Everything Is Changing: Contemporary U.S. Movements in Historical Perspective

By Mohammed E. Ahrari | Go to book overview

6
U.S. Foreign Policy and the Mexican- American Political Agenda

Rodolfo O. de la Garza

The role that Mexican-Americans play in domestic politics has changed dramatically in recent years. This change is a result of the combined impact of numerous factors, including the passage of Voting Rights Acts of 1975 and 1983, increased community-based activism, the activities of organizations such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, and the rise of a new generation of Mexican-American leadership. 1 In addition, the size of the Mexican-origin population (citizens and non-citizens) has rapidly expanded and totaled 8.7 million by 1980; by 1984 this meant that there were approximately 6 million Mexican-Americans, 4 million of whom were of voting age. The overwhelming majority reside in the Southwest, with three million concentrated in California and Texas. These factors help to explain why there was an increase from four to nine Mexican-American congressmen between 1980 and 1984, why Mexican-American mayors were elected in major cities such as San Antonio and Denver, and why there were significant increases in the number of elected and appointed officials serving at state, county, and local levels across the Southwest. 2

Now that Mexican-Americans have begun to play an important role in domestic politics, there is considerable speculation regarding how they might use their newfound status to influence foreign policy. Specifically, it has been suggested that U.S. policy toward Latin America in general and Mexico in particular will be salient issues for Mexican-Americans. Moreover, some observers have implied that Mexican-Americans will develop into a lobby defending Mexican and Latin American interests and, implicitly, opposing U. S. policies.

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