About this sample
About this sample
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2 pages /
Mexican Americans have a long and colorful history dating back hundreds of years. Over the span of nearly a century, Mexican-Americans have created a distinct identity. They are separated into two groups: those who have just arrived in the United States and those who are first or second-generation Americans due to their parents’ decades-long immigration to the United States. Then there are the Mexican Americans, whose forefathers arrived in the United States when it was still under Spanish or Mexican rule. Mexican Americans have fought for property rights in the United States since the 1800s and the annexation of multiple countries in the United States that once belonged to Mexico. There are two sides to this argument. The first argument is that Mexican Americans were granted safety, freedom, citizenship, and peace in the United States after multiple states became a part of the country. They were allowed to remain on their property and were given the opportunity to claim American citizenship if they wanted to. They were welcomed into the United States. The second side to this argument is that because the United States did not make a systematic attempt to incorporate the Mexican approach to property ownership into the system, the legal system has failed Mexicans living in America. Furthermore, the United States failed to address prejudice against Mexican-Americans as well as colonization, which resulted in repeated cycles of oppression that can still be witnessed today.
The contradictory notions that Americans and Mexicans have about land ownership is one of the reasons why there were and still are problems with the land that was provided to Mexicans in America when their country lost territory to the United States. Mexicans place a premium on the ‘informal’ system of land ownership, which is based on connections and patronage, whereas Americans are more concerned with the distinction between public and private ownership, as well as whether or not an individual has complete authority over a piece of property. The easiest way to understand the Mexican land grants is to look at them in the historical, social, and cultural context in which they were created. The Mexican people’s business practices in the 1800s were based more on mutual trust than on official paperwork. The agreements between two persons or groups undertaking a transaction were almost never written down; instead, they were verbal because one’s word was as good as the others. The American judicial system, on the other hand, was and continues to be unwilling to comprehend this facet of Mexican society. While the Mexican land grant system is based on Spanish civil law, the American system is more formal and rigorous and is based on English common law. Perhaps this explains why the two are so irreconcilable, and why today’s jurists and property owners have such a difficult time comprehending the system.
The United States government’s reluctance to acknowledge Mexican property ownership arrangements was sometimes motivated by ulterior intentions. While Mexican usufructuary rights allow landowners to utilize common land resources at their leisure, the American fee does the exact reverse. If the US legal system had granted landowners their usufructuary rights in the same way that the Mexican system did, they would have been denied access to the resources on the property. As a result, usufructuary rights were declared unenforceable under US law. The basic underlying issue between the two sides has thus far been and continues to be what Montoya refers to as ‘translation.’ The land was by all rights theirs in the eyes of the Mexican people; the procedures they went through to obtain it made it legally and entirely their property. Unfortunately, the legal system in the United States does not recognize these practices. The system has its own set of conditions for what it takes to be entitled to property, which are in no way connected with what Mexicans consider to be property rights. Both sides believe they are correct, with the winner selected solely by the party having more of a voice in the current situation, namely the United States judicial system.
The fact that the American West was viewed as a huge, uncivilized, populated land up for grabs paved the way for property rights disputes. It was as though the Mexican landowners who had lived there before the Anglo-Americans had gone unnoticed. This made it more likely that they would be thrown out without a fight. The Anglo-American settlers simply did not accept or respect the Mexican people’s land ownership system. This perpetuated the notion that the land was open to all, that there were no established institutions with which they had to contend, that no one had been injured in the course of their settlement and that they acquired the land in a transparent and unacceptable manner. This has worked against Mexican Americans in court cases because the misconception has spread so widely that it has effectively replaced the fact.
Residents of the acquired territories, namely Texas, California, Colorado, and New Mexico, were welcomed into the American territory on an equal footing; they were given the same representation in Congress as their Anglo-American counterparts, and they were even allowed to vote . As the Mexican American population grew in size, it became more visible in American politics. However, it has come to light that there have been some dubious tactics used, as well as some coercion. Colonization simply means being conquered by a more strong foreign force. Colonization has numerous general characteristics: the colonizer arrives in peace, disguised as a friendly stranger carrying Trojan-like gifts. He gradually asserts himself, and before long, the roles are reversed, and he is in charge. The next step is to claim everything that catches his eye, yelling as fervently as the natives do over it and wailing if it is taken away from him. He instigates change and seeks to modify his environment until it suits him. He then invites his people, who quickly deplete and dominate the resources that were formerly the lifeline of native people.
In this view, the Mexican Americans were colonized. The plight of thousands of Mexicans who lost their homes and lands to Anglo-American settlers received little attention because it was considered incredible that the new and free America, which preached so much about liberty and equality for all people, would be the home of such a vice. Some people considered the expanding Mexican immigrant population as a societal concern and attempted to eliminate what they saw as the bad characteristics of Mexican American life. ‘Americanization through Homemaking,’ according to one school booklet, was the key to social harmony by enrolling Mexican girls in sewing, cooking, and cleaning lessons. For young Mexican immigrant women, this book by Pearl Idelia Ellis describes educational programs in homemaking and citizenship. It symbolizes America’s ‘melting pot’ immigration policy and demonstrates how assimilation can take place at home. Sewing, food, family finance, home nursing, preschool childcare, parenthood, house location and interior décor, and the significant role played by young Mexican women in the Americanization of Mexican immigrants is discussed.
The Mexican-American war was waged from 1846 to 1848 after the United States conquest of Texas in 1845. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed at the end of the two-year conflict, and Mexico lost Texas to the United States. Mexico gave up more territory in the Gadsden Purchase of 1853, which included present-day New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and sections of Wyoming. At first, the Mexicans who lived in these territories had their newly acquired US citizenship as a refuge from General Santa Anna’s dictatorial rule. Furthermore, the US government offered to keep the Mexican people’s fields safe, as they were known for being raided. There was also peace, which had eluded the region for a long time; the Mexicans knew that if they didn’t have to keep fighting all the time, they would be able to settle down and generate wealth.
However, things did not turn out as well as they had appeared at first. While the treaty had provisions ensuring that landowners would be able to maintain their property, the United States government failed to uphold its end of the agreement. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was changed in Congress to remove the Mexicans’ protection. Article 10 of the original treaty, which specified that the US government was obligated to honor land concessions granted to Mexicans living in regions surrendered to the government, was removed. The other article that was changed was article eight, which said that Mexican people who stayed in America for a year after the cession might choose to become full American citizens or preserve their Mexican citizenship. However, this was altered to an indefinite period of time for obtaining US citizenship, with Congress determining the length of time. Thousands more Mexicans lost their property as a result of these changes when they took their claims to state and federal courts. These generally uneducated or semiliterate landowners were powerless in the face of the legal system. Many of these people lost their land as a result of the legal bills they had to pay in order to fight for their right to keep their property.
The Mexican people were left without a source of income and no way to support themselves after losing their property. In their own country, the Mexicans had become fugitives. The United States government did not intervene to stop the abuses being perpetrated on the Mexican people. As more Anglo-Americans seized the surrendered lands, the government stood by, buying up territory that properly belonged to the Mexicans and putting it to their own use. In the American West, there began to be a rearrangement of social classes based on who was the wealthiest and had the most power. The landowners were the elite; they owned ranches and were in the cattle business. Then there were people who owned smaller parcels of land, known as ‘rancheros.’ They possessed modest herds of cattle and horses on which they relied for survival. The landless, also known as ‘peons,’ ‘vaqueros,’ and ‘cart men,’ were at the bottom of the social structure. This lowest group on the hierarchy seemed to be nothing more than slaves. They had no property of their own and were frequently employed by ranch owners. They resided in shanties on the same compound as the main ‘hacienda’ where they worked, but far enough away. They didn’t even have access to building supplies, so they had to make do with mud for walls and any thatching materials they could find for roofs. It was an extremely degrading existence.
The legal system entirely failed the Mexican American population, not just in terms of land loss, but also in terms of failing to safeguard their basic human rights. Apart from the continued segregation of Mexican Americans, which eventually turned into blatant racism, there were hundreds of incidences of unjustified violence against members of these communities. There was never any redress for victims, and their cases were never heard in a court of law. In most sections of the American West, Mexican Americans were denied this privilege, despite the fact that they were citizens just like everyone else at the time.
Mexican laborers’ lives were literally not their own. Jose Alamillo recalls his upbringing in southern California, where he lived with his parents, who worked on a limoneira farm. The farm, which was and continues to be the country’s largest lemon ranch, relied primarily on Mexican immigrants for work. According to Alamillo, his family lived in a house owned by the same corporation as the lemon plantation. The all-pervasive corporation owned the grocery store where they bought their groceries as well as the entertainment venues where they visited. Working in the lemon groves was not easy. The job was seasonal, and there were periods during the year when the author’s mother was required to perform extra chores at people’s homes in order to meet their financial obligations. The author claims that during the fruit season, when the packing had to be done, his mother had to work day and night with only short breaks in between. His father had to get up on the coldest nights so they could go and keep the smudge pots burning so the fruit wouldn’t be ruined by the cold. The laborers’ working conditions were hazardous to their health, and the long hours they worked left them exhausted. Worst of all, the payment to the laborers for their work was terrible. It wasn’t even enough to keep the laborers’ families afloat. Because the workers purchased their goods from a business-owned store, the farm had complete control over the pricing established, as did the rent, leaving the laborers subject to extortionate charges.
The laborers cherished their free time; those few hours of respite when they might enjoy their independence. The laborers formed very tight community relationships as a result of their shared misery. They celebrated holidays, weddings, and birthdays with considerable pomp and ceremony. It was as if these moments, like rare diamonds of joy, represented the full lives they could live, free of oppression, continual working and fretting, and the unremitting poverty with which they were confronted on a daily basis. Their leisure time was a symbolic act of rebellion against their superior; it was their method of expressing that, while their bodies and goods were owned, their spirits were free, strong, and unwilling to submit. On farms across the American west, such as this lemon farm, there was an outright violation of human rights. Jose Alamillo’s and his family’s situation was not unusual. The story was the same for Mexican laborers all around the United States. They had to fight back.
I agree with the second argument. The history of the American West predates the arrival of Anglo-American people in the area. In those lands, there were humans who lived before them. The cultural and social history of Mexicans living in the American west could not be reduced to a few rigid documents delineating ownership and boundaries. Because the US legal system did not understand the Mexican land grant system, they were unable to make use of it. The United States government should recognize the injustice done to Mexican Americans over the last century. Though no amount of compensation will compensate the Mexican Americans who had to endure the humiliation of losing their house and home, of being reduced to nothing more than workers, some justice needs to be found.
Mexican Americans began creating labor unions in the early 1900s to fight for the rights of their workers. The Industrial Workers of the World, or IWW, was a well-known labor movement that battled for better working conditions for mine workers and farm laborers alike. The American government, on the other hand, replied by deporting a large number of its citizens in the Bisbee deportation of 1917. The government’s role in the discrimination of Mexican Americans was not kept under wraps. Following the Great Depression of 1929, the state-sponsored repatriation program urged persons of Mexican heritage to return to their homeland. The repatriation, however, was not voluntary because the majority of those deported, over 500 persons, were deported against their will. The League of United Latin American Citizens, founded in 1929 to combat discrimination against Mexican Americans, was one of these movements. They have persisted in their fight until now.
Mexican Americans have fought a long and hard battle to reclaim a birthright that they were previously denied. There have been few successes along the way, with times of bitterness, loss, and humiliation thrown at them. Mexican Americans have shown enormous tenacity in the face of greater foes in their efforts to achieve social, cultural, and economic equality, even if they may never get everything that was truly theirs in the first place. They have earned their place in the American nation, as have other civilizations that are still fighting for recognition in the United States.
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