The Struggle in Black and Brown: African American and Mexican American Relations during the Civil Rights Era

By Brian D. Behnken | Go to book overview

NINE
Raising a Neighborhood
Informal Networks between African American
and Mexican American Women in
South Central Los Angeles

ABIGAIL ROSAS

In the fall of 1978 Elena Santiago, her husband Antonio, and their daughter and son decided to leave their hometown in Mexico to make the arduous journey north to the United States. The family did not know they would end up settling and living in the heart of the African American community in Los Angeles. They left their modest middle class home in Mexico to move to what they thought would be a smaller version of their hometown on the other side of the border, which promised to have many more opportunities and mobility. Fellow compatriots from their town lived in East Los Angeles, and like many immigrants before them the Santiago’s settled in this area temporarily. But shortly thereafter the family relocated to their permanent home in South Central Los Angeles.1 In the summer of 1980, when Elena and Antonio purchased their home in the “hood” they were among the few Mexican immigrant families that began to move into this community.2 In a similar pattern of migration, Ruth Smith, like many African American migrants before her, made the journey west in search of better housing and employment opportunities. She arrived in Los Angeles in the aftermath of the Watts uprising in 1965 and temporarily

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