“We Were Too White to Be Black and Too Black to Be White,” Tyina L Steptoe (2016)

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Tyina L Steptoe (2016) – We Were Too White to Be Black and Too Black to Be White

 

128ff: “Letter from Chapultepec” and the question of race and skin color

  • “The tenth point of the manifesto related directly to ethnic Mexicans and the question of color. People of Mexican descent, they wrote, ‘are called “brown people,” “greasers,” et cetera and of course want to be called white.’ … The term brown people marked them as a nonwhite group, which could hurt their claims to whiteness in a place that considered anyone with African roots ‘colored.'”

149ff: “Letter from Chaptultepec” praised by and used as model by black branch of YWCA

  • “More problems arose when the African American branch of the YWCA discovered the letter and used it for their own purposes: ‘They heard about our [i.e. ethnic Mexicans’] problems and they said, “We have some problems too,”‘ said Estela Gómez of members of the black branch that contacted her. ‘”You did a great thing writing all of those things down.”‘ The African American women asked club officers Cortés and Gómez if they could publish the letter in their organization’s magazine, the Occasional Papers (“a quarterly publication for Negro [YWCA] branches”), and they agreed.’

143-146: segregation and Houston ship channel dockworkers

  • “the Mexican was a whole lot more decent man than the Negro”
  • “IF we let this union fall through our jobs will go to the Negroes”

“Fiestas patrias celebrations … [and] various kinds of entertainment nurtured ‘mexico de afuera'” (De Leon)

From “Corridors North, 1900-1930.”

Habitually, the immigrants also used Mexico as a compass for proper behavior. Journalists advised parents, for example, to teach children the ways of propriety, to make sure that they abide by United States law, and to instill in them racial pride. Cultural and recreative clubs emphasized the need for the preservation of Mexico’s good name, as well as its customs and traditions. Fiestas patrias celebrations, which went back to [74] the 1820s in Texas, became yearly rituals for the display of allegiance.[32] Various kinds of entertainment nurtured “méxico de afuera” (Mexico in the United States). Theatrical presentations were provided by companies relocated to Texas because of the Mexican Revolution, and the music popular in northern Mexico (such as the accordion-led ensemble called the conjunto) was diffused by the newcomers throughout the state.[33] The Immigrant Generation proclaimed the concept of “Mexican” proudly and patriotically upheld the honor of the homeland.

Conversely, many of the recent immigrants held denigrating views towards the United States and even Mexican Americans, who, despite their efforts to Americanize, were still treated as second-class citizens by white society. Recent immigrants singled out the women, criticizing them for mimicking American customs and fashions. The newcomers referred derisively to Tejanos who adopted American habits as pochos.[34]

Arnoldo de Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas, 73-74.

  1. [32]De León, Ethnicity in the Sunbelt, pp. 33-34, 37, 38; Lowrey, “Night School in Little Mexico,” p. 39.
  2. [33]Nick Kanellos, “Two Centuries of Hispanic Theatre in the Southwest,” Revista Chicano-Riqueña, XI (Spring 1983), 23-25, 35; Nick Kanellos, A History of Hispanic Theatre in the United States (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990), pp. 180-181, 198, 199-200; Manuel Peña, The Texas Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working Class Music (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), pp. 29, 35-36, 38.
  3. [34]Manuel Gamio, Mexican Immigration to the United States (New York: Arno Press, 1969), p. 129.