Differences Between Four Hispanic Groups

Published: 2021-07-02 04:24:10
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Category: Immigration, Mexico, Hispanic

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Despite important differences in historical experiences, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and Mexican Americans share a similar socioeconomic status. Nathan Glazer and Daniel P. Moynihan were among the first to recognize the parallel: "To a degree that cannot fail to startle anyone who encounters the reality for the first time, the overwhelming portion of both groups constitutes a submerged, exploited, and very possibly permanent proletariat. "(Marifeli, 1993) The marked debility of their position relative to the citywide standard is clearly reflected in several indicators.
Patterns of labor force participation, unemployment rates, and median incomes indicate that the gaps between native minorities and whites have persisted for decades. Nevertheless, there are discernible differences between the two minority groups. Comparative Community Infrastructures: Migration and Settlement Three features affecting a migrant group's eventual prospects for social mobility in its new location are (1) time of arrival, (2) the economic conditions surrounding its initial entry, and (3) the pace of its incorporation. As noted earlier, U.
S. society is often viewed as embodying a "queuing system" in which each of successive groups of migrants establishes a foothold and struggles for social and economic mobility until it attains its particular form of accommodation. Scholars have debated the role played by such factors as the cultural characteristics of the group, discrimination, political activity, and a host of other influences. But it has been generally presumed that in time the descendants of first-generation migrants will find their niche within the larger society. (Chavez, 1991)



Before the massive Puerto Rican migration that took place following the termination of World War II, a significant immigrants’ community existed, nourished by several decades of migrant labor. From a purely chronological standpoint, one reason may be that the pre-World War II Puerto Rican community--with its active but still embryonic array of community institutions--had in effect been swamped by the mass migration of the late 1940s and 1950s. (Edwards, 2001) Other features of the Puerto Rican experience may also have contributed to the relatively slow development of political organizations.
One important influence was the New York branch of the Commonwealth Office of the Puerto Rican government. Established in 1948 to assist arriving migrants, it was a subsidiary of the island-based government and recognized by U. S. agencies as an official entity aiding Puerto Ricans in the settlement process. The office assumed responsibility for such functions as monitoring a program of contract farm workers; referring arrivals to employment opportunities, housing assistance, and social services; and familiarizing Puerto Ricans with the legal and cultural realities of life on the mainland.
The effects of racial discrimination on labor force segmentation-and vice versa--are exemplified in the experiences of Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans. Denied access to educational skills and union power, and often victimized by discrimination in hiring, Hipics were effectively excluded from primary jobs during the period of transition leading to segmentation in the early twentieth century. (Edwards, 2001) Their confinement to secondary jobs had as much to do with racial oppression as with the class processes that determine how white workers are allocated across segments.
Racial dynamics may have other consequences. The political struggle of racially oppressed groups can provide the impetus for the creation of new jobs and may even help to transform industries, affecting the segmentation process from the demand side of the economy. The history of Mexican Americans, the second largest racial/ethnic minority, reveals another kind of interface between segmentation and racial processes. In effect, the communities of Mexican origin that populated the U. S. Southwest from the mid-1800s through the first few decades of the 1900s constituted an "internal colony.
" (Barrera, Mario; 1999) Over time, with the penetration of U. S. capital into the region, Mexican labor was funneled into a specific range of low paying jobs. Whether as agricultural day laborers, mine workers, or ranch hirelings, their plight was unvarying: distanced from the rapid industrialization occurring in the North and lacking many of the civil liberties accorded to most U. S. citizens, these workers were subject to dual wage systems, debt peonage, and extreme labor repression. (Carey McWilliams , 1998)
After World War II, Chicanos were integrated into the broader U.S. class structure through the labor segmentation process, but they still retain important elements of the colonial relationship. Overwhelmingly relegated to secondary labor, they have remained residentially segregated and politically powerless in many areas. (Tienda, 2002) Unionization helped Mexican Americans in employment sectors where they had no trouble getting jobs. But they also hungered for the work reserved for whites—because it was better paying and not as backbreaking and it conferred more status.
Mexicans could not get jobs as store clerks, for example, except in places that catered to Mexicans. Many a young Mexican would look at the crisp white uniform of a Texaco service-station attendant or the technological skills needed to drive an urban bus with a degree of longing. Obtaining such a job was a mark of mobility. Again, this longing became an integral feature within the Chicano Movement. Many of the movimiento objectives, irrespective of the separatist rhetoric and emphasis on cultural pride, stemmed from a hunger for job status.
Mexicans also looked to government employment as way of "getting ahead. " To get "un trabajo del citi" (a municipal job), even in street maintenance, offered security and fringe benefits. Convincing the city council to put Mexican American employees on permanent status rather than being "temporary" became one of the first issues of Houston's Latin American Club (LAC). In reality, the Mexicans worked full-time for the city; they just did not get the fringe benefits. (García, 1990) World War II for many Mexican Americans became a major source of upward mobility.
Just in the military service alone, some rose high in the ranks as enlisted men, fewer as officers, and were given supervisory duties over other men, including whites. Employment in the more highly technological manufacturing sector, spurred mainly by the defense industry, became the bailiwick of white workers, but Mexican Americans wanted access as well. Mexican American politicians and civil right activists tried to make the agency accountable, but for the most part the policy of keeping out Mexicans from other than menial jobs continued during the war.
Most Mexican women stayed behind although many moved to other industrial areas in the boom years of the war and worked in places where Mexicans had never been allowed. In cities in the Midwest and Southwest that had wartime industries, hundreds of daughters of immigrants, who had first settled in the colonias earlier in the century, obtained industrial jobs that were normally done by men. The organizing of Mexican workers in the first four decades of the twentieth century cut across many labor sectors, but it concentrated mainly in mining and agriculture.
The breadth of its activity was extensive, but victories were few, primarily because employers had the support of officialdom—local police, judges, city councils, and such. ( Gutiérrez, 1995) A report done for the Works Progress Administration indicated, While some gains have been made by the Mexicans as the result of organization, both through their own racial unions and as members of others of mixed racial makeup, these have been won at the cost of considerable violence and economic loss due to time spent in carrying on their struggles, during which income stopped.
In addition, agricultural and service sectors were not accorded the protection of the National Labor Relations Act. That crucial legislation provided industrial sectors struggle-free unionization by removing many of the obstacles that had stood in their way. Certainly when Mexicans participated in work sectors that unionized, the tide of worker prosperity carried them into the suburbs and material well-being. In Arizona for example, at the time of the Chicano Movement a great sociological divide based on material attainment existed between Mexicans in mining communities and their paisanos in agricultural towns.
But the unfinished work of acquiring "affirmative action" served as a vertebra for the movimiento. Confronting the systematic exclusion of Chicanos from educational institutions and desirable jobs that continued even after the Mexican American generation gave it "its best shot" became the primary target of the Chicano Movement. (Skerry, 1993) To be sure, other issues were in the forefront, including cultural pride, police brutality, the Vietnam War. But all of these really revolved around the core concern: gaining access to the proverbial piece of the pie. Conclusion
For decades, although scholars have disputed the sources and ends of "assimilation," it has generally been seen as a positive force, helping to homogenize numerous ethnicities into a stable, self-reproducing American identity. Characteristics of successful membership in U. S. society include penetration into the economic mainstream, emergence of a significant middle class, and monolingualism in the second generation, allegiance to European cultural traditions, suburbanization, and participation in established political structures. In recent decades, however, that model has been severely tested.
First, native minorities fall outside several of the specified parameters. Earlier in the century, because of their relatively small numbers and because racial hegemony kept them impoverished and invisible, these groups posed no fundamental threat to the assimilationist model. But as the postwar years brought about their population growth, migration to urban centers, and political insurgency, the racial and cultural backgrounds of groups such as Mexican Americans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans challenged the country to broaden its definition of "American. " Immigrant minorities are providing the second major test of the assimilation model.

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