From out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America

From out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America

From out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America

From out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America

Synopsis

For centuries, Mexican-American women have been creative, innovative forces shaping the cultural and economic development of what is now the American Southwest. Whether living in a labor camp, a boxcar settlement, or an urban barrio, Mexican women nurtured families, worked for wages, built extended networks, and participated in community associations--efforts that solidified the community and helped Mexican Americans find their own place in America. Now, in From Out of the Shadows, historian Vicki L. Ruiz provides the first full study of Mexican-American women in the 20th century, in a narrative enhanced by interviews and personal stories that capture a vivid sense of the Mexicana experience in the United States. Beginning with the first wave of women crossing the border early this century, Ruiz reveals the struggles they have faced, the communities they have built, and also highlights the various forms of political protest they have initiated. What emerges from the book is a portrait of a distinctive culture in America that has slowly gathered strength in the last 95 years. From Out of the Shadows is an important addition to the largely undocumented history of Mexican-American women in our century.

Excerpt

When I was a child, I learned two types of history--the one at home and the one at school. My mother and grandmother would regale me with tales of their Colorado girlhoods, stories of village life, coal mines, strikes, discrimination, and family lore. At school, scattered references were made to Coronado, Ponce De León, the Alamo, and Pancho Villa. That was the extent of Latino history. Bridging the memories told at the table with printed historical narratives fueled my decision to become a historian.

From Out of the Shadows focuses on the claiming of personal and public spaces across generations. As farm workers, flappers, labor activists, barrio volunteers, civic leaders, and feminists, Mexican women have made history. Their stories, however, have remained in the shadows.

The introduction to my first book, Cannery Women, Cannery Lives, refers to the shadowing of Mexican women's experiences. "Scholarly publications on Mexican American history have usually relegated women to landscape roles. The reader has a vague awareness of the presence of women, but only as scenery, not as actors . . . and even their celebrated maternal roles are sketched in muted shades." Little did I realize that this theme had also resonated among earlier chroniclers of Spanish New Mexico, most notably Cleofas Jaramillo. In 1941, she compiled a collection of folklore, Sombras del pasado/Shadows of the Past, in which she drew . . .

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