No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement

Article excerpt

No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. By Cynthia E. Orozco. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009. Pp. [xiv], 316. Paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-292-72132-6; cloth, $60.00, ISBN 978-0-292-72109-8.)

Cynthia E. Orozco has written a superb history of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), founded in 1929 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Orozco rightly claims that LULAC represented a new political era because, by the 1920s, some Mexican Americans were ready to use their citizenship status as a political tool in the struggle against discrimination. Early LULAC membership consisted of middle-class Mexican American men. The anti-Mexican, sexist, and anti-worker environment of the period informed LULAC's decisions to exclude Mexican immigrants and women. Ultimately, as privileged men with U,S. citizenship status, LULAC leaders believed they were in the best position to struggle on behalf of "La Raza" (p. 10).

Orozco critiques the historiography by emphasizing various limitations, among these the uncomplicated "middle class" label superimposed on LULAC members. She encourages scholars to examine the Tejano petite bourgeoisie within their colonized status. Second, the author explains that the organization's use of the term Latin American has been misconstrued as part of a claim to "whiteness rather than [as an expression of] a pan-American identity" (p. 6). While these two points have much merit, more elaboration is needed. For example, the colonized condition of LULAC members cannot be fully appreciated without knowing how their second-class political position translated in socioeconomic terms and how they fared compared with European Americans with similar education and other markers of life chances. Beyond the material, how can their colonized status be reconciled with their bourgeois ideological leanings?

In terms of the author's assertion regarding the use of Latin American as a reference to pan-Americanism, that point also needs further explanation. Definitions of "La Raza" that encouraged solidarity across the Americas certainly existed, and some activists embraced the promise of a pan-Latino hemispheric unity. …