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Constructing Identities in Mexican-American Political Organizations

Benjamin Márquez
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  • Book Info
    Constructing Identities in Mexican-American Political Organizations
    Book Description:

    The formation of a group identity has always been a major preoccupation of Mexican American political organizations, whether they seek to assimilate into the dominant Anglo society or to remain separate from it. Yet organizations that sought to represent a broad cross section of the Mexican American population, such as LULAC and the American G.I. Forum, have dwindled in membership and influence, while newer, more targeted political organizations are prospering-clearly suggesting that successful political organizing requires more than shared ethnicity and the experience of discrimination.

    This book sheds new light on the process of political identity formation through a study of the identity politics practiced by four major Mexican American political organizations-the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, the Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation, the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, and the Mexican American Women's National Association (now known as MANA-A National Latina Organization). Through interviews with activists in each organization and research into their records, Benjamin Marquez clarifies the racial, class-based, and cultural factors that have caused these organizations to create widely differing political identities. He likewise demonstrates why their specific goals resonate only with particular segments of the Mexican American community.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79815-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1. Mexican-American Organizations and Identity Politics
    (pp. 1-7)

    The formation of a political identity is a critical issue in multiracial societies. Collective identities emphasize similarities among citizens, what is held in common, criteria for group membership, and difference from others. Identities can offer the individual psychological health, personal authenticity, and attachment to community. However, ascribed identities that brand racial minorities as inferior and relegate them to lower social and economic status can undermine the target group's attachment to the larger society and lead to the formation of disparate, antagonistic racial identities (Taylor 1992; Hochschild 1995). What kinds of identities have Mexican Americans¹ created in response to discrimination and...

  5. 2. Constructing Identities in Mexican-American Social Movement Organizations
    (pp. 8-24)

    Social identity is an understanding of ourselves and of who other people are, and, reciprocally, other people's understanding of themselves and others (Jenkins 1996: 5). Political identity is also a process by which individuals and groups are distinguished in their social relations with other individuals and groups. It is the systematic establishment and signification of relationships of similarity and difference. Identities do not cause behavior, but they influence action by helping define social situations and the quality of the actors with whom the individual comes into contact. Identities provide frames of reference through which political actors can initiate, maintain, and...

  6. 3. Voces Unidas: The Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice
    (pp. 25-47)

    The Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ) is a network of organizations created in 1990 by activists working with the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. SWOP had been created ten years earlier by former Chicano Movement activists, individuals affiliated with the Brown Berets and land rights movements, and other activists committed to land-rights issues and militant racial politics. SWOP activists saw the need to expand the scope of their work by creating a network of Chicano, Indian Rights, and Black Power activists (R. Moore 1994b). In April 1990 SWOP convened a gathering of over 100...

  7. 4. Standing for the Whole: The Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation Network
    (pp. 48-67)

    Saul Alinsky is arguably America's leading theorist of community organizing. His books on community power have become classics in the field of grassroots organizing (Alinsky 1969, 1971). In 1940 Alinsky founded the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), a school for community activists that he directed until his death in 1972 (Hor-witt 1989). Under the leadership of Ed Chambers, Alinsky's successor, the national network has grown to 59 staffed affiliate organizations in 53 cities throughout 21 states. The IAF's network is composed of 9 regional supervisors, whose primary responsibility is supervising 105 professional organizers (Appleman 1996). The largest and most successful region...

  8. 5. Aquí Se Habla Dinero: The Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce
    (pp. 68-90)

    In the first three decades of the twentieth century Mexican Americans created a number of important labor and civil rights organizations. Most of the historical scholarship on this period documents the activities of groups defending the rights of poor and working-class Mexican Americans. This was also a time when the small but growing Mexican-American business and professional class began forming its own independent political organizations. In Texas the San Antonio Mexican Chamber of Commerce and the Dallas Mexican Chamber of Commerce were established in 1929 and 1939, respectively.¹ Active to this day, they were forerunners of a movement that would...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. 6. One Dream, Many Voices: The Mexican American Women’s National Association
    (pp. 91-111)

    The Mexican American Women's National Association (MANA) was formed in 1974 by four Mexican-American professionals residing in the Washington, D.C., area: Gloria Hernandez, Bettie Baca, Sharleen Maldonado Cross, and Blandina Cardenas (MANA ca. 1977; ″Washington Scene″ 1977; Crocker-Valenzuela 1984). MANA was both a product of and a reaction to the organizational dynamics of the era. The founders of MANA, which was created during the waning years of the Chicano Movement when the major experiments in cultural nationalism fell into disarray or faded into obscurity, felt a pressing need to continue mobilizing against racism and economic deprivation while maintaining a distinct,...

  11. 7. Conclusion
    (pp. 112-126)

    Public opinion polls reveal that Mexican Americans have a strong interest in the problems facing their people, believe discrimination continues to be a significant problem, and maintain that Mexican Americans have an obligation to help one another (De la Garza et al. 1992; Welch and Sigelman 1993). Polls, however, tell us little about the ways that those beliefs will be articulated in the political sphere (Mindiola and Gutierrez 1988). Mexican Americans are so diverse socially, economically, and ideologically that broad appeals to group loyalty are unlikely to mobilize a large constituency for an extended period. Organizations that diminish intragroup differences...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 127-130)
  13. References
    (pp. 131-158)
  14. Index
    (pp. 159-161)