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Thoughts on the Mexican American Struggles for Peace and Justice

We are entering a new movimiento era for Mexican Americans and Latinos where a passing of the torch is in process

By Rosalio Munoz
Published on LatinoLA: March 16, 2010


Thoughts on the Mexican American Struggles for Peace and Justice


Below is the beginnings of a review of some of the latest demographic information together with historical trends of Mexican Americans and other Latinos. The population of Mexican Americans is twice that of all other Latinos, 6 times larger than the next group of Puerto Ricans, over 10 times greater than the next, Cubans. I know many will object to the term of Mexican Americans for all those of Mexican ancestry. I do this to stress their importance as part of the working class and people of the United States. It has to do with power, political, economic and yes cultural here de este lado, with historical trends.

I am making this review to try and help develop the vision of the role of Mexican Americans in the struggles for peace and social justice, for human survival and progress in the coming generation(s). We are at a potential major turning point in US and world history. The share of economic development is spreading around the globe with the US role relatively lessening . How this country deals with this, progressively or regressively is of world historical import, the role of Mexican Americans and Latinos is increasingly strategic to this.

In a parallel sense I see the situation today as a beginning of a new era for Mexican Americans and Latinos much like I see the depression/WWII generation and Chicano Movement generations. The former is passing away and the latter moving towards retirement and a passing of the torch is in process. The challenges were great in the past and are greater for the new and coming generations. As our forebearers did for us we of needs must do all we can as veteran@s for la juventud. Anyguey, for all its worth, a start...

In 1966 the US Census estimates there were 8.5 million Latinos with 2/3 or more being Mexican-American, this constituted 4.25 % of the population. Today there are nearly 50 million Latinos with about 2/3 Mexican American and constitute nearly 16% of the population. In 1966 African Americans made up over 11% of the population, Latinos 4.25 and Asian Pacific Americans .75%. for 15% Today African Americans make up 13%, Latinos 16%, Asian Pacific Americans 4.6% for 33.6%. Native Americans and Alaskans and other groups like Arabs add to the people of color.

The size of the racially and nationally oppressed peoples in the United States has more than doubled proportionately with Mexican Americans making up around half of that increase. Mexican Americans historically have been overwhelmingly concentrated in the Southwest States and this has continued to be the case. However the size and spread of the Mexican American population throughout the country has made re Mexican Americans the second largest racially and nationally oppressed group after African Americans inside and ooutside of the Southwest. This trend will likely continue.

Mexican Americans and Latinos are overwhelmingly working class. The median personal earnings of Latinos today are $21,488, for whites the earnings are $31,570, for African Americans (not Hispanic) $24, 951, and for Asian Pacific Americans $35,542. Among Latinos the median personal earnings for Mexican Americans are $20,238, Puerto Rican $25,298, Cuban $26,310, Salvadorans $20,238, and Dominican $20,238.

Immigration law and practice has historically been a key factor in the racial and national oppression of Mexican Americans. The poorest, least educated, lowest income and highest poverty levels are those of immigrants especially those without papers. Second, third and higher generation Mexican Americans do better in general than the immigrant as well as African American populations but substantially below the statistics for whites all along the line. However it is important to note that among youth the teen pregnancy and drop out rates for 3rd generation Mexican Americans and other Latinos are notably greater than those of the 2nd generation.

Mexican Americans and other Latino sare substantially part of virtually every occupation but overwhelmingly underrepresented in the higher educated, higher income, and from decision making in economics, politics, culture, media etc, and overrepresented in the lowest paying and more physically demanding jobs with fewest if any benefits. For every level of education there is a substantial differentiation between incomes of Mexican Americans and whites, with the smallest differential for dropouts and the largest for those with graduate and professional degrees. At all relevent levels union membership closes the gap substantially. Mexican Americans workers are severely overrepresented in incarceration, and are overwhelmingly the most deported and detained by the geometrically growing immigration enforcement complex.

Up until the viciously racist anti immigrant enforcement laws passed in the mid nineties Mexican Americans had one of the highest unionization rates, now the proportion of Latino workers unionized has fallen more than others, but nevertheless the desire and support for unionization has grown. Mexican Americans are among the fastest numerically growing part and percentage of growth of the labor movement, but below the rate of population increase. This strong labor trend began as soon as the labor movement began in the southwest and despite Jim Crow labor practices for the first century, which began to be overcome with the CIO movement and then post WWII Civil Rights efforts.

Mexican Americans are the fastest growing voting group in the United States this despite the prohibition against voting for non-citizen non-naturalized workers. The Mexican American role as a political constituency emerged during the New Deal era when it became part of the progressive electoral alliances that have developed since. Its political history has continued and grown incrementally 24/7, month by month, year by year, and geographically more and more particularly in metropolitan areas.starting in San Antonio and Los Angeles (New Mexico as well)

It is important to note that Mexican Americans were crucial to the multiracial/multinational unity that won the union shop in Los Angeles in the depression. In the Post WWII era Mexican Americans made many key breakthroughs in electoral, civil rights and labor movements in the Southwest. Despite severe repression and discrimination in the Cold War McCarthy era and afterward the Mexican American community continued its necessary role in building the progressive movements in the Southwest most notably perhaps in California. The Mexican American movement has had to fight through being systematically pitted against dust bowl refugees African American, Asian Pacific American, and green card and undocumented workers and has a remarkable record in overcoming such practices and building unity. This story is one of the greatest kept secrets of US reaction.

Along with Jewish Americans, Mexican Americans have been among the strongest long term allies of the African American people. Since the 1960's Mexican Americans have been the strongest supporters of immigrant rights, indeed they have integrated the struggle as a necessary part of the struggle for equality for their communities and the nation.

Perhaps the most relevant political achievement of the Mexican American movement is the turning of California, home of Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan into a solidly blue anti right wing state in national politics. This has been pivotal to fighting the far right dominance for decades and more in defeating the right in the 2008 elections. If the victories in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico are further consolidated and expanded into Arizona and Texas the country will have a strong shot on a period with reaction in retreat and advancing democracy.

All of this argues for the greater consideration and emphasis on the strategic importance of Mexican Americans. Adding to the emphasis is the youth of the Mexican American population and especially of Mexican American native born youth.

One in five of all schoolchildren are Latino more than one in 7 are Mexican American. One in four of all newborns are Latinos and over one in 6 are Mexican American. Two thirds of Latino youth are citizens and this proportion will grow. The median age of Latinos is 27, of Mexican Americans 25, of the overall population, the overall is 37, whites 41, African Americans 32. . The median age of native born Latinos, s is under 18. There is a wide disparity in median age between native born and foreign-born Latinos since most immigrants are working age adults and females of childbearing age. Most dramatically perhaps are the figures of the percentages of those under 5 years. For native-born Latinos it is 8.5% for foreign-born 0.3 percent, whites 2.7%

Among Latinos 79% of the second generation and 38% of the third report being proficient in Spanish. More native-born Latinos report "perception" of racism than foreign born.

The greatest gain in Latino voting in 2008 was the young who also recorded the largest numbers for Obama.

All of this argues there is a Tsunami of potentially progressive voting Mexican Americans and Latinos coming at the right wing. The fullest integration of the Mexican American Latino population, especially the youth into the democratic movements is strategic to the decisive defeat of the right wing and the entering into an era of reform and substantive progressive change

About Rosalio Munoz:
Rosalio Munoz was the chair of the August 29, 1970 National Chicano Moratorium is cochair of the 40th Anniversary Commemoration Committee of the Chicano Moratoriums.
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