Latinos and the Political System

Latinos and the Political System

Latinos and the Political System

Latinos and the Political System

Excerpt

One of the many characterizations attributed to the 1980s in the United States is "the Decade of the Hispanics." This appellation first appeared in the late 1970s in conjunction with the upcoming 1980 census in advertising campaigns and in major media, such as national news magazines, prominent newspapers, and network television. The timing of this was somewhat ironic. One would have expected national media publicity to be focused on Hispanics several years earlier. The decade from 1965 to 1975 was a period in which Hispanics were actively and intensely engaged in attempts to affect public policy. This period of the "civil rights movement" found Hispanics engaged in unconventional political tactics which included sit-ins, walk-outs, boycotts, marches, strikes, and other confrontational or, at least, highly dramatic political activities. Leaders and spokespersons for the movement included Jose Angel Gutierrez in Texas, Corky Gonzales in Colorado, Reies Lopez Tijerina in New Mexico, Cesar Chavez in California, and many less known but equally effective spokespersons for "la causa." Americans became familiar with the names of such hitherto unknown towns as Delano, California; Crystal City, Texas; and Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. Groups, such as the Brown and Black Berets, organized along paramilitary lines and espousing militant self-defense tactics, were established throughout the Southwest. Similar political activity occurred in other parts of the country, such as the Midwest, particularly in the Chicago area, where Latinos formed organizations to seek redress of their grievances, and also in the Northeast, particularly the New York area, where Puerto Ricans also challenged the system of ethnic and racial inequality. Chicano and Latino Studies programs and activist student organizations sprung up on our college and university campuses.

This era was one of general social activism, and Latinos found allies among liberal Anglo individuals and groups, with other ethnic and racial groups, such as the blacks, Indians, and Asians, and with some powerful mainstream organizations such as unions and churches. Governments responded sometimes with token appointments and policies, at other times . . .

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