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Curator: Bruce Duncan
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Mexican Immigrants Encounter Racism

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For Mexican immigrants coming to California in the early twentieth century, the encounter with Anglo culture was often harsh and hurtful. A Mexican corrido (folk song), titled “El Deportado,” expresses the initial shock of border crossing at a time (c. 1930) when immigrants were especially vulnerable to immediate deportation in hard economic times. From George J. Sanchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 14:

 It must have been about ten at night,

the train began to whistle,

I heard my mother say, “There comes that ungrateful train

that is going to take my son.”

“Goodbye my beloved mother, give me your blessings.

I am going to a foreign land, where there is no revolution.”

Run, run little train, let’s leave the station.

I don’t want to see my mother cry for her beloved son,

for the son of her heart.”

Finally the bell rang, the train whistled twice.

“Don’t cry my buddies, for you’ll make me cry as well.”

Right away we passed Jalisco, my, how fast the train rap. La Picdad, then Irapuato, Silado, then La Chona, and Aguas Calientes as well.

We arrived at Juarez at last, there I ran into trouble. “Where are you going, where do you come from? How much money do you have to enter this nation?”

“Gentlemen, I have money so that I can emigrate.” “Your money isn’t worth anything, we have to bathe you.”

Oh, my beloved countrymen, I am just telling you this, That I was tempted to go right back across.

At last I crossed the border, and left with a labor agent. And there, dear countrymen, was much that I endured.


For Mexican immigrants who raised families in Southern California, the clash between traditional-minded parents and “Americanized” children could be both comic and tragic. A father lamenting his daughter’s insistence on bobbing her hair—“flapper” style—during the 1920’s, from Douglas Monroy, Rebirth: Mexican Los Angeles: From the Great Migration to the Great Depression (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p. 177:

My Lupe says she will bob her beautiful hair, if I say,  “yes,”  or if I say,
“no.” What makes her like that? She knows that her father will beat her if
she does not mind us. Since we have been in the United States she has always
been a good girl, until now when, she says that she will do  what she wants.
She says that we are funny and that we want her to be funny and like the
old people, too. Do you  think that the girls will laugh at her in the school
if she has long hair? The nurse says  for us to let her cut her hair, that it will
be good for  the hair. Lupe: says it is her hair, and she will cut it if she wants
to. She is young and she will not listen to the  ones who know more than
she does.

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