In Support of Mexican American Studies

2012 February 1
by Ellen Noonan
Immigrant rights march, May 1, 2006, Seattle; from Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project

Immigrant rights march, May 1, 2006, Seattle; from Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project

Arizona’s HB 2281 goes into effect today, and Historians Against the War is calling for instructors around the country to take a few minutes in classes or other places to read a passage from one of the books that the law requires be removed from classrooms throughout the state. The books are:

Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth Martinez
Message to Aztlan by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Fiere
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuña

Here’s a passage from Occupied America: A History of Chicanos about the Oxnard, California strike of 1903, where Mexican and Japanese immigrant agricultural workers joined forces against the unfair labor practices of local growers. You can also find documents relating to this strike in HERB, with more on the way.

In 1903, Japanese and Mexican workers in Oxnard, California, protested the practices of the Western Agricultural Contracting Company. The Company withheld a percentage of the workers’ salaries until the end of the contract. Workers were charged for unnecessary services. They were paid in scrip and thus were forced to buy at the company store at inflated prices. The beet workers formed the Japanese-Mexican Labor Association and after a series of meetings struck on February 28. From the beginning ‘the growers, the major contractors, major businessmen, the judges, juries, sheriffs, and officials,’ all of whom were Anglo, united to oppose workers. On March 23 an armed conflict broke out and Luis Vasquez died of shotgun wounds.

Workers won a limited victory with the concession that union members be employed on the majority of the contracting companies’ farms. After the strike they formed the Sugar Beet and Farm Laborers Union of Oxnard and petition the American Federation of Labor for affiliation. Samuel Gompers, president of the AFL, turned down the request unless the membership guaranteed that Chines and Japanese would not be admitted, but the Mexican workers refused to abandon their Japanese comrades.

—Rodolfo Acuña, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, 155.





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