteacher, leads the largest high school student walkout in American history, demanding that Chicano students be given the same educational opportunities as Anglos. In Texas, activists such as Jos© í?ngel Guti©rrez, create a new political party and change the rules of the electoral game. By the end of the 1970s Chicanos activism and identity have transformed what it means to be an American. Chicano and Latino studies are incorporated into school curriculum; Latinos are included in the political process. Alternatively, will Latinos in America eventually assimilate into invisibility, as other groups have done so many times? Latinos present a challenge and an opportunity for the United States. America’s largest and youngest growing sector of the population presents what project advisor Professor Marta Tienda calls, The Hispanic Moment. Their success could determine the growth of the United States in the twenty-first century.
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