Mexican American Culture: History, Integration, and Resilience


This paper presents a comprehensive examination of the culture and integration of Mexican Americans in the United States, encompassing their historical background and incorporation into the U.S. landscape. It also explores the impact of wars and treaties on securing their rights, while incorporating recent demographic and population data from the 2010 Census Bureau.

Furthermore, this analysis delves into the prevalent prejudices and discrimination faced by Mexican Americans, highlighting commonly used slurs within this community. It further investigates the resilient factors that have aided my ethnic group in navigating instances of prejudice and discrimination.

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Abstract: This paper examines the Mexican American culture in the United States, including its history, integration into the U.S., and the wars and treaties that gave them rights. It also presents recent demographic and population data from the Census Bureau (2010). The paper addresses prejudices and discrimination faced by Mexican Americans, including commonly used slurs. Additionally, it explores resilience factors that have helped this ethnic group cope with prejudice and discrimination.

Another point to discuss will be the knowledge that social workers should have when working with my ethnic group. I will also talk about cultural biases within my culture towards other cultures and share one personal bias I have. To conclude my literature review, I will reflect on the lessons I have learned.
Brief Mexican History: The initial Mexicans who became part of the United States did not have to physically cross any borders; rather, the borders came to them. Spanish-speaking individuals have resided in Northern provinces since Mexico was colonized by the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.

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Mexico's culture and history have always had a significant role. Mexico gained its Independence from Spain in 1820, but the War of Independence in the 1820s created challenges for Mexico in settling its Northern provinces. Spain's policy of allowing Americans to settle in their regions, with the goal of boosting population, was also adopted by the Mexican government. Unfortunately, this policy backfired when Texas declared Independence from Mexico. The Americans' action of taking over the state in 1845 left Mexico feeling betrayed, as they had taken advantage of Mexico's kindness (Skidmore, 228; King, 2000).

The Mexican American War, occurring between 1846 and 1848, was driven by the belief in "Manifest Destiny," which held that Americans had the right to extend their country's borders from coast to coast. This ideology has been a significant political and religious justification in the United States, resulting in the assimilation, containment, or elimination of various groups such as First Nations peoples and Mexicans (Robbins, Chatterjee, & Canda, p. 135). Such policies caused resentment among Mexicans and Native Americans and led to conflicts. President Polk displayed unwavering determination in his pursuit of acquiring large portions of land, ultimately instigating war.

Polk believed that a war with Mexico would be advantageous for the United States, thus he lured the Mexicans into attacking. When Mexico did attack, Polk argued that he had to protect the United States from the Mexican invasion. Polk's presidency, the ongoing slavery disputes, and the Mexican war were all significant concerns in American politics from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. Out of all the possible causes for these issues, territorial expansion emerged as the primary explanation. The concept of Manifest Destiny divided American politics more than any other factor until the 1850s.

In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo ended the Mexican American War, resolving territorial disputes and declaring Mexicans to be U.S. citizens with guaranteed civil and property rights. As part of the treaty, the United States paid Mexico $15,000,000 for the extension of its boundaries and agreed to settle debts owed by the Mexican Government to American citizens. In 1910, large groups of Mexicans migrated to the Southwestern United States.

They were motivated by the economic, social, and political developments during the Mexican Revolutionary years and the increase in industrial and agricultural jobs in the United States. Mexicans arrived in both direct and indirect ways and served as unskilled and semiskilled laborers in agriculture[->0] and heavy industry (Figueroa, 1996). With the United States joining World War II, concerns about a shortage of workers in the agricultural field arose, leading to seeking assistance from Mexico through the Bracero Program. This program allowed migrant Mexicans to temporarily work on U.S farms (Figueroa, 1996).

The Bracero program brought over 5 million farm workers to work the fields of the United States, as underprivileged Mexicans left their rural communities and traveled north to work as braceros. This influx of workers, mainly from Mexico, played a significant role in making America the world's leading agricultural center. The social and economic landscapes of numerous border towns were profoundly influenced by their arrival, particularly Ciudad Juarez, located across the border from El Paso, Texas, which became a hub for recruitment and a major gathering place for agricultural labor (Bickerton, 2001).

Based on the 2010 data from the United States Census Bureau, the Hispanic or Latino population in the country includes individuals from different Spanish cultures such as Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and South or Central American backgrounds. Out of a total population of 308.7 million people in 2010, approximately 16% were of Hispanic or Latino origin. This marked an increase compared to the year 2000 when there were around 35.3 million Hispanics representing about 13% of the overall population. Over a span of ten years (2000-2010), the Hispanic population grew by 15.2 million people which accounted for half of the total increase in the United States' population of 27.3 million people.

The Hispanic population experienced a growth rate of 43% between 2000 and 2010, which was four times higher than the overall population growth rate of 10%. Among different Hispanic groups, the Mexican Origin population had the highest increase, going from 20.6 million in 2000 to 31.8 million in 2010, representing a growth rate of 54%. This group accounted for approximately three quarters of the total Hispanic population increase of 15.2 million during that time period. In terms of states with the largest number of Hispanics in 2010, California had the highest percentage at 28%, followed by Texas (18.7%), Florida (8.4%), New York (3.1%), Illinois (4%), Arizona (3.8%), New Jersey (3.1%), and Colorado (2%).

The proportion of Mexican Americans in all states, except New Mexico, is 25.4%, but in New Mexico, it reaches the highest percentage at 46% of the total state population. Throughout the history of the United States, Mexican Americans have faced discrimination and prejudice. They have been called derogatory terms such as Wetback, Spic, and Beaner, regardless of their American citizenship. Moreover, they encounter stereotypes like being lazy individuals driven by machismo and being drunks. One primary factor that contributes to their mistreatment is their unauthorized immigration into the United States.

Mexicans were forced to unlawfully cross the border in pursuit of an improved life. The high costs and many barriers presented difficulties in acquiring citizenship, leading them to accept physically demanding jobs with lower wages. This was either due to limited choices as non-citizens or their desire to become part of the United States. Despite earning less than they would in their homeland, they believed that the U.S. offered better prospects. Regrettably, businesses took advantage of their desperate need for work by subjecting them to unfavorable working conditions and minimum wage, fully aware of their lack of other options.

Despite the increasing presence of Mexicans, they still faced discrimination and the possibility of deportation due to programs like “Operation Wetback” targeting braceros who had overstayed their visas. Leaders within Mexican communities worked to support worker education and the establishment of civic and community institutions, such as the Mexican Civic Committee, in order to ensure economic stability. As an example of solidarity, 250 Mexican workers were brought in to work for Inland Steel and joined strikers in demanding transportation back to Texas.

In the 1950’s, Mexicans established branches of civil rights organizations, such as the GI forum and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). The GI forum fought for the rights of Mexican World War II veterans, while LULAC aimed to increase the number of Mexicans with U.S. citizenship and secure the rights of Mexican Americans (Arredondo & Valliant, 2005). In the following decades, Mexicans joined forces in groups like the Spanish coalition for jobs and the Latino Institute to improve housing, education, and fight against employment and social discrimination.

Political community activists advocated for Benito Juarez High School and established various organizations. In working with Mexican Americans, Social Workers should be aware that Mexicans constitute approximately seventy-five percent of the 15.2 million growth in the Hispanic population, which is the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S. As these figures continue to rise, there is a growing demand for social work education to deliver culturally sensitive training to aspiring social work students. It is essential for Social Workers to comprehend and differentiate between the diverse Mexican cultural backgrounds in order to avoid confusion.

Social workers must eliminate any biases when working with Mexican Americans or other cultures. It is important to avoid judging Mexicans based on their appearance or ethnicity. As social workers, we need to be aware of the discrimination they face and have a deep understanding of their beliefs. It is also essential to have knowledge about immigration and migration, as well as how to assess levels of acculturation, examine cultural values, and address any issues related to prejudice at work. Additionally, it is crucial to recognize biases towards other groups, such as having a cultural bias against marrying or dating someone of a different race.

Mexican Americans take great pride in their heritage and generally prefer to marry others from their own race. They see dating outside of their race as a source of shame and dishonor towards their own identity. Mexican Americans put forth significant effort to preserve and promote the Mexican culture, but by integrating with other races, we are gradually losing some of our traditional customs. As a result, there is an increasing number of English-speaking individuals compared to those who speak Spanish. It is disheartening to observe that many people with Mexican, Hispanic, or any other Mexican origins cannot speak Spanish, especially in today's society.

The ability to speak both English and Spanish is now seen as crucial for job opportunities. However, I personally find it upsetting when individuals who can speak Spanish choose not to pass it on to their children. This is due to the belief that everyone should be fluent in Spanish in the United States. My parents made the decision not to teach me Spanish so that others wouldn't perceive me as an immigrant. They wanted people to recognize that I was born in America and protect me from being judged based on my skin color or language skills.

My parents witnessed the mistreatment of Spanish-speaking people and convinced me that I didn't need to know Spanish because everyone living here is American and should speak English. However, they now recognize the negative consequences of my inability to speak Spanish and acknowledge their significant mistake. To rectify this situation, it is crucial for parents to comprehend the importance of our culture and understand that by not teaching us traditions and languages, they are harming both us and our economy. In addition to already struggling with job scarcity, it is now even more difficult to secure employment as we are unable to speak Spanish.

My knowledge of the historical experiences within the Mexican American culture includes their endurance of pain and racial discrimination. Initially, Mexicans had no choice in deciding whether or not to be a part of the United States; their land was taken without consent. The treatment they received was unjust, leading them to fight battles in defense of their land, resulting in significant loss of life. It is important to understand that their involvement in these wars was not voluntary. Additionally, my understanding has deepened as I learned about their struggle for justice. Notably, they gained independence from Spain in 1820, an event celebrated on September 16th – coinciding with my own birthday.

Additionally, I acquired knowledge about their perseverance and strong work ethic as they undertook jobs that others avoided due to their demanding physical nature. The discrimination we face may be ongoing, but we will continue to advocate for equal treatment for all. Bibliography: Arredondo, G. F., & Valliant, D. (2005). Encyclopedia of Chicago: Mexican. Chicago. Retrieved from Bickerton, M. (2001). Prospects for a Bilateral Immigration Agreement with Mexico: Lessons from the Bracero Program. Texas Law Review, 79(4), 895. Figueroa, H. (1996).

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Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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Mexican American Culture: History, Integration, and Resilience. (2017, Jan 12). Retrieved from

Mexican American Culture: History, Integration, and Resilience essay
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