Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States

Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States

Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States

Mexicanos: A History of Mexicans in the United States

Synopsis

Newly revised and updated, Mexicanos tells the rich and vibrant story of Mexicans in the United States. Emerging from the ruins of Aztec civilization and from centuries of Spanish contact with indigenous people, Mexican culture followed the Spanish colonial frontier northward and put its distinctive mark on what became the southwestern United States. Shaped by their Indian and Spanish ancestors, deeply influenced by Catholicism, and tempered by an often difficult existence, Mexicans continue to play an important role in U.S. society, even as the dominant Anglo culture strives to assimilate them. Thorough and balanced, Mexicanos makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of the Mexican population of the United States-a growing minority who are a vital presence in 21st-century America.

Excerpt

Today the systematic study of Mexicanos in the United States is known as Chicana/o studies. Its genesis is to be found in the turbulent decade spanning the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Mexican American students at California and Texas colleges and universities, inspired by the tenets of Chicanismo, hence calling themselves Chicanos, initiated a search for the historical roots of the movimiento (movement). From its inception, this discipline, like ethnic studies generally, met with considerable skepticism and resistance in established academic departments across the country. Traditionalists were disdainful of the first works in the fledgling field. Among the most vocal of these critics were the historians Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Jacques Barzun, and Diane Ravitch. And, truth be told, these early efforts in the new ethnic scholarship suffered from a number of academic deficiencies.

Many pioneering works in Chicano studies lacked a strong theoretical framework. Other early attempts by Chicanos to record the story of their people for the first time were unabashedly celebratory, calling into question their intellectual objectivity. Yet, the mainstream criticisms of these young iconoclastic scholars were often exaggerated, and in many cases completely misguided. It should be noted, too, that the foundational literature of any new discipline is bound to lack the intellectual rigor others might desire. This was as true of the emerging social sciences in the late nineteenth century as it has been for the plethora of other new disciplines spawned in the 1960s and 1970s. Nevertheless, fair or not, the integrity of the entire discipline was called into question, which represented a challenge that needed to be addressed sooner or later.

I am reminded here that the icy reception accorded Chicana/o scholarship was not unlike that encountered by another group of would-be revolutionaries who were also on the cutting edge of their field—the French Impressionists of the late nineteenth century. The establishment scoffed at the paintings of these young . . .

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