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Useful Notes / Mexican Americans

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"We have to be more Mexican than the Mexicans and more American than the Americans, both at the same time! It's exhausting!"
Abraham, Selena

Mexican Americans, also known as Mexican-Americans, Chicanos, Chicanos/as, Chican@s, Chicanxs, 'pochos', and Mexicans, constitute one of the largest and most distinctive ethnicities in the United States, making up about 10% of the population. Historically, Mexican Americans were concentrated in the Southwestern states which were formerly Mexican territory, though today there are significant populations in most major cities and many agricultural regions throughout the country.


Although Mexican immigrants make up the largest immigrant community in the country, the majority of Mexican Americans were actually born in the US. Prior to the middle of the nineteenth century, about a third of the USA was Mexican territory, and many families in Texas and New Mexico can trace their heritage to Spanish and Indian farmers who settled the region in the colonial period. Most Mexican Americans, however, can trace their heritage to several waves of migration from Mexico that have occurred since the Mexican Cession. The need for cheap labor in sparsely populated areas led mining companies and farmers to recruit Mexican labor a few decades after the war, something that has more or less continued to this day. The The Mexican Revolution caused the stream of immigration to become a tidal wave, with about a millions Mexicans fleeing war-ravaged regions to settle on the outskirts of Southwestern cities like LA and El Paso. Factory owners in the Upper Midwest noticed this large population of laborers and recruited them to work at then-thriving factories, resulting the emergence of ethnic enclaves in Chicago and Detroit, among other cities. A couple years after deporting hundreds of thousands of Mexican Americans to open up more jobs to white laborers in California during the depression, FDR authorized 'bracero' visas for Mexican laborers to work in the fields and factories of the southwest so that those same white laborers could be shipped out to war without production going down. This program continued until the 1960s, and although braceros were required to return to Mexico after their work was done, many either stayed or returned with their whole families. Most recently, Mexico's economic "lost decade" of the '80s and '90s led millions to flee for economic reasons; their remittances to family members living back in Mexico played a role in stabilizing the Mexican economy. Despite the ongoing Drug War in Mexico, net migration has actually been fairly close to zero since around 2000, due to increasingly strict enforcement of immigration laws and increased job opportunities in Mexico.


Within US popular media, little distinction is often made between Mexicans and Mexican Americans, much to the ire of both groups. Many middle-class Mexicans see Mexican Americans as cultural traitors, forsaking their heritage to embrace the hybridized culture of the California burritonote , while Mexican Americans counter that they're merely engaging in the same sort of mestizajenote  that produced Mexican culture in the first place.

Although Mexican Americans make up 30% of the population of greater Los Angeles, don't expect them show up that often in movies and TV set there unless they're Ethnic Menial Labor, Illegals, or Gang Bangers.




  • The indie comic book Love and Rockets features slice of life stories about an ever-expanding number of Mexican American characters. Gilbert's Palomar stories generally examine the lives of immigrants trying to get by in a strange new land while still maintaining ties with The Old Country, while Jaime's Locas stories feature second- and third-generation Chicanas trying to carve out an identity for themselves.
  • The third Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes, is a Mexican American from El Paso.

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