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Mexican American's Activism

However, the political activism of the 1970s has been specifically linked to the activism that took place in the 1930s and 40s (McWilliams, 1973). Bert Corona, a Mexican-American labor and community activist, is one example. He worked for "social justice and first-class citizenship" (Garcia, 1993, p. 241) among Los Angeles longshoremen and waste material workers in the 1930s and 40s. He also worked as a representative of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in working with Mexican-American youth gangs and fighting discrimination in California.

Besides labor unrest in the immigrant and farm labor community, there were also the Sleepy Lagoon Murder trial and the Zoot Suit Riots of Los Angeles. In both instances, the Chicano population was used as a scapegoat for white fears of gang activity and "unAmerican" and "antiwar" activity. Union members as well as fashionably dressed minority youths were hunted down by specially formed "red squads" to subdue the "bad element" (Escobar, 1999). The Latin culture had, in fact, been officially criminalized as a race as demonstrated in a quote by a testifying witness during the Sleepy Lagoon Trial:

Let us view it from the biological basis. . . Total disregard for human life has always been universal throughout the Americas in the human population. And this Mexican element feels a desire to kill or at least to draw blood (Tobar, 1997).

Many Chicano families chose to retreat after this ugly period in history, refusing to let their children learn Spanish and trying to "whiten up". Yet, there were others who chose to use this turmoil as a spring board to fight segregation in schools, "red-lining" in neighborhoods, and to strive for better working conditions for far


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Mexican American's Activism. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:51, August 20, 2017, from
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