- The Mexican Revolution in Chicago: Immigration Politics from the Early Twentieth Century to the Cold War by John H. Flores
By John H. Flores
Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2018. 252 pp. ISBN: 978-0-252-08342-6
In The Mexican Revolution in Chicago, John H. Flores productively explores the politics of what he coins the "revolutionary generation" in constructing the largest Mexican community in the US Midwest between 1920 and 1950. Focusing on "liberals," "traditionalists," and "radicals," Flores argues that each group's ongoing engagement with and understanding of the Mexican Revolution shaped its identity politics and experiences in Chicago. Flores thereby adds important nuance to this history by making clear the transnational connections and consequences of the Revolution among those who migrated to the "Colossus of the North."
Competing ideas of mexicanidad and citizenship between liberals and traditionalists lie at the crux of this book. Chapters 1 and 2 detail the process through which these factions migrated to Chicagoland, and with them, their own political ideologies based on events unfolding in Mexico. Liberals, consisting mostly of middle-class migrants from Mexico City and northern border states, utilized nationalist rhetoric that emphasized the power of ideas and separation of church and state. For middle-class and working-class traditionalists who migrated predominantly from the west-central Bajío region, the Catholic Church served as a chief marker of Mexican national identity. They therefore balked at what they perceived as the liberal revolutionary government's anticlerical and elitist bent. Both groups competed to guide the larger Chicago Mexican community by deploying their political views through their social organizations and participation. Moreover, each viewed naturalization and assimilation in largely contrasting ways. Liberals promoted the pursuit of the city's secular education and encouraged migrants to learn English. Yet they also stressed the importance of retaining Spanish language and Mexican citizenship with the hope of returning to a stable liberal Mexican state. At the outbreak of the Cristero Rebellion in the late 1920s, in contrast, traditionalists aligned more vehemently with the Catholic Church and grew increasingly alarmed at the liberal politics in their homeland. As a result, they were more inclined to naturalize as US citizens. As Flores articulates, "they began to decouple mexicanidad from the territory governed by the Mexican state" (58). The politics of the liberal community ultimately made them vulnerable targets of deportation by US authorities who deemed them too radical. Repatriation during the Depression thus paved the way for a traditionalist victory as the liberal community waned.
Chapter 3 further expands on the divergent political and social views of the two groups through an examination of race, empire, and gender. As nationalists, liberals frequently criticized US imperialism in Latin America and racial exclusivity in the United States. These critiques enabled them to side with Chicagoland's Puerto Rican and Nicaraguan communities, as they articulated a defining sense of mestizaje. That, in turn, only further emphasized their negation of naturalization, and the salience of a Mexican identity rooted in the retention of Mexican citizenship. Conversely, the traditionalist stance sought naturalization because it promised that the United States was a beacon of democracy and religious tolerance. In terms of race, their alignment with the church created a discourse which celebrated Mexico's Catholic, and therefore European, heritage. In a small subsection on gender, Flores highlights how liberals might have advocated for women's rights, but they and traditionalists still abided by patriarchal roles. In a moment of rupture, however, Flores shows how traditionalist women utilized their community's gendered logic to enter the public space in newspapers and promoted the education of women.
Although the liberal community appeared stagnant by the 1930s, more radical activities coalesced around working-class migrants through Chicago's branch of the Frente Popular Mexicano, the focus of chapter 4. Inspired by the popular front politics in the United States and cardenismo in Mexico, the leaders of this organization aimed to radicalize Mexican Chicago through their promotion of labor rights and the struggle against Fascism. The Frente...