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7.5: Roots and Resistance- The Development of Chicanx and Latinx Studies

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    • Mario Alberto Viveros Espinoza-Kulick & Ulysses Acevedo
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    Establishing Chicanx and Latinx Studies in Higher Education

    The development of Chicanx and Latinx Studies programs within existing institutions of higher learning has been imperative because there was no existing system of Latinx-controlled universities. As Laura E. Gómez explains in her book Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism:

    Unlike African Americans, Latinos did not face de jure segregation, and they never developed a segregated education system they themselves controlled. The system of higher education institutions today known collectively as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) has produced generations of college graduates, teachers, professors, and attorneys, including many of the most elite African American professionals of the twentieth century. For Latinos, aside from Puerto Rico, which developed a substantial system of higher education, there has been no sizable college-educated Latino middle class until recently (Gomez, 2020, p. 102).

    For Mexican Americans and Latinos in particular, the Chicanx and Latinx disciplines became a place where students could feel at home in college and university campuses that have historically served only white students, scholars, and disciplines. Moreover, these spaces on university campuses are also centers of student and faculty collaborations, student retention, and also spaces where student-led movements begin and are informed by both their disciplines and their off-campus communities.

    But establishing and maintaining Chicanx and Latinx Studies in institutions that were not created for them, and which were often openly hostile to them, was and is not easy. Space, funding, resources, power, culture, and even academic credibility were not, and in many cases are still not, easily conceded. The first Mexican American Studies program was established in the fall of 1968 at CSU Los Angeles (CSULA) or Cal State L.A. in the same year as the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF) strike at San Francisco State University (Sleeter et al., 2019, p. 9). There was a large cluster of other departments added around this time. This chapter also explores in more detail the events that led to the formation of these departments. Over time, some departments widened their disciplines to include all Latinx communities, and other specialized studies within the larger discipline have also been developed with their own nuances, such as Puerto Rican Studies and Central American Studies.

    However, these same challenges have been in many ways also the strength of Chicanx and Latinx Studies, because it means the programs germinated directly within Chicanx and Latinx communities both inside and outside of academia, their content and pedagogies were created with intentionality, and their visions and purposes were refined through many years of activism.

    This section will touch on four major moments of organizing within Chicanx and Latinx communities during the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s that produced the self-determined educational philosophies and demands which would go on to become the foundation of the disciplines of Chicanx and Latinx Studies.

    Little School of the 400

    We shall leave behind our second-class citizenship… bitter resentments… corrosive hates… These were the goals that LULAC… set for itself and the Latin American people of Texas in 1957

    -Tijerina, 1962, p. 4

    In 1957, during a time when the purpose of education in the United States was to assimilate children in the dominant English-speaking language and culture, the Little School of the 400 of Texas played a role in supporting Latinx students. The Little Schools of the 400 was created and funded by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a nationwide group committed to advancing the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health, and civil rights of Latinxs through community-based programs.

    LULAC established the schools after conducting a study that found Spanish-speaking students were being left behind due to language barriers, resulting in illiteracy. It was called the “Little School of the 400” because the main purpose of the school was to teach 400 “indispensable” English words to mostly Spanish-speaking children in efforts to align them with entering the public school system (Quintanilla, 1976). By 1959, there were 13 schools in Texas. The schools were unique in that they reinforced the children’s culture, rather than diminishing it, in order to build confidence in learning English. By 1962, there were over 18,000 children enrolled in the program (Tijerina, 1962). The schools also recognized the power of having parents participate in the children’s transition to public schools. Overall, the schools were successful in educating children in basic English vocabulary and, as a result, influenced programs including bilingual education, Head Start, and child migrant programs (Quintanilla, 1976). But perhaps even more than demonstrating that bilingualism could be a strength, the Little School’s model of teaching with culturally relevant curriculum and community-connectedness became a powerful model for the discipline within higher education.

    The East L.A. Blowouts

    As the bell rang for the kids to go to school, into the classroom, out they went. With their heads held high, with dignity. It was beautiful to be a Chicano that day.

    - Sal Castro (Olmos, 2006)

    The East L.A. Blowouts, also known as the East L.A. Walkouts are widely regarded as catapulting the Chicano Movement forward in the late '60s and through the '70s. The Blowouts were a series of walkouts carried out in 1968 by Mexican American students in protest against the educational inequality they faced in their schools and classrooms. Students were frequently being punished for speaking Spanish, including corporal punishment such as physical whacking with a paddle. Other issues that students faced at the time included but were not limited to not having enough teachers who shared a similar ethnic, racial, or socioeconomic background or came from the same neighborhoods as them, resulting in class content that did not reflect their communities. Among the many grievances by the students, bathrooms were often locked, and students were left to their own devices to find where to relieve themselves, which was dehumanizing and a major distraction from learning.

    The East LA Blowouts were initiated and driven by students themselves, but they were also influenced by Sal Castro, a civics teacher at Lincoln High School.

    Sidebar: Saul Castro

    Sal Castro (10/25/1933 to 4/15/2013) was a Mexican American Civics teacher at one of the high schools where the East Los Angeles Blowouts were originally organized. After learning of the students’ plans to demonstrate against the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) he was the first to ask the students to organize themselves better and to create a list of demands to let others know why they were walking out of their schools and how their district can make things right. Sal Castro was the only teacher to be arrested in the case of the “East LA 13.” As a result, he was not able to teach upon being released from jail until all charges were dropped in 1972.

    When he heard that students might walk out due to many issues in their school district, Sal Castro stepped in to help organize the youths' efforts, urging them to fight for justice beyond their immediate needs. In his book, Racism on Trial: The Chicano Fight for Justice, Ian Haney López shares Sal Castro’s words to the students organizing the walkouts:

    Before you even think about blowing-out, why don’t you write your grievances, all these things that are wrong in the school, not only the things that are wrong in your school, but the things that you remember were wrong in the elementary schools because, you see, you don’t want to change things just in the high schools; you also want to think about your little brothers and sisters… (Haney-López, 2003, pg. 19).

    Soon a committee was formed, resulting in the creation of 26 demands to be met in order to stop the walkouts. The first blowout was unplanned when about 300 students walked out of Wilson High on March 1, 1968 (Lopez, 2018). On March 5, about 2,000 students walked out from Garfield High School holding demonstration signs. On March 6, 2,700 students from various high schools in LAUSD walked out of their classrooms (Haney-López, 2003, p. 21). Walkouts continued through March. Sal Castro was arrested during the March 31, 1968 walkout, the only teacher to be. Protests and sit-ins continued through the fall until he was reinstated to his teaching position. Acclaimed author Oscar Zeta Acosta wrote colorfully about his efforts to get Castro and others arrested in the walkouts acquitted, and this time in the movement in his book, Revolt of the Cockroach People (1973).

    Sidebar: Oscar "Zeta" Acosta

    Oscar Acosta (4/8/1935 to 5/27/1974) is famously known for two books: An Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo (1972) and The Revolt of the Cockroach People (1973). Many people have been introduced to Acosta through mainstream media, who's simply known as “Dr. Gonzo” or the attorney of the famous gonzo journalism style creator Hunter S. Thompson in the film and book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. In the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (and the film), Thompson racializes Oscar Acosta as Samoan, “He doesn’t look like you or me, right? That’s because he’s a foreigner. I think he’s probably Samoan. But it doesn’t matter, does it? Are you prejudiced?” (Thompson, 1998, p. 7). Some background to their trip to Las Vegas is that Hunter S. Thompson was writing an investigative piece on the Chicano Moratorium in L.A. case for Rolling Stone Magazine, and he flew down to L.A. to interview Oscar Acosta. They ended up driving to Las Vegas for another article Thompson was going to write for Sports Illustrated. For Chicanx people, Acosta is widely known as an important lawyer who represented the East L.A. 13 who were arrested for their involvement in the 1969 East LA walkouts. Acosta also represented other Chicanx defendants in court during a time when others would not pick up such cases.

    The students themselves would become inspiration for future generations of Chicanx activists, but they themselves were deeply influenced by the organizing of the farmworkers, the Alianza, and the Crusade. “When students first marched in protest outside of Garfield High School in March 1968, their chants included not just salutes to Mexican revolutionaries such as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata but also shouts of ¡Que Viva! To the names of César Chávez, Reis López Tijerina, and Corky Gonzales'' (Haney López, 2003, p. 160).

    Sidebar: Cesar Chavez

    According to Ian Haney Lopez, César Chávez (3/31/1927 - 4/23/1993) was a great influence to spark the Chicano Movement in East L.A., in particular Chávez’s work in organizing agricultural worker unions (Haney-López, 2003, p. 158). Chávez along with Dolores Huerta and farmworkers in Delano began to strike in 1965. Additionally, Chávez joined forces with Filipinx labor leaders such as Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz so that Mexican labor and Filipinx labor would not be used against each other in the fields. During this time, the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) was the largest Mexican movement in US history, although the organization was not only ethnically Mexican. Chávez did influence a lot of activism in Los Angeles by widespread political action. Although the UFW was not only a Mexican organization, symbols such as La Virgen de Guadalupe were used in marches and political action (Haney-López, 2003, p. 158). Three weeks before his assassination L.A. Times reporter, Ruben Salazar, stated, “César is our only real leader… [Gonzales and Tijerina] rant and rave and threaten to burn the establishment down. That’s good because most people won’t listen unless you rant and rave. But this provides the community with little more than emotional uplift; nothing palpable” (Mariscal, 2005, p. 140). Chávez was different from other Chicanx leaders because he was non-violent but also because he put his own body on the line through hunger strikes, his longest lasting 36 days without food. In 2014, President Barack Obama named March 31 César Chávez Day.

    The full list of the original 26 demands, which included a wide range of needs, including academic, administrative, facilities, and student rights, can be viewed at the link below.

    The Original 26 Demands of the East L.A. Walkouts

    The following are portions highlighting some of the 26 demands (emphasis added):

    Beyond providing a model of effective organizing for change, many of the 26 demands became a foundation for goals of Chicanx and Latinx Studies in institutions of higher learning, including incorporation of community language, culture, and knowledges into the discipline, the development of textbooks and curriculum by Latinx writers taught by Latinx instructors and led by Latinx administrators. Equally as impactful, the Blowouts helped forever embed a tradition of activist practice within the discipline of Chicanx and Latinx Studies.

    El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán

    In March 1969, the first National Chicano Youth Liberation Conference took place in Denver, Colorado, and was hosted by Crusade for Justice, a civil rights and educational organization led in part by Corky Gonzales, concerned with the problems of the city's Chicano youth. During this convening, the El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, which translates to The Spiritual Plan of Aztlán, was produced (NCYLC, 2006).

    Sidebar: Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales

    Corky Gonzales (6/18/1928 to 4/12/2005) was a professional boxer who became politicized and participated in Colorado politics and eventually got involved in organizing Mexican American students. In the mid-sixties he founded the Crusade for Justice, which focused on working with Mexican American youth in Denver, Colorado (Haney-López, 2003, p. 159). Crusade for Justice impacted the local community, for example, promoting bilingual education and involvement at a local food bank. According to Haney-López, Gonzales was the first Mexican American activist to reinvent the term Chicano and instead of this term demeaning lower-class and darker-skinned Mexicans, the term Chicano would be used as an identity of empowerment (p. 160). Besides organizing, Gonzales was also a poet and penned the poem “I am Joaquin."

    El Plan functioned as the North Star for Chicanx students in community colleges, including how they should locate higher education for themselves, but also for their communities. El Plan had many influences that reimagined the lessons learned from previous generations. For example, the document states that “Aztlán belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops.” This passage is referencing the quote that General Emiliano Zapata is famously known for saying during the Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1920,“La tierra es para quien la trabaja'' or “the land is for those who work it” (Rosales, 1997, p. 26).

    Although at the heart of the Mexican Revolution was agrarian reform, the Chicano Movement used agricultural concepts metaphorically. Rather than seizing the literal means of agricultural production, the Chicano Movement was concerned with creating space for Chicanos within the U.S. social fabric for those laboring here, including fighting for equitable education, bilingual education, teachers who shared a similar background, housing, jobs, the end of police brutality, immigration, among many other causes.

    “The following are the organizational goals of El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán:

    El Plan de Aztlán is the plan of liberation!” (NCYLC, 2006).

    This document was an effort to find a common direction for all Chicanxs in the U.S. Southwest in the fight for justice and liberation. This movement to organize Chicanxs happened naturally because of the long history in the Southwest and population size. Fast forward to 2021 and “Hispanic/Latinos” are the largest ethnic group in California at 15.8 million or 40.2 percent of the population (California Population by Year, County, Race, & More, 2022).

    M.E.Ch.A. and El Plan de Santa Bárbara

    A month later, in April 1969, a Youth Conference was held at UC Santa Barbara by the Chicano Coordinating Council on Higher Education (CCHE) (Rosales, 1997, p.183). As stated by Carlos Muñoz Jr. in his seminal book, Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement, the students who participated in the conference had no idea that they were at a historical Chicanx student event (Muñoz, Jr., 2007, p.95). One of the main goals at the conference was to build from El Plan de Aztlán by creating a roadmap for the creation of Chicanx curriculum and resources in higher education (p. 95). This higher education roadmap that would promote the growth of Chicano studies was called El Plan de Santa Barbara (Rosales, 1997, 183).

    As a result, there was a consensus that in order to gain power and direction, the various California and national Mexican American student groups should drop their names and adopt El Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A.) in order to have a united front (Muñoz, Jr., 2007, p.96). M.E.Ch.A was created because of the need to unify Chicanx and Mexican American student organizations at various campuses (Rosales, 1997, p. 183).

    Sidebar: Ana Nieto-Gómez

    Anna Nieto-Gómez (b. 3/30/1946) emerged as a Chicana feminist through her experience as a leader in MEChA. At the time, she was one of two Chicanas who served as chairs of the organization in California (Muñoz, Jr., 2007, p. 107). She was also the founder of Hijas de Cuauhtémoc newspaper and the Chicana Welfare Right Organization and typically does not get the credit she deserves as a committed and influential activist intellectual (Mariscal, 2005, p. 54). The purpose of her organization was “to put sterilization and the welfare rights of single mothers on the movimiento agenda” (Rosales, 1997, p. 259). One of her critiques of nationalism and patriarchy included, “Cultural nationalism is against women… and men who aren't chauvinistic… it also separates us from other oppressed peoples” (Muñoz, Jr., 2007, p. 107).

    Nieto-Gómez faced opposition from the male-dominated leadership in Chicano organizations, which was a common problem within the Chicano Movement. Through her activism and poetry, such as “Somos Chicanas de Aztlán,” Nieto-Gómez provided a groundwork for Chicana militancy (Rosales, 1997, p. 259). In 1975, Nieto-Gómez was a keynote speaker for an event by the organization Las Mujeres del Movimiento. In 1976, Nieto-Gómez was denied tenure from the Chicano Studies department at CSU Northridge. Muñoz explained in his book that “her firing became a divisive issue within many Chicano Studies programs. Women supporting her case saw the issue as a manifestation of Chicano reaction to Chicana feminism” (Muñoz, Jr., 2007, p. 190).

    M.E.Ch.A. chapters on campuses were to be “independent and autonomous” from faculty and administrators to avoid being absorbed by the institutions (p. 99). A political consciousness was to be embodied by Chicanx students involved in educational liberation, and as a result, Chicanismo ideologies were adopted in particular by student leaders. For example, “the liberation of his people from prejudice and oppression is in his hand, and this responsibility is greater than personal achievement and more meaningful than degrees, especially if they are earned at the expense of his identity and cultural integrity” (Rosales, 1997, p. 184).

    Even though M.E.Ch.A. chapters were independent from colleges and universities, student activists on campuses strategically used their positionality to protect the professors and administrators who were supportive of their movement. For example, “M.E.Ch.A. would mobilize community support on behalf of those faculty and staff members, who, because of their demonstrated commitment to student interest, might jeopardize their own jobs” (Muñoz, Jr., 2007, p. 100).

    According to Muñoz the purpose of the newly-formed organization was two-fold. On one hand, M.E.Ch.A. would be rooted outside campuses, being community-oriented and responsive by remaining involved in Mexican American communities and in communication with Mexican American organizations. On the other hand, they would be present on college campuses, finding ways to provide resources to Chicanx students and helping them find success in reaching their educational goals.

    This aligned with the creation and expansion of Chicano Studies. Both of these organizational goals were to be fundamentally liberatory for the Mexican American community (Muñoz, Jr., 2007, p. 97). Furthermore, “if political and educational change were to be won on campus, the community outside the campus would have to be mobilized,” to achieve these goals, students were to be taught to utilize Chicanismo as an ideology (Muñoz, Jr., 2007, p. 98).

    M.E.Ch.A. has persisted for over 50 years. The roots of this organization intersect with the rationale of Ethnic Studies and have deeply shaped the discipline of Chicanx and Latinx Studies. One of the major goals of M.E.Ch.A. has always been to bridge the gap between higher education, Chicanx students, and their communities.

    Latinx Social Movements: Historical Timeline

    This timeline section comes from 8.5: Social Change and Resistance is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Erika Gutierrez, Janét Hund, Shaheen Johnson, Carlos Ramos, Lisette Rodriguez, & Joy Tsuhako (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .


    1903 In Oxnard, Calif., more than 1,200 Mexican and Japanese farm workers organize the first farm worker union, the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association (JMLA). Later, it will be the first union to win a strike against the California agricultural industry, which already has become a powerful force.

    A Japanese-American farm worker. Nyssa, Oregon, July 1942.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): A Japanese-American farm worker. Nyssa, Oregon, July 1942. (CC PDM 1.0; Britt Fuller via Flickr)

    1904 The U.S. establishes the first border patrol as a way to keep Asian laborers from entering the country by way of Mexico.

    1905 Labor organizer Lucy Gonzales Parsons, from San Antonio, Texas, helps found the Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World.

    Early 20th century illustration titled The Pyramid of Capitalist System

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): "iww-capitalist-pyramid_0" (CC BY-NC 2.0; Der_Hut_Geist via Flickr)


    1910 The Mexican Revolution forces Mexicans to cross the border into the United States, in search of safety and employment.

    Painting titled The Taking of Zacatecas

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): The Taking of Zacatecas (1926-1993). (CC BY-SA 3.0; Ángel Boliver via Wikimedia)

    1911 The first large convention of Mexicans to organize against social injustice, El Primer Congreso Mexicanista, meets in Laredo, Texas.

    1912 New Mexico enters the union as an officially bilingual state, authorizing funds for voting in both Spanish and English, as well as for bilingual education. Article XII of the state constitution also prohibits segregation for children of "Spanish descent." At the state's constitutional convention six years earlier, Mexican American delegates mandated Spanish and English be used for all state business.

    1914 The Colorado militia attacks striking coal miners in what becomes known as the Ludlow Massacre. More than 50 people are killed, mostly Mexican Americans, including 11 children and three women.

    1917 Factories in war-related industries need more workers, as Americans leave for war. Latinos from the Southwest begin moving north in large numbers for the first time. They find ready employment as machinists, mechanics, furniture finishers, upholsterers, printing press workers, meat packers and steel mill workers.

    1917 The U.S. Congress passes the Jones Act, granting citizenship to Puerto Ricans under U.S. military rule since the end of the Spanish-American War.


    1921 San Antonio's Orden Hijos de América (Order of the Sons of America) organizes Latino workers to raise awareness of civil rights issues and fight for fair wages, education and housing.

    1921 The Immigration Act of 1921 restricts the entry of southern and eastern Europeans. Agricultural businesses successfully oppose efforts to limit the immigration of Mexicans.

    1927 In Los Angeles, the Confederación de Uniones Obreras Mexicanas (Federation of Mexican Workers Union-CUOM) becomes the first large-scale effort to organize and consolidate Mexican workers.

    1928 Octaviano Larrazolo of New Mexico becomes the first Latino U.S. Senator.

    1929 Several Latino service organizations merge to form the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). The group organizes against discrimination and segregation and promotes education among Latinos. It's the largest and longest-lasting Latino civil rights group in the country.


    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\):The president of the Mexican colony addresses the audience at the Mexican Independence Day program, Saint Paul, Minnesota
    (Public Domain)


    1931 The country's first labor strike incited by a cultural conflict happens in Ybor City (Tampa), Fla., when the owners of cigar factories attempt to get rid of the lectores, people who read aloud from books and magazines as a way to help cigar rollers pass the time. The owners accuse the lectores of radicalizing the workers and replace them with radios. The workers walk out.

    1932 Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, a Sephardic Jew, becomes the first Latino named to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    1933 Latino unions in California lead the El Monte Strike, possibly the largest agricultural strike at that point in history, to protest the declining wage rate for strawberry pickers. By May 1933, wages dropped to nine cents an hour. In July, growers agreed to a settlement including a wage increase to 20 cents an hour, or $1.50 for a nine-hour day of work.

    Picture of Mexican Workers on a farm in the 1930's

    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): Mexican Workers in the 1930's. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Jimmy Smith via Flickr)

    1938 On December 4, El Congreso del Pueblo de Habla Española (The Spanish-Speaking Peoples Congress) holds its first conference in Los Angeles. Founded by Luisa Moreno and led by Josefina Fierro de Bright, it's the first national effort to bring together Latino workers from different ethnic backgrounds: Cubans and Spaniards from Florida, Puerto Ricans from New York, Mexicans and Mexican Americans from the Southwest.

    1939 Novelist John Steinbeck publishes The Grapes of Wrath, calling attention to the plight of migrant workers in the California grape-growing industry.


    1941 The U.S. government forms the Fair Employment Practices Committee to handle cases of employment discrimination. Latino workers file more than one-third of all complaints from the Southwest.

    1942 The Bracero Program begins, allowing Mexican citizens to work temporarily in the United States. U.S. growers support the program as a source or low-cost labor. The program welcomes millions of Mexican workers into the U.S. until it ends in 1964.

    1942 Hundreds of thousands of Latinos serve in the armed forces during World War II.

    1943 Los Angeles erupts in the Zoot Suit Riots, the worst race riots in the city to date. For 10 nights, American sailors cruise Mexican American neighborhoods in search of "zoot-suiters" -- hip, young Mexican teens dressed in baggy pants and long-tailed coats. The military men drag kids -- some as young as 12 years old -- out of movie theaters and cafes, tearing their clothes off and viciously beating them.

    Mural of the Zoot Suit Riots

    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): "Zoot Suit Riots" (CC BY 2.0; Gareth Simpson via Flickr)

    1944 Senator Dennis Chávez of New Mexico introduces the first Fair Employment Practices Bill, which prohibits discrimination because of race, creed or national origin. The bill fails, but is an important predecessor for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    1945 Latino veterans return home with a new feeling of unity. Together, they seek equal rights in the country they defended. They use their G.I. benefits for personal advancement, college educations and buying homes. In 1948, they will organize the American G.I. Forum in Texas to combat discrimination and improve the status of Latinos; branches eventually form in 23 states.

    1945 Mexican-American parents sue several California school districts, challenging the segregation of Latino students in separate schools. The California Supreme Court rules in the parents' favor in Mendez v. Westminster, arguing segregation violates children's constitutional rights. The case is an important precedent for Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

    Picture of the unveiling of the Mendez vs. Westminster Commemorative Stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service on September 13, 2007.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\): Mendez vs. Westminster Commemorative Stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service on September 13, 2007. (CC BY 2.0; USDAgov via Flickr)


    1953 During "Operation Wetback" from 1953 and 1958, the U.S. Immigration Service arrests and deports more than 3.8 million Latin Americans. Many U.S. citizens are deported unfairly, including political activist Luisa Moreno and other community leaders.

    1954 Hernandez v. Texas is the first post-WWII Latino civil rights case heard and decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Hernandez decision strikes down discrimination based on class and ethnic distinctions.


    1962 Air flights between the U.S. and Cuba are suspended following the Cuban Missile Crisis. Prior to the Crisis, more than 200,000 of Cuba's wealthiest and most affluent professionals fled the country fearing reprisals from Fidel Castro's communist regime. Many believed Castro would be overthrown and they would soon be able to return to Cuba.

    1963 Miami's Coral Way Elementary School offers the nation's first bilingual education program in public schools, thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation.

    1965 Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta found the United Farm Workers association, in Delano, Calif., which becomes the largest and most important farm worker union in the nation. Huerta becomes the first woman to lead such a union. Under their leadership, the UFW joins a strike started by Filipino grape pickers in Delano. The Grape Boycott becomes one of the most significant social justice movements for farm workers in the United States.

    One of the San Jose Chicano Rights Marches in California.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): San Jose Chicano Rights Marches California. (CC BY-SA 2.0; San José Public Library via Flickr)

    1965 Luis Valdez founds the world-famous El Teatro Campesino, the first farm worker theatre, in Delano, Calif. Actors entertain and educate farm workers about their rights.

    1966 Congress passes the Cuban American Adjustment Act allowing Cubans who lived in America for at least one year to become permanent residents. No other immigrant group has been offered this privilege before, or since.

    1968 Latino high school students in Los Angeles stage citywide walkouts protesting unequal treatment by the school district. Prior to the walkouts, Latino students were routinely punished for speaking Spanish on school property, not allowed to use the bathroom during lunch, and actively discouraged from going to college. Walkout participants are subjected to police brutality and public ridicule; 13 are arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and conspiracy. However, the walkouts eventually result in school reform and an increased college enrollment among Latino youth.

    Newspaper headline on the Chicano Student Movement Walkout February 1969

    Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\):Chicano Student Movement Walkout Feb 1969. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; Andy Sternberg via Flickr)

    1968 The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund opens its doors, becoming the first legal fund to pursue protection of the civil rights of Mexican Americans.

    1969 Faced with slum housing, inadequate schools and rising unemployment, Puerto Rican youth in Chicago form the Young Lords Organization, inspired in part by the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. An outgrowth of the Young Lords street gang, the YLO becomes a vibrant community organization, creating free breakfast programs for kids and community health clinics. Modeled after the Black Panthers, the YLO uses direct action and political education to bring public attention to issues affecting their community. The group later spreads to New York City.

    Poster of the Young Lords Party with the words Health, Food, Housing, Education.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\): Young Lords Party: Health, Food, Housing, Education. (CC PDM 1.0; via Smithsonian Institution)


    Throughout the 1970s, progressive organizations based in Mexican, Filipino, Arab and other immigrant communities begin organizing documented and undocumented workers. Together, they work for legalization and union rights against INS raids and immigration law enforcement brutality.

    1970 The U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare issues a memorandum saying students cannot be denied access to educational programs because of an inability to speak English.

    1974 In the case Lau v. Nichols, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirms the 1970 memorandum, ruling students' access to, or participation in, an educational program cannot be denied because of their inability to speak or understand English. The lawsuit began as a class action by Chinese-speaking students against the school district in San Francisco, although the decision benefited other immigrant groups, as well.

    1974 Congress passes the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1974 to make bilingual education more widely available in public schools.

    1974 The first major Latino voter registration organization, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project begins, registering more than two million Latino voters in the first 20 years.

    1975 After non-English speakers testify about the discrimination they face at the polls, Congress votes to expand the U.S. Voting Rights Act to require language assistance at polling stations. Native Americans, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives and Latinos benefit most from this provision. The original Act, passed in 1965, applied only to Blacks and Puerto Ricans. The Voting Rights Act leads to the increasing political representation of Latinos in U.S. politics.


    1985 National religious organizations provide support for the first "National Consultation on Immigrant Rights." Immediately the group calls for a National Day of Action for Justice for Immigrants and Refugees, "to call attention to issues and to dramatize the positive role of immigrants in shaping U.S. society." More than 20 cities participate in the event.

    1986 On November 6, Congress approves the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), providing legalization for certain undocumented workers, including agricultural workers. The Act also sets employer sanctions in place, making it illegal for employers to hire undocumented workers.

    1988 President Ronald Reagan appoints Dr. Lauro Cavazos as Secretary of Education. He becomes the first Latino appointed to a presidential cabinet.

    1989 Miami's Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Cuban American, becomes the first Latino woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.


    1990 The California Delegation Against Hate Violence documents the increasing human rights abuses by INS agents and private citizens against migrants in the San Diego-Tijuana border area.

    1992 The Los Angeles Police Department cracks down on Latino immigrants during the "Los Angeles rebellion," after the "not guilty" verdict in the Rodney King police brutality case.

    1994-1995 The fight over California's Proposition 187 brings the debate over immigration --particularly undocumented immigration -- to the front pages of the national press. The ballot initiative galvanizes students across the state, who mount a widespread campaign in opposition. Voters approve the measure preventing undocumented immigrants from obtaining public services like education and health care.

    March Against Prop 187 in Fresno California 1994

    Figure \(\PageIndex{11}\): March Against Prop 187 in Fresno California 1994. (CC BY-SA 2.0; David Prasad via Flickr)

    1997 A U.S. District Court judge overturns California's Prop 187, ruling it unconstitutional.

    1999 After sixty years of U.S. Navy exercise-bombings on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, civil rights leaders in both Puerto Rican and African American communities respond with a non-violent protest galvanizing the island's 9,300 residents. Triggered by the accidental death of a Puerto Rican naval base employee during live ammunition exercises, Puerto Ricans unite in outrage, protesting the proximity of the exercises to civilians, years of environmental destruction and resulting health problems. The Navy failed to honor historical agreements to treat the island and its people respectfully. The protests culminate in lawsuits and the arrest of more than 180 protesters, with some serving unnecessarily harsh sentences. The Navy promises to stop bombing the island by 2003.

    1999 The Immigration Law Enforcement Monitoring Project coordinates nationwide activities on Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Public displays of crosses, representing those who died crossing the border, capture public and media attention.


    2001 Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Arab Americans and others of Middle Eastern descent experience a backlash in the United States, as hate crimes, harassment and police profiling sharply increase. Based in rising fears over "border security," the stigma spreads to other immigrant groups. Some politicians call for building a wall between the United States and Mexico. During the next five years, Latino immigrants face a surge in discrimination and bias.

    2003 Latinos are pronounced the nation's largest people of color --- surpassing African Americans --- after new Census figures show the U.S. Latino population at 37.1 million. The number is expected to triple by the year 2050.

    2004 The Minuteman Project begins to organize anti-immigrant activists at the U.S./Mexico border. The group considers itself a citizen's border patrol, but several known white supremacists are members. During the next two years, the Minuteman Project gains widespread press coverage. Immigrant rights supporters conduct counter-rallies in public opposition to the Minuteman Project's tactics and beliefs.

    2005 Just as key provisions of the Voting Rights Act are about to expire, English-only conservatives oppose its renewal because of the expense of bilingual ballots. In August 2006, President George W. Bush will reauthorize the Act. The reauthorized Act will be named the "Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Cesar Chavez Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 2006."

    2006 Immigrants -- mostly Latinos -- and their allies launch massive demonstrations in cities and towns across the country in support of immigrant rights and to protest the growing resentment toward undocumented workers.

    2006 High school students, mostly but not exclusively Latino, stage walkouts in Los Angeles, Houston and other cities, boycotting schools and businesses in support of immigrant rights and equality. Schools issue suspensions and truancy reports to students who participate, and several students are arrested.

    2006 On May 1, hundreds of thousands of Latino immigrants and others participate in the Day Without Immigrants, boycotting work, school and shopping, to symbolize the important contributions immigrants make to the American economy.

    Immigrant rights march in 2006.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{12}\): "11.Immigrant.March1.WDC.1may06" (CC BY 2.0; Elvert Barnes via Flickr)

    2006 The U.S. Congress debates legislation that would criminalize undocumented immigrants. Immigrant rights organizations support alternative legislation offering a pathway to citizenship. The legislation stalls, and Congress decides instead to hold hearings across the country during the summer and fall of 2006, to gain public input on how to handle the immigration issue.


    2012 After sustained protest and direct action, immigrant rights activists and supporters pressure Obama to pass DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This executive order provides protection for undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children. They were also able to apply for a driver's license, work permit, and relief from deportation proceedings.

    UWD Leaders Block Intersection In Front of White House

    Figure \(\PageIndex{13}\): UWD Leaders block an intersection in front of the White House. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0; unitedwedream via Flickr

    Immigrant Rights protest at Washington D.C.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{14}\): Immigrant Rights. (CC BY 2.0; ep_jhu via Flickr)

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