Mexican Workers and American Dreams: Immigration, Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 1900-1939

Mexican Workers and American Dreams: Immigration, Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 1900-1939

Mexican Workers and American Dreams: Immigration, Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 1900-1939

Mexican Workers and American Dreams: Immigration, Repatriation, and California Farm Labor, 1900-1939

Synopsis

Earlier in this century, over one million Mexican immigrants moved to the United States, attracted by the prospect of work in California's fields. The Mexican farmworkers were tolerated by Americans as long as there was enough work to go around. During the Great Depression, though, white Americans demanded that Mexican workers and their families return to Mexico. In the 1930s, the federal government and county relief agencies forced the repatriation of half a million Mexicans--and some Mexican Americans as well. Camille Guerin-Gonzales tells the story of their migration, their years here, and of the repatriation program--one of the largest mass removal operations ever sanctioned by the U. S. government. She exposes the powers arrayed against Mexicans as well as the patterns of Mexican resistance, and she maps out constructions of national and ethnic identity across the contested terrain of the American Dream.

Excerpt

California in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a place where symbols of hope and renewal abounded. It was a land of sunshine, an agricultural paradise, a western frontier where quick fortunes could be made through exploitation of the land for mineral or agricultural wealth. It was a place where the plentitude of resources seemed to guarantee the realization of the American Dream for all who settled there. It was also a land where the process of industrialization was telescoped, where the transition from small, independent production to large-scale, capitalist enterprise took place rapidly, and, in some instances, where the former stage was skipped altogether. It was also a place where large numbers of immigrants from Asia and from Mexico comprised a low- wage, migratory labor force, the members of which had little hope of ever realizing the American Dream or even of becoming "American."

The American Dream, with its myths, symbols, and ideas, informed the ways in which both immigrants and nonimmigrants in California incorporated immigration into their . . .

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