Essay Example. Becoming Mexican American by George Sanchez

Published: 2023-05-01
Essay Example. Becoming Mexican American by George Sanchez
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Immigration Multiculturalism American history Books
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1485 words
13 min read

Accurate measurements require tools of precision. The more precise the tool, the more distinctions we could make in our attempts to produce knowledge. The study of American history is no exception. For many decades, a blunt toolset had informed our analysis of migration and identity, after which historians adopted a bi-polar model analysis- one that assumed that migrants either identified with a mother country or assimilated into an Anglo- Saxon American identity. This bi-polar model of analysis is poor, indeed. Making use of historian George Sanchez's Becoming Mexican American, I argue that Sanchez's concept of a "betwixt and between" identity offers a sharper tool for analysis-one that recognizes a creative construction of identity that exists "suspended between two cultures" (Sanchez, 272).

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Sanchez has given an excellent example of work that marks the contributions of Becoming Mexican American. Sanchez has meticulously revealed various strategies of Mexican immigrants through the assembled wide range of data and resources which show adjustments that are selected in becoming Americans. He has incorporated detailed and broad accounts on both qualitative and quantitative analyses, such as census and life histories, among others. Sanchez has just left few areas of immigrants untouched such as political entities, voluntary self-help groups, and also the larger multiethnic social entities (Sanchez & Loewen, 1999). Several areas have been documented by Sanchez, such as educational patterns, housing conditions and, mobility inspirations, and intrigues to give full understanding since they are persuasively interpreted. This book has the most interesting section where Sanchez displays the Los Angeles transformation from a pueblo to a metropolis. The descriptions of neighborhoods by Sanchez give a reader an appreciation of diversity and early multiethnic.

Sanchez gives a full description of Mexico's conditions, which resulted in migration, control at the border, and the difficulties associated with the issue of immigration. The main theme here was crossing the border, where Sanchez gives detailed information to back up the immigration process. Most of the immigrants seemed to have attracted by job opportunities that were in American Southwest, such as factories, mining, agriculture, railway construction, ranching, and factories (Sanchez & Loewen, 1999). Mexican railway construction resulted in more opportunities also since it promoted industrialization, travel, and literacy. Most of the traditional artisan lost hope since cheap products started flooding the market due to increased industrialization. Machinery and innovations made most people lose jobs. Mexicans started migrating due to hard conditions those they face, including worsening wages and revolution. Later in 1917, new restrictions were put forward, and they hindered Mexicans from migrating; hence they were forced to settle into more permanent communities like in Los Angeles.

Sanchez's book gives a proper insight that helps in the explanation of cultural identities based on becoming Mexican American. The Americans who intended to venture into Los Angeles in the 20th century were likely to have been struck by the sound and insights of the burgeoning metropolis. Several stories happened to build up whereby the automobiles and trolley cars contributed to the difficulty in crossing any streets. The English language dominated the process of Americanization and Mexican immigrants (Sanchez & Loewen, 1999). Other dialects like Chinese were equally used together with Mexico's mother tongue, which resulted in an ethnic symphony that mainly took place in the street. Sanchez shows that Los Angeles become a strange environment for rural Mexicans. Only a few of Mexican immigrants had an understanding of Log Angeles as an alien for most of Anglo-American residents. Between 1890 and 1900, most people were new in their residents because only a third of the white population had started living in California. By 1910, 1920, and 1930 the population had decreased to one-fourth during the censuses. The Anglo-Americans had the intention of integrating with the foreigners even though they were new in the region. Their mobility gave rise to a concern that would define their new culture in a better way. They tried to impose stability by stressing conformity to society. These Anglo-Americans developed Americanization programs as well as supported them in progressive reforms which would transform the Mexican immigrant values. Different immigrants in Los Angeles tried to change one another without any knowledge of the local customs and conditions. The Americanization programs displayed certain assumptions that were mostly made by Mexican culture.

Sanchez also discussed the theme of divided loyalties in this particular book. He significantly examines nationalism as it rises and assimilation issues as most of Mexican immigrants face a struggle in defining their identity against pressure. At the same time, they conform into American culture. Los Angeles is displayed in this particular book, having hosted several diverse populations than all other American urban centers (Sanchez & Loewen, 1999). Los Angeles was known to be Anglo-American, protestant, and the Midwestern migrants who were known to be dominating the political scene. The Midwestern migrants had strong desires of recreating moral, racial, and religious aspects that reflected the ones they had left behind, which conflicted with those of the Spanish-speaking and non-white. The americanization process mainly had their target on women from Mexican immigrants since they believed that they would influence most of their families in adopting the mainstream of American way of life.

The reformers' main focus was to teach immigrant women various things such as domestic science, protestant values, English language skills, sanitation, diet, and health with the hope that they would bring all the Mexican immigrants to adopt the American ideals. Most of the immigrant's children went to schools where they would learn more about American culture. Post-revolution made most of the mexicanization programs to become contracted since the Mexican government came up with various ways that would lure the emigrants back (Sanchez & Loewen, 1999). Through this, Mexican patriotism was high enhanced, such as the schools that were meant for immigrant children based their primary focus on teaching about the Mexican culture, history, and Spanish language. This idea was best since even if the children repatriated with their parents, their way of learning would still be valid. In the 1930s, most of the Mexican immigrants were forced to return to Mexico following the repatriation campaigns. These campaigns also led to the rise of immigrants' distrust of both Mexicanization and Americanization efforts.

Sanchez looks deeply into shifting the homeland through analyzing the life of a family in Mexican immigrants. In this context, the discussion revolves around pop culture, change of religious ideas, and work. For instance, the single male immigrants were left to venture on their own while they would stay if, by any chance, they got married. The immigrants' mindset of the settlement would change from temporary to permanent. For instance, women easily joined the families that had already settled in the United States (Sanchez & Loewen, 1999). Sanchez analyzed the evolution of Mexican-American identity based on their relationship with religion. Americanization efforts in Los Angeles resulted in Protestantism. Most Mexicans were therefore caught in the crossfire that occurred between religions' intentions of vying for souls and money-making most of the Mexicans to live secular lives as well as in a distrust clerical authority.

Sanchez has given detailed information based on pop culture scenes that were mainly practiced in Los Angeles. Some of these pop culture's include restaurants, the Spanish music industry, newspapers, silent film enjoyment, and retail marketing. Most of these pop cultures did not demand much understanding of English proficiency to understand them. Owners of businesses among Mexican immigrants only worked towards attracting people from their community, which showed a sense of patriotism (Sanchez & Loewen, 1999). Mexican immigrants shared their culture by selling products and services. For instance, Spanish radio managed to get a broad audience who were highly entertained by displaying opportunities on new advertisements, which never required literacy. Sanchez examines Mexicans employment conditions where white-collar workers were regarded to receive more payments since they were more educated; hence it was easier for them to naturalize. The blue-collar workers had few options compared to white-collar workers. Teenagers and women got involved in the workforce who would help them acquire extra income that they would use in supporting their families and acquire luxuries items like washing machines and cars.


Becoming Mexican American is an excellent book by George Sanchez, where major influences that took place in the nineteenth century are deeply discussed. Practices regarding Mexicans rose during earlier days and carried over the 20th century. Most Mexican immigrated as a result of increased job opportunities in Los Angeles. Los Angeles was known to be Anglo American, protestant, and the Midwestern migrants who were known to be dominating the political scene. Sanchez analyzed the evolution of Mexican-American identity based on their relationship with religion. The English language dominated the process of Americanization and a Mexican immigrant. The Mexican Americans life is well illustrated based on their cultural practices, migrations, and religious aspects which give full insights and surprises.


Sanchez, G. J., & Loewen, R. (1999). Becoming Mexican American: ethnicity, culture & Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945. Urban History Review, 27(2), 60.

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