People, Races, Ethnicity in the U.S. Mexican Americans Part 1

About the Mexican Americans or Chicanos in the U.S. including where they are from, why they left, how many there are, famous Mexican-Americans and more.


Where They Came From: The Spanish arrived in the Southwest at the start of the 16th century. By 1609, with the founding of the pueblo of Santa Fe, a cultural-racial group had emerged which was distinct from both the Spanish-born and the native Indian. Scattered Indo-Hispanic communities existed independently of each other, though all were legally part of Mexico after independence from Spain was declared in 1821. Chicano history officially began in 1848, when the U.S. acquired the Mexican land in the Southwest--and its people.

Why They Left: The Mexican War (1846-1848) was triggered by the U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845, which Mexico refused to accept. At the war's end, Mexico conceded its territory north of the Rio Grande to the U.S. under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This included almost all off the present-day states of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada; and western Colorado. Under the treaty provisions, the 75,000 Spanish-speaking people of Mexican-Indian and Anglo-Hispanic heritage in the territory were to become U.S. citizens if they did not leave within one year after ratification. About 2,000 chose to leave. Many historian assert that there never have been Mexican "immigrants" in the Southwest: their situation is closer to that of natives returning to their homeland.

Travel across the border was unrestricted until the 1920s, when a literacy test was required for entry into the U.S. No quota for Mexican immigration was set until 1965. Political up-heavals, such as the police-state regression of the Diaz regime in the 1880s and 1890s and the Mexican Revolution of 1911, brought refuge-seeking Mexicans across the border in the north. But most Mexican immigration into the U.S. has been an economic phenomenon, the product of an increasing demand for labor in the U.S. and an available supply of laborers in Mexico.

Where They Settled: Chicanos are centered today in the areas of the original Spanish settlement, the five states of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and California. The largest single concentration is in Los Angeles--there are 1 million Chicanos living in Los Angeles County--which was founded in 1781 by a group of interracial settlers from Sonora, Mexico. The total population of persons of Mexican ancestry in Los Angeles is second only to that of Mexico City. There are additional Chicano communities sprinkled throughout the Ohio Valley crescent, from Madison, Wis., to Erie, Pa.; and in Chicago and Detroit.

Numbers: Immigration was steady but slow until the turn of the 20th century. Catholic conditions during the 1911 revolution caused almost one eighth of Mexico's population to stream northward. Between 1900 and 1964 a total of 1.3 million Mexicans immigrated. There are 10 million Chicanos in the U.S. today.

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