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Constructing Identities in Mexican-American Political Organizations

Choosing Issues, Taking Sides

By Benjamin Marquez

Publication Year: 2003

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.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

I have incurred many debts in the process of completing this project. I would like to acknowledge the many friends and colleagues who read and commented on various portions of my work. I owe thanks to Dionne Espinoza, Richard Merelman, Christine Sierra, Rudy Espino, Booth Fowler, ...

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1. Mexican-American Organizations and Identity Politics

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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. ...

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2. Constructing Identities in Mexican-American Social Movement Organizations

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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. ...

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3. Voces Unidas: The Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice

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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, ...

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4. Standing for the Whole: The Southwest Areas Industrial Foundation Network

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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 (Horwitt 1989). ...

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5. Aqu

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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. ...

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6. One Dream, Many Voices: The Mexican American Women’s National Association

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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). ...

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7. Conclusion

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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, andmaintain that Mexican Americans have an obligation to help one another (De la Garza et al. 1992; Welch and Sigelman 1993). ...


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pp. 127-130


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pp. 131-158


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pp. 159-161

E-ISBN-13: 9780292798151
E-ISBN-10: 0292798156
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292752757
Print-ISBN-10: 029275275X

Page Count: 181
Illustrations: 17 photos
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 55898538
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Constructing Identities in Mexican-American Political Organizations

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Mexican Americans -- Politics and government.
  • Mexican Americans -- Ethnic identity.
  • Mexican Americans -- Societies, etc.
  • United States -- Ethnic relations -- Political aspects.
  • Ethnicity -- Political aspects -- United States.
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