Mexican-Americans in United States and Politics
"We need a Mexican but it’s more important that he be American"
This quote, taken from the play Los Vendidos by Luis Valdez, well illustrates the ambivalence and hypocrisy Anglos have projected towards Mexicans for the last two centuries. Specifically, this quote refers to the United States government needing a "brown face" in the crowd at one of their meetings to showcase their supposed support and inclusion of Mexican-Americans in the U.S. However, it is more important that the "brown face" act American, or embody Anglo characteristics deemed to be more reputable and civilized. Valdez’s play showcases an important theme in Mexican-American history and still today which, as the title implies, is that Mexicans and Mexican Americans have been forced to sell, or disregard their culture, language, and ideals for Anglocized ones in order to become citizens of the United States. Moreoever, their presence in history has been romanticized or has gone unnoticed by American citizens. By examining the characters and dialogue in Valdez’s work Los Vendidos, along with complementary written and oral historical accounts, I will first describe the stereotypes and racism Mexican-Americans have endured both historically and presently. Secondly, I will detail how the Chicano’s struggle for equal rights in education, workforce, and politics, has been thwarted by the Anglo Americans’ desire to "mold" or "control" Chicano’s destiny in the United States and maintain them as second-class citizens. Finally, I will argue that even those of Mexican descent that have attempted to assimilate themselves into American culture still face an insurmountable task due to the racism that clouds the cultural lens of many Americans.
Valdez presents the play’s characters as to correspond to chronological events in history, beginning with a reference to the Precolonial era. Ms. "Geeminez" (who denounced her true Mexican last name in favor of appearing more American) commented that "Indians are much too dark." Here we see an example of the "black-white continuum", as expressed by Peter Wade, but more importantly the idea that to be darker is to be equated with a low position in the social hierarchy (Oboler, 35). Beginning in the nineteenth century, despite significantly high proportions of native Americans, African Americans, Asians, Caribbean, and Latin Americans in the United States, the term American became envisioned as Anglo-Saxon and white. Therefore, based solely on skin color, non-whites were not considered Americans and thus did not enjoy equal rights and privileges. This superiority complex was, to some extent, the result of John O’Sullivan’s idea of manifest destiny in 1845 which called for expansion into Mexico, but more implicitly,
"the justification of expansion and the subsequent exclusion of "foreign" Mexicans from the way the national community was imagined." (Oboler, 43).
In the twentieth century, even...