Latino Heritage Month: A History of Citizenship & Education

la-times_february-19-1946_400x450This may be the first time in about 10 years that I am not directly involved with planning some type of Latino Heritage Month activity on a campus I am employed in. While that may sound like a tragedy in some way given my past involvement, It really isn’t. Perhaps because I reside in New York City, where there are literally millions of Latinos, maybe I don’t have that same sense of urgency as I did as Syracuse. I noticed that Barnard College and Columbia University already has established programming for students to take part and that is what makes me smile.

This is not say that the work is done and I am over it but I think that I need to have a different, more personal, approach to Latino Heritage Month. Many times we call for action without reflection. We get angry over things that occur and we tweet about it and post Facebook statuses but then everything sorta dies down after a few days. I do contemplate if that is because we never really take to reflect on what is really happening in the world. We become more reactionary to much of what happens.

Those reactions distracts us from doing what is going on. So I would like to offer a history lesson on how Latinos had to fight for the education we enjoy today. This is part of a graduate paper I wrote last year. Warning – this is lengthy but I do think it’s worth it:

With California and Texas becoming states in the mid-1800s, there was a need for the United States to determine what it was going to do with the Mexican and Native American populations that it acquired with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The Mexican population quickly became racialized by the standard of the United States, which meant that light skinned Mexicans were considered Caucasian and darker individuals (such as Native American and Afro-Mexicans) were considered Black.

This is important to recognize because this is where many Mexicans drew the line in the fight for equal opportunity. They felt that they did not fall within the racialized context of black and white. In general, most of the separation from the majority was cultural like many of the other immigrants that came before them. Immigrants from Europe that came to the U.S. earlier the century (Germans, Irish, and Italians) went through a similar plight of dealing with culture and language.  However, European Immigrants never had to fight that hard to become assimilated into the American culture and as a result lost many customs and cultural traditions that Latinos fight hard to maintain.

After the Spanish American War in 1898 resulted in the Treaty of Paris (in which Puerto Rico was acquired along with Guam and the Philippines), the United States maintained the attitude that the Latino population needed to become more Americanized by getting a better education and thus learning English. Mexicans in the west were struggling with equal rights in terms of land ownership, while Puerto Ricans and Cubans were dealing with Americanization in the north east. American politicians felt that Puerto Rico, in particular, would benefit from a better education as long as they learned English first. Cuba also fell within the protection of the United States before Fidel Castro assumed power.

The Mexican Revolutionary War from 1910 to 1920 forced many Mexicans to cross the border into the United States to escape the fighting and the bloodshed. This meant a cheaper workforce with the influx of people, but it also meant an educational challenge for school districts. Many districts in California created spaces in schools just to hold separate Mexican classes to address the needs of this new population. The focus was to Americanize Mexican children while teaching them vocational skills needed to make them a part of the workforce. Despite initial protest from parents, the Santa Ana Board of Education was the first to open a Mexican only school in 1919. The rationale being that this separate facility was in the best interest of the children.

In 1917, the Jones Act was passed that allowed Puerto Ricans to be American Citizens, which led to a large influx of Puerto Ricans into the United States. This declaration of citizenship came after years of political struggle over what exactly Puerto Rico was. While statehood was not granted, Puerto Ricans could still enjoy the status of being an American Citizen even though they are often not treated as such. Here is where many of the political issues for Puerto Ricans and Mexicans differ. Mexicans were fighting hard to cross the boarders to be naturalized to escape a war of revolution while Puerto Ricans slowly losing their ability to self-govern.

When thinking about segregation, cases like Brown v. Board of Education in Topeka Kansas in 1954 were critical. However, in 1946 Mendez v. Westminster in California is a landmark court case that changed the landscape for Latinos in Education and set the stage for the latter court case. The most import part of the fight for social inclusion is that most of the struggles for equality in school are mostly invisible. African Americans struggles for desegregation are well documented and well discussed in the history of the United States; however, Mexican Americans have been fighting the legality of segregation since the 1930s. History largely acknowledges the plight of African Americans making it difficult to really see and understand the roles that Latinos, particularly Mexicans played during the segregation era.

Cases like the Independent School District v. Salvatierra in Texas (1930) showed that segregation of Mexicans was indeed happening because of race. However, school districts could get away with this if the basis of the separation was based on lack of English language proficiency. The issue was that the Texas State constitution, which was ratified in 1876, stated that segregation of Whites and colored children was allowed. However, the term “colored” was only meant for “Negros.” Since Mexicans are not mentioned in the Constitution, the court ruled that Mexicans were considered white and thus segregation against them was illegal. The significance of this case was that the lawyers who defended Salvatierra were from the newly established League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). This case provided them with crucial experience they would need in the upcoming years.

In 1931, the Alvarez v. Lemon Grove School District was held in court in California. This can be argued as being the first real victory against segregation. The Lemon Grove District sought to build a separate school for Mexicans due to overcrowding. The District never informed the parents of this, thus never gained support from the Mexican community. In turn the parents protested and refused to have their children attend this new school that was called La Caballeriza (the stable) by much of the community. These parents wanted to maintain their right to send their children to same schools that Whites sent their children to.

The judge ruled in favor of Alvarez on the basis that the separate school for Mexican children would not be conducive to their Americanization. It was believed that this new school would severely retard their comprehension of the English Language because they would have no one to speak proper English to. He also believed that allowing Spanish speaking children to learn English and mingle with other English speaking students would allow them the best way to be Americanized. In addition, it was also found that California law had no such provisions that allowed for the district to make such a decision.

For years, California was deeply rooted in the idea of segregation. As the Mexican population increased, so was the increased demand of Anglos to create a residential and educational segregation. In 1927 the California Attorney General pushed for Mexicans to be considered as Native Americans whereby placing them under the mandate of de jure segregation. The notion that Mexicans were “colored” and should not have the same equalities as White people seemed to go against the ruling cited in Lemon Grove Case. However, when California Legislature passed a law to segregate Mexicans because they were considered Native Americans, the 1935 School code did not specifically mention them by name:

The governing board of the School district shall have all power to establish separate schools for Indian [sic] children, excepting children who are the wards of the U.S. government and the children of all other Indians who are the descendants of the original American Indians of the U.S, and for the children of Chinese, Japanese, or Mongolian parentage.

Because Mexicans were not mentioned specially, as was the case with other races, school districts in California found it difficult to legally segregate them. Mexicans did not consider themselves Native American, which created a loophole within the legislation.

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A picture of the Zoot Suit Riots

Despite the inequities within the school system and the labor market, World War II was a time in which many Latinos went overseas. It was estimated that over 65,000 Puerto Ricans served in a segregated military. Due to their citizenship, Puerto Rican men were required to register and serve.  Most of them served from the 65th Infantry Regiment. World War II gave many Mexicans pride in their US citizenship. The general number of Mexican Americans that served is unknown because many were counted as White soldiers. However, despite their participation in the war, Mexicans were constantly being linked to issues of crime as much as African Americans were. The zoot suit riots in 1943, where American sailors would drive the streets of Los Angeles looking to strip Mexican youth of their clothing, marked a time of racial tension in California. The battle in the courtroom for equality became even more crucial as racial tensions were mounting outside the classroom.

In 1943, the parents of Silvia Mendez tried to enroll her into Westminster Elementary School in Santa Ana, California, where she was denied enrollment based on her skin color and Spanish surname.  It was lawful at the time for California school districts to segregate all students of color and thus deny them access into schools that were considered all white.  This prompted her father, Gonzalo, to join with other families and file a class action lawsuit against the Orange County School District. LULA took the lead on the case and represented five fathers: Thomas Estrada, Chapo Guzman, Mayo Zambada, Rosame Elcacho, and Gonzalo Mendez.

The basis of the argument was that the school district had violated the 14th Amendment. This is a similar argument made in Brown v. Board of Education that took place seven years later by Thurgood Marshall on behalf of the NAACP.  The Equal Protection Clause within the 14th Amendment states:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;

What led Judge Paul J. McCormick’s ruling in favor of Mendez was not just the violation of the 14th Amendment, but the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that guaranteed Mexicans equal rights in the United States. However, this case would be fought again in the appellate court, where the connection of the two historic court cases is made.

For years, the NAACP has been trying to win the battle of segregation in schools using the 14th Amendment as reason for the law’s is unconstitutionality. Until the Mendez v. Westminster, the standard for segregation in schools was the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896 that upheld that States had the right to separate, provided that they granted equal facilities. The Mendez ruling was the first successful ruling toward segregation in terms of skin color.  For the most part, segregation for Mexicans was based on cultural reasons. These segregation cases really did not change much for African Americans because there was always a loophole regarding that citizenry and language issues of Mexicans in particular.

When it came time to fight the case in the appellate courts, LULAC and the NAACP (along with American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Congress, and Japanese American Citizens League) came together to successfully argue the case.  Ninth Circuit Judge, Justice Albert Lee Stephens, upheld the ruling April 14, 1947.  The court stated:

By enforcing the segregation of school children of Mexican Decent against their will and contrary to the laws of California, the respondents have violated the federal law as provided in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution by depriving them the equal protections of the laws.

Thurgood Marshall collaborated with David Marcus, who was representing LULAC on this appeal case that provided some of the framework that Marshall would use in the Brown case in 1954.

Two months after the ruling was passed down, Governor Earl Warren signed a bill repealing segregation in California schools, which lead to the closing of Mexican schools across the State.  This marked a second connection to the Brown case. In 1953, President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice to the Supreme Court. It was Chief Justice Warren that wrote the final decision in the Brown case that ended segregation in schools across the United States.

What made this ruling so important was that it broke away from the Plessy ruling of the “separate but equal “doctrine.  While African Americans had continued to suffer under segregation in terms of physical and social equality, Mexican Americans were able to fight successfully against the issues because they were routinely seen as more than Black. However, despite the positive ruling from the Mendez case that was supposed to end de jure segregation, evidence indicated that not only did segregation not end, but that it worsened.

In 1947 Minerva Delgado was denied admission to a school in Texas on the sole basis that she was Mexican. Her grandfather sued the Bastrop Independent School District that was later filed as a class action suit on behalf of all Mexican children within the school district. Delgado v. Bastrop was another pre-Brown case that demonstrated that segregation was more customary than law. Many people in Texas had hope that this case would do for Texas what Mendez did for California.

While the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiff in 1948, segregation of first graders was allowed if there was a lack of proficiency in English. This lack of proficiency made segregation justifiable in terms of separate classes, or maybe even separate schooling altogether.

Despite the various victories against segregation in various school districts in California and Texas, Mexicans were still dealing with isolation within segregated schools well into the 1950s. It is well documented that many of these school districts did not adhere to many of the court rulings until the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954. However, desegregation was becoming law across the country; segregation based on language became more of the practiced custom.

Sources:

  1. Donato, Rubén. The other struggle for equal schools: Mexican Americans during the Civil Rights era. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997. Print.
  2. MacDonald, Victoria. Latino education in the United States: a narrated history from 1513-2000. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Print.
  3. Navarro, Sharon Ann, and Armando Xavier Mejia. Latino Americans and political participation: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Print.
  4. Pedraza, Pedro, and Melissa Rivera. Latino education: an agenda for community action research. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005. Print.
  5. Santiago, Isaura. “Aspira v. Board of Education Revisited.” American Journal of Education 95.1 (1986): 149-199. Print.
  6. Valencia, Richard R.. Chicano school failure and success: past, present, and future. 2nd ed. London: Routledge/Falmer, 2002. Print.

Hi, Hollywood. Not all Latinas are Maids.

what-dora-becameI feel like I am back here again. Almost two years ago I wrote an blog about Latina Magazine and how they were glorifying maids in one of their articles. This was around the time that “The Help” became big at the box office. I was annoyed that a magazine that supposed to be for women can help stereotype them, but of course, this is how the media works.

Then I saw the trailer for the new show on Lifetime called “Devious Maids” about five Latinas who are (you guessed it) maids. I shake my head because this is the type of shit that getsd on my nerves. Five successful actresses playing into these roles because quite frankly, there are probably not many opportunities to play much else. However, to top it all off the executive producer is Eva Longoria (who obviously defends her show). What in the blue Django is going on here? I wont even get into Oprah’s new project called The Butler either because I’m just through with these people giving us stories that they feel we need to hear when the real stories that we should hear go untold.

So I’m going to go on record and say that 95% of all the Latinas I know are not maids, at least no in the traditional “let’s serve master” kind of way. I will say that the 5% is an uncertainty. It could’ve been completely possible that either one of my grandmother’s could have been maids, but I think they worked at a factory. I can run down a quick list of women in my family and their occupations.

I have a cousin in Harvard working on a PHD, her sister is a lawyer, my mother and two of my aunts were nurses and got their masters in Nursing Administration, my aunt from my father’s side is a retired teacher with a PHD in Education, another aunt who was a stock trader, and several others who have a college degree working in offices.

I could talk about the women who have have graduated from SU with me, or the graduate students that I worked with when I worked there. I could talk about the women that my alumni association (LANSU) has profiled. So why is there this insistent need to show Latinas in servant role? Have we not move passed this business? The true reason lies behind the fact that society, as a whole, is not willing to except the fact that a woman of color can, in fact, be strong and step out of the mold that is set in place for her.

Case in point, people LOVE Scandal. A big time attorney that has an affair with the President of the United States. You know what it sounds like to me? It sounds like society telling us that no matter how big a black woman gets, she will always a side piece. But it’s just TV right? It means nothing right? Wake up mi gente, this is how people view you through the media, but I’m quite sure that you will love this show.

Not all Latinas are Consuela from Family Guy.

P.S. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a maid, but there a may other professions that Latina actresses could play.

Is Monogamy Dead?

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It has been a long time since I have written anything about relationships. Most of my entries have been when I was single and newly divorced. So when my woman and I were talking about how monogamy seems to be something in the past, I knew that was my opportunity to really write about something about men and woman as I once used to.

I have been in a book club for about 2 years now, maybe a little longer, and we have read many things. Last month the choice was This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz. I’m not quite done with it yet (I know…it was LAST month’s book), but there are some major themes here about relationships. Clearly the title gives a hint about what this book will be about and I will try not to talk too much about the contents of the book so that you can read it for yourself.

One question that may pop into your mind when reading this book may be, “Is Monogamy dead?” The book is a series of short stories that are about the different ways a man can fuck up his relationships. One can go deeper and say these are different ways a Dominican man has fucked up this relationships. Which ever case it may be, it leads to serious thoughts about the thought process of a man and how he perceives the women he loves and the women he cheats with.

As I read the book, I do not view myself in any of these scenarios. Another words, I personally do not believe that this is a representation of every man. I do, however, think that it describes many guys and how they think about love and life. What we see here is that the man in the stories often loves the woman he is in a relationship with but still chooses to go and cheat anyway (knowing that it is wrong). Some reasons for this are stated and others are ambiguous to suggest that some times men do not even understand the things they do.

Thinking about real life outside the context of this book, we are subjected to constant stories about divorce. Normally, it is on the Hollywood scene where marriages seem to last less than 2 years, but realistically, divorce has always been on the rise. What is the reason for this? Is it that monogamy is slowly become a thing of the past? Clearly I cannot answer these questions because I truly do not know. However, I do feel that the world is a lot less smaller than it once was. I also think that women are more empowered to make critical decisions about their life and their mates.

This is not say that Feminism has killed marriage. Nor is it to say that it is always the man that is fucking up the relationship (although we do not do ourselves any favors). I think we have more choices than people did 100 years ago. Strictly speaking, I am referring to life within the United States and I can tell you that this country is all about about choices. Women are career oriented with goals that include being as successful as possible. Their grandmothers never had that ability. Many times we look at the elderly who have been married for like 50-70 years and we are all wonder how in the world did they do that. Many people say it is true love. I think it might be true tolerance.

The older generations didn’t believe in divorce as much. I am quite sure there were a number of indiscretions that men have had in which his wife just dealt with it. That is not the case any more. Women can choose not to deal with it and find another mate. The reality is that monogamy is billed in the country as something we need to attain and retain because family values are part of the American Dream. Think about that for a minute. Most people are looking to get married, get a house (or condo), have 1.5 kids, and a pet. Nothing at all prepares us for divorce.

With that being said, my own divorce was something that I take much responsibility for. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in monogamy, it was that I was too immature to really embrace it. This is what really lies within the center of man. There was never a point where I told myself that I would have to deal with being with the same women all my life. I never freaked out about that. However, for some reason, I always knew that I would eventually get a divorce. I was just lying to myself about it. I always had a feeling there would be a wife number 2. Perhaps that was my experience with the rampant divorce in my family, or maybe it was something deeper.

Does this mean that monogamy is dead. I don’t think so. I can go on Facebook right now and point out at least 15 -20 couples who seem genuinely happy. Those people who have been either married longer than I was or perhaps seem more together than I ever was. I think that monogamy is still there, we just tend to focus on the divorces and the break ups. Yes, men are assholes but that has to do with our own issues that women can’t really fix until men are ready to be fixed.

A Little About Me…

coqui-taino-tattoo

I feel the need for a little reintroduction. There is so much newness around me that has sparked an array of inspiration so far in 2013. New Office, New Apartment, and New Blog; I have to admit this is going well especially since I am getting new followers. This makes me think about the fact that many people are probably wondering what I am about…and even of you aren’t I should just explain anyway.

First and foremost, I consider myself a Latino man. More importantly, I consider myself Afro-Latino. I know that this term has gotten popular over the years and as plotted out my digital identity, I came up with the name Latinegro (which is something I did not invent). I got the name from Marta Cruz-Janzen who wrote some articles that lead me to write a major research paper for a graduate class I took a few years back. In my mind, she coined the phrase Latinegro and I have been using it every since.

It is important for me to state this because I believe that identity is important. It is one of things that makes us who were are. I cannot tell you how many college student I have run into over the years that simply do not know who they are…or perhaps they do know, but just have trouble accepting it. The acceptance of oneself is so very important in a lifetime because it is that catharsis that will really lead to success. That is why I have made sure I spend much of my blog about race and Afro Latinos in particular.

I define Afro Latino as someone who has African and Hispanic bloodlines (this does not exclude Haitians or Brazilians). This can include just about all Latinos, however, the real difference is their own acceptance. There are many of us who feel that Latinos are not Black or African American. Some will defend this point based on whatever facts they can try to dig up. There is a stigma to be being dark skinned and it a shame, but not all that surprising. What so many Latinos do not understand is that the plight on of the African American is also their plight because we live in a black and white world where you are either one or the other (based on skin color) in most cases.

Of course, Latinos have issues specific to them when it comes to immigration and places like Arizona that have made racial profiling a reality. Unfortunately, Latinos are used to this fight. We have been dealing with immigration and access issues well before World War 2. The commercialized version of Latinos look very much like the typical Mexican images you tend to see when we talk about immigration issues in the South West. The idealized version of Latinos tends to be the more the Rick Martin look; light skinned, dark (good) hair, light eyes, and over-sexualized. The less idealized look tends to be the David Ortiz look which is dark skinned, heavy accent, and wool hair (pelo malo). The great thing about understanding race is that Latinos are all three of these which can lead to a lot of scratching heads. The Census Bureau barely knows how to categorize us which leads us not understand what it is we are.

This is why the Latinegr@s Project had to be created. When I co-founded this group it was with the purpose of educating people about Afro Latinos and showing pride in what we are. This where we have lead to the discovery of and within ourselves as well as help people like us discover what they are. This is not just to say that we solely deal with Afro Latinos either. We champion those who are oppressed which is why posts can range from homosexuality to Native Americans.

Well, that seeed like such a long reintroduction, but I figured this is something I need to put on here now. As I get along in my new location here on wordpress, I am sure there will be other things I will feel the need to reiterate. While this blog is mostly about my life, there will be other things that will bleed into my posts. Just wait until I start writing about my other love…comic books.