Identity Politics in Mexican History: From Americano to Xicano

Saturday, January 4, 2014: 9:20 AM
Columbia Hall 7 (Washington Hilton)
Víctor M. Macias-Gonzalez, University of Wisconsin–La Crosse
This study surveys the history of interplay between Mexican national identity and that of its

diaspora, particularly in the United States. It begins with 19th Century conversations about

the meaning of being Mexican and Americano (from the Americas), and continues through the

early 20th Century as the diaspora in the U.S., mostly migrants laboring the fields, face

political circumstances that challenge their identity as Mexicanos. The 1930s in California is

identified as a key period for this transition. Conflicting identity messages of Mexican and

other Latino American migrant workers during the agricultural strikes had a seismical effect

not only on the diaspora, but also on those living in Mexico. While many sought to retain a

"Mexico de afuera" identity, and thus, oddly, allied with anti-union, but civic booster Harry

Chandler, many others were also seeking to establish a United States' class-based identity. As

seen through the lens of the press, this decade saw a crucial shift from Mexican immigrant to

Mexican-American identity. This event helps understand the broad and complex politics of

identity that have defined the Mexican (and to some extend, the Central American) diaspora

in the U.S., and the international politics between the two nations for most of the 20th