The Mexican Outsiders: A Community History of Marginalization and Discrimination in California

The Mexican Outsiders: A Community History of Marginalization and Discrimination in California

The Mexican Outsiders: A Community History of Marginalization and Discrimination in California

The Mexican Outsiders: A Community History of Marginalization and Discrimination in California

Synopsis

People of Mexican descent and Anglo Americans have lived together in the U.S. Southwest for over a hundred years, yet relations between them remain strained, as shown by recent controversies over social services for undocumented aliens in California. In this study, covering the Spanish colonial period to the present day, Martha Menchaca delves deeply into interethnic relations in Santa Paula, California, to document how the residential, social, and school segregation of Mexican-origin people became institutionalized in a representative California town. Menchaca lived in Santa Paula during the 1980s, and interviews with residents add a vivid human dimension to her book. She argues that social segregation in Santa Paula has evolved into a system of social apartness—that is, a cultural system controlled by Anglo Americans that designates the proper times and places where Mexican-origin people can socially interact with Anglos. This first historical ethnographic case study of a Mexican-origin community will be important reading across a spectrum of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, race and ethnicity, Latino studies, and American culture.

Excerpt

Land tenure cycles best describe the political changes that occurred in Santa Paula, and in other California communities, during the late eighteenth to nineteenth centuries. When control over land changed from one ethnic group to another, political changes followed that did not benefit the former. Our discussion of the Mexican-origin community of Santa Paula win therefore begin with a description of the land tenure history, for this account delineates how Mexicans eventually became a politically subordinate ethnic minority group. Once they lost legal title to the land, they also lost control of their subsistence base, and without land, their only economic recourse was to sell their labor to the Anglo American colonists. The material in this chapter is derived and analyzed from property records, court cases, oral histories, letters, church records, newspaper accounts, and archaeological writings.

THE NATIVE AMERICAN PERIOD

The land tenure history of Santa Paula begins with the Native American period, for this history clarifies why Santa Paula eventually became a Spanish settlement. As Santa Paula was located in a rich ecological zone and already populated by Indians, Spaniards envisioned that it could be converted into a prosperous colony populated by Indians, mestizos (of Spanish and Indian ancestry), and Spaniards (California Land Case No. 550, 1853). Chumash Indians were the original inhabitants of the territories where the California counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Santa Maria now stand. What is now Santa Paula was situated on the original site of two Chumash Indian villages called Mupu and Sis'a (Kroeber 1970). Today, Santa Paula is located in Ventura County.

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