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  • The Right to Represent:Mexican Americans and the World War II Draft Board in Tucson, Arizona

On August 4, 1942, the front page of El Tucsonense featured an article titled, "Andy P. Martin, Habla Claro!! [Andy P. Martin, Speak Clearly!!]." The Spanish-language newspaper's article reported a recent speech by Pima County Draft Board One member Andy P. Martin to the members of Tucson's Kiwanis Club. In his address, Martin had stated that Hispanic Americans represented 60 percent of the new draftees and those already in military service from Pima County. The next largest percentage was American Indians at 25 percent, while whites only represented 15 percent. When the audience asked about the disparity of percentages, Martin explained that one of the biggest reasons was that defense industries preferred to hire whites over members of other racial or ethnic groups. In addition, Anglos flocked to those jobs because they "prefer the high salaries lavishly paid by the Government," and they have a "notorious lack of enthusiasm to win the war. White Americans have managed to evade military service in such a scandalous manner, taking refuge" in government factories.1 Therefore, Hispanic Americans bore the brunt of the military service, even though they accounted for 25 percent of Tucson's population.2 [End Page 159]

Martin's contention that Mexican Americans bore the brunt of the draft was not unfounded. Nationwide, an estimated four hundred thousand Mexican Americans served in World War II, overwhelmingly in front-line combat positions and in disproportionately high numbers when compared to other racial or ethnic groups in both combat and enlistments.3 And much like Martin said, one of the reasons was that a majority of Mexican Americans, in Tucson and elsewhere, did not earn deferments from the draft.4 Martin's sharp assessment spoke to a system of racial preference and prejudice.5 His criticism might seem surprising within the context of wartime patriotism and ethnic relations in Tucson. But a closer look at Tucson's draft controversy, which erupted in the summer of 1942, reveals a more complicated story about the socioeconomic construction of identity in this southwestern city's diverse Mexican American community. The controversy focused on two issues: the disproportionate number of Mexican men from Tucson drafted into the army and the lack of representation on the local draft board.

Compared to other cities in the Southwest, conditions for Mexican Americans in Tucson were relatively benign. One of the contributing factors to the conciliatory relationship between Anglos and Mexican Americans was the demographics of the city. In 1940, Tucson's population was 35,752, and there were approximately [End Page 160] 11,000 people of Mexican descent.6 Mexican Americans were a significant percentage of the overall population. More importantly, though, Tucson had a large, well-established Hispanic middle class that had historically participated in civic life and enjoyed relative protection from the most egregious forms of discrimination. Members of the Spanish American middle class included local politicians, freight owners, butchers, photographers, grocers, and newspaper owners/editors, and they wielded a great deal of economic power. They used their economic power and cultural standing to take on a paternalistic role among working-class Mexican Americans.7

To distinguish themselves from working-class Mexican Americans, the middle class identified as Spanish American. By identifying as Spanish Americans, they sought to establish their racial whiteness and distance themselves from their mestizo roots.8 [End Page 161] Their Spanish American identity relied not just on nomenclature or skin color; it also relied on their economic standing in the community. They used their business contacts, bilingualism, and family history to participate in the Anglo community and politics. As a result they gained access to the privileges of whiteness. The scholarship on race often focuses on Mexican Americans' legal whiteness or "white by treaty," but few historians have studied the way that middle-class Mexican Americans used their economic position to create their identity and shape their engagement with civic responsibilities.9 This essay examines how Tucson's Spanish American community used the draft board to define and cement their position and identity within Anglo society. Spanish Americans specifically constructed their whiteness to set themselves apart from lower-class Mexican Americans while portraying all people of Mexican descent as patriotic and willing to serve their country during the war. World War II, then, was a pivotal moment in the history of race formation in the Southwest.

Martin's speech at the Kiwanis Club, an Anglo institution, demonstrates the hybridity and cross-cultural contacts that shaped much of the activism and participation in city government during World War II. The draft-board controversy demonstrates that the construction of Mexican American identity in Tucson was an unstable process. Martin himself straddled the line between the Spanish American and Anglo communities, and his mixed ethnicity allowed him to speak to both sides. He used his position on the draft board, his standing in the business community, and his personal relationship with Spanish Americans to argue for all Mexican Americans, much like other members of the Spanish American middle class. At the same time, though, Martin used his whiteness to challenge discrimination of Mexican Americans during war, something that [End Page 162] most Spanish Americans were hesitant to do.10 Martin's whiteness and position on the draft board permitted him to directly confront discrimination, while not directly challenging the fairness of the draft board. More importantly, though, Martin's actions provide a window through which to look at how Tucson's Spanish Americans formed their identity and shaped their activism to maximize their own position in the community.

Mexican American Patriotism, Anglo Discrimination

Tucson's Spanish American middle class used their whiteness to represent all Mexican Americans as patriotic and devoted to the war effort. While most middle-class Spanish American men did not serve in the military, primarily because of their age, many were involved with supporting the war effort and sought to publicize Mexican Americans' service in the armed forces and on the home front. It was natural, therefore, for Spanish Americans to pay close attention to the draft and the draft board, and Martin, like the newspaper reporting itself, spoke directly to Tucson's Spanish American community.11 Spanish American leaders such as Alex Jácome (owner of Jácome's Department Store), Vicente Alfaro (as representative of the governor of Arizona), Arturo Moreno (editor and owner of El Tucsonense), Carlos Robles (Pima County deputy attorney), and prominent Spanish American businessmen P. M. Elías, and Eduardo (Edward) Jacobs attended Martin's speech at the Kiwanis Club. These outspoken leaders of the community enjoyed the most favorable relationships with Anglos. Their presence at the Kiwanis Club, a predominately Anglo middle-class business organization, speaks to the place that Spanish Americans held within Tucson's Anglo community.

In his complaint about the racial imbalance in military service, Martin lamented that he does "not see how our own young [End Page 163] Americans can allow such a thing to happen."12 To balance the racial representation in the military, he argued, all men over thirty-five years old should work in the factories and men under thirty-five should serve in the military. Martin called on the defense industries and the government to work together to implement these guidelines. Obviously frustrated with the defense industry and the Selective Service Registration Board's lack of oversight, Martin demanded that the board prosecute draft registration violators who evaded military service; he also thought that federal officials should be able to prosecute those violators without Washington's permission.13 Martin concluded his speech by imploring members of the Kiwanis Club and other social clubs to monitor what was happening in their community. Martin's recommendation fit well into the sense of duty that Tucson's Spanish Americans perpetuated. Monitoring the conditions of the draft board and organizing an advisory council to ensure fair treatment of Mexican Americans fit well into their self-appointed role as protectors and leaders of the Mexican American community.

As a local draft board member, Martin was part of the nationwide military draft system in operation during World War II. On September 16, 1940, Congress passed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, otherwise known as the draft. The Selective Service Act required men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-six to register with their local draft boards. After the United States declared war on Japan, the act lowered the age for military service to eighteen and raised the age limit to forty-four; it also required men up to sixty-five to register with the draft board. Local draft boards administered the draft; board members, usually three to five local citizens, did not receive pay. Most draft-board members were white men, in their thirties and forties, and most often, veterans of World War I.14 Each draft registrant filled out a questionnaire, which included their employment and/or dependents. The board then assessed each registrant in order to classify them for military service. There were thirteen classifications, ranging from 1A [End Page 164]

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Undated picture of a young Andy Martin. Image 37301, Buehman Portraits, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson.

(able to serve immediately) to 4F (not fit for service). Within that system there were other variables that the draft board considered. Men who held jobs that were labeled critical to the war effort, such as those in the defense industries or even certain jobs in agriculture, earned a deferment. Draft-board members, with little direct [End Page 165] oversight from Washington, decided who would be drafted for military service. In the early days of the war, married men also earned deferments, but as the war dragged on the government began drafting men who were married and/or had children. Each local draft board had immense power within their community, and Tucson was no different.15

The discussion about the perceived inequities of the draft in Tucson extended through the fall of 1942. For the next few months, Martin continued speaking at different venues about the overrepresentation of Mexican Americans in the draft. In October, he spoke to the most exclusive Spanish American organization, Club Latino, which was one of the oldest Spanish American clubs in Tucson. Established in 1920, members represented the most influential and oldest Spanish American families in the city. While the club was primarily a social organization, the members often used their position in Tucson to advocate for Mexican Americans.16 Addressing the Spanish American audience, Martin slightly diverged from his Kiwanis speech. Although he still acknowledged the overrepresentation of Mexican Americans in military service, this time he did not point to the defense jobs as the culprit. Rather, he argued that there were two causes: first, Pima County was home to a large percentage of Mexican Americans; second, and more importantly, many lacked education, which hampered their ability to correctly complete the questionnaire. Martin reasoned that it was possible that many Mexican Americans failed to include dependents, which affected their draft classification. He asked the members of Club Latino to create a board, within their organization and with the blessing of the Pima County draft board, which would help Mexican Americans complete their questionnaires so as to accurately [End Page 166] represent their responsibilities at home. While Martin did not specifically point to English fluency as the culprit, it is safe to assume that he felt that some Mexican Americans could not read English well enough to complete a government document, and even if they were fluent they may not have understood the different classifications on the draft questionnaire.

Martin expected Spanish Americans to assist working-class Mexican Americans in fulfilling their patriotic duty while completing their registration correctly. Whatever his intentions, Martin clearly believed that Mexican Americans were partly to blame for their high percentages in the military. Interestingly, though, he did not point to the systemic discrimination in schools and employment that led to Mexican Americans' lack of fluency but defended the draft board. He insisted that there was no "direct discrimination against any nationality" and that regulations for the draft boards came directly from Washington.17 In other words, the draft board was not responsible for the overrepresentation of Mexican Americans in the draft rolls. Although he assigned at least some blame to Mexican Americans, Martin was careful not to diminish the patriotism of the Mexican American community. Instead, he called on the Spanish American leaders to help their community from within. Club Latino followed Martin's suggestion. The club's leadership established an advisory board, appointing Roy Laos as chairman. Laos also served as the president of Club Latino and used the club's facilities to organize a staff to work in the office. Once again, Martin's suggestion fit well into middle-class Spanish Americans' approach to representing all people of Mexican descent in Tucson. Creating "schools" in which they were the supervisors and educators to lower-class Mexican Americans fit with their paternalistic role.18

Spanish Americans balanced dual activist goals: protecting Mexican Americans while accentuating their patriotism. The draft [End Page 167] discussion made its way back into El Tucsonense's headlines and on October 30, one headline announced, "Noble campaign of Club Latino." Even Tucson's English-language newspapers, the Tucson Daily Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star, carried the story and reported Martin's speech at Club Latino. In contrast to the English-language papers, El Tucsonense went into much more detail about the meeting. Like other wartime news in El Tucsonense, the coverage carried an undercurrent of patriotism. Above the article about the meeting, the headlines announced that the Japanese were repulsed at Guadalcanal. National war news always took precedence over local news, especially local news that Anglos could interpret as unpatriotic or that suggested Mexican Americans were not willing to fight for their country. The article began with the announcement to Mexican Americans: "Tips to avoid abuse or discrimination." The reporter praised Martin for his "patriotic denunciation of irregularities, defects and injustices that he noticed in the execution of the paperwork of the Selective Service Law." While the English-language newspaper quoted Martin's criticism of "whites" who were escaping military service by going into the defense industry, the reporter for El Tucsonense focused on Martin's contention that Spanish Americans did not file appeals to the draft board. The "Anglo-Saxon race … defend themselves opportunely and duly," the reporter concluded.19

To Martin and El Tucsonense, Mexican Americans and Spanish Americans had not challenged their government in wartime, no matter how unjust the system was toward them. Instead, Spanish Americans focused on working within that system to make sure that Mexican Americans had the tools to defend themselves. Given the higher rate of Anglo deferments, Martin and others believed that Anglos could not question Mexican Americans' loyalty and willingness to serve. If anything, they demonstrated that they were even more patriotic than their Anglo brethren. Mexican Americans did not have the power to manipulate the system to their advantage, even though for many their service was a hardship for their families.

Middle-class Spanish Americans in the Club Latino did not directly challenge the draft either; their activism rested on educating and helping the working class maneuver governmental bureaucracy, through legal means. Their position set up a system in which they could challenge the discrimination in a non-threatening way, [End Page 168] but it also allowed them to cement their position as the educators and caretakers of their community. Spanish Americans used legitimate means, working within government parameters to fight for equality and parity with Anglos.

Inspiring Confidence and Performing Masculinity

As much as middle-class Spanish Americans rallied and organized their community, not everyone agreed with Martin's observations or solutions concerning the draft. As early as September 1942, a new discussion had emerged among Spanish Americans. Eduardo Carrillo Jacobs, a prominent Spanish American business owner did not challenge the draft or suggest assistance with questionnaires; instead he demanded Spanish American representation on the draft board. Jacobs, like other Spanish Americans, became concerned with the number of Mexican Americans drafted into military service after hearing—and reading—Martin's speech. On September 4, 1942, Jacobs made an impassioned, if not heated, speech, which was later published in El Tucsonense under the heading, "We do not have representatives!" Even though Jacobs relayed the key points in Martin's speech, including the contention that Anglos evaded the draft by working in the defense industry, he never actually used the term Anglos. He stated that Martin's story was incomplete, and that the real problem with the draft was that while Tucson's Mexican American community made up approximately 25 percent of the city's population, and supplied 60 percent of the draftees, there was not a Spanish American on the draft board. Although Esteban T. Ochoa, a grandson of a Tucson pioneer and mayor, was connected to the draft board, he was a "paid employee with the title of Secretary" as opposed to full member of the board. To punctuate his point, Jacobs noted that even Ochoa was subjected to the draft by his own board and would be entering the army on September 11. As Jacobs pointed out, Mexican Americans had served on the board before. Emilio H. Apodaca had served on Board Two until he moved out of state and was replaced by J. F. McKale, the athletic director for the University of Arizona. Jacobs argued that Apodaca's replacement should have been a Spanish American as opposed to an Anglo.20 [End Page 169]

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Tucson Draft Board Two. From left to right: J. O. Niemann, Walter Roediger, Archie R. Connor, George A. Amos, Chairman W. E. Barnum, and J. F. McKale. Image 59444, PC 1000, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson.

In making these arguments, Jacobs broadened an existing understanding of manhood and masculinity within Tucson's Spanish American and Mexican American community. While members of Alianza Hispano Americana argued that military service inspired masculinity and respectability for the working class, for example, Jacobs took the position that for the middle class, masculinity centered on advocating and representing all Mexican Americans.21 Jacobs's argument that Spanish Americans deserved to be on the board, while different than Roy Laos's activism, still represented their belief that they were the leaders of the community and, therefore, they needed [End Page 170] to represent people of Mexican descent. Their idea of masculinity was directly tied to their leadership and the methods through which they advocated. Jacobs believed that if Spanish Americans did not fight this injustice, "it may appear that we do not inspire confidence."22 It was crucial that Spanish Americans inspire confidence not only within their own community but also with Anglos. Tied to their understanding of leadership and masculinity, Jacobs did not put forth a position that Anglos could construe to be unpatriotic. In fact, he made the point that "no people are more patriotic than the average Spanish American and no race desires more that the war effort get on."23 Portraying themselves as patriotic was essential to their position as leaders of the community and to stave off any criticisms of not only all people of Mexican descent but also their own positions in Anglo society.24 Their performance of patriotism was a product of the war, and it dictated their sense of responsibility and respectability they portrayed to Anglos.25

While Spanish Americans like Jacobs questioned the fairness of the draft board, they balanced their grievances with enforcing their patriotism in supporting the war. Jacobs was aware that Anglo newspapers covered the draft-board controversy, so he tailored his rhetoric to fit with wartime goals. In fact, on September 7, the Tucson Daily Citizen published Jacobs's demands. The writer reported, "It seems that the Spanish-American people here believe that they are being discriminated against because of this non-representation on the board." The article then quoted Jacobs, using a statement that also appeared in El Tucsonense: "Our people are a patriotic people, and if we have contributed 60 percent of the inductions into the Army, then certainly we deserve representation on the draft boards." Spanish Americans pushed the narrative of patriotism [End Page 171] and unity throughout their discussion during the war. This effort was especially important when the discussion turned to discrimination: "Only by achieving unity can we impress the heads of our state with the seriousness of our problems and the necessity for action concerning them." The unity that Jacobs touted was two-pronged. It was not only harmony between Anglos and people of Mexican descent but also between middle-class Spanish Americans and working-class Mexican Americans. By emphasizing unity, Jacobs demonstrated the respectability needed to interact with public officials and governmental agencies. Jacobs also pushed the issue beyond the city's leadership: he contended that the governor of Arizona had the power to appoint a Spanish American to the board, and that the Spanish American community would make sure he was aware of the situation.26

Jacobs brought the issue to the governor's attention, but through an intermediary. In October 1942, Jacobs and Arturo Moreno met with Pima County Superior Court Judge Evo DeConcini about the percentage of Mexican Americans drafted into the army, but they did not mention the issue of Spanish American representation on the board. Jacobs and Moreno told DeConcini that Martin and Hi Corbett (an Anglo draft-board member) were the only members of the board who would even consider deferments for Mexican Americans, which hinted at the fact that the draft board discriminated against Mexican Americans. In response to the meeting, DeConcini wrote a letter to Governor Sydney Osborn and relayed the concerns of the Spanish American community. DeConcini agreed that if the percentages were correct, "that does seem to be an unfair proportion." DeConcini informed Osborn of the meeting at Club Latino, describing it as the most organized and most representative of the "Mexican people in Tucson." They are going to take action to "insure [sic] fair play for their people," he noted. And just as middle-class Spanish Americans had always cautioned, DeConcini warned Moreno and Jacobs that this matter "be handled in such a way that it does not cause bad publicity for anyone … because it might appear that they [Spanish Americans] are the ones unpatriotic." DeConcini emphasized his own belief that "Mexican people in Tucson" were patriotic and that their complaints were justified. He concluded his letter by asking Governor [End Page 172] Osborn to talk to the board, informally, in order to avoid any criticism of the Mexican American community. Whether Jacobs failed to mention his demand for Spanish American representation on the board or DeConcini did not relay it to Governor Osborn, there is no mention of it in the letter. Still, Jacobs's meeting with DeConcini demonstrates how Spanish Americans used their standing in the community to represent people of Mexican descent during the war.27

Just as DeConcini mentioned, one of the biggest concerns for Spanish Americans was that Anglos would accuse them of being unpatriotic. The situation with the draft placed Spanish Americans in a precarious position. Even though Martin was the one who raised the issue of inequality, the controversy bore directly on all people of Mexican descent. Throughout various interviews and news articles, members of Club Latino and Martin were careful not to challenge Mexican Americans' duty to register for the draft or the draft's legitimacy. Even with their precautions, some Anglos felt that there was no basis to Martin's complaints. In the Arizona Daily Star's August 9 editorial section, Tucson citizen Arnold Keedy took exception to Martin's contention that people of Mexican descent represented 60 percent of Pima County's draftees (referring to the August 4 article). Keedy claimed that the list for Board Two had seventy-two names and only twenty-five appeared to have Spanish surnames, which is 35 percent as opposed to 60 percent. Keedy conceded that most Spanish Americans did not reside in Board Two's jurisdiction but was adamant that Martin conflated the draft percentage of Spanish Americans.28 The Spanish American community did not specifically challenge Keedy's letter to the editor in any of the Tucson newspapers, including El Tucsonense, possibly because they believed disputing the numbers would not help their [End Page 173] cause. They may have realized that Keedy only referred to a single call up, and he based his numbers on Board Two, which served Anglo neighborhoods. In addition, 35 percent is still a considerable percentage given the neighborhood's demographics. Taking a conservative stance, Spanish Americans used their political capital sparingly, not directly challenging specific Anglo critics. They walked a fine line in trying to work within the social constructs of prejudice while also defending Mexican Americans. Instead of overtly challenging Keedy, or other Anglos, they preferred to stress their own social and political activism within their community.29

The draft debate continued in the fall and winter of 1942. Instead of countering each instance of discrimination, Spanish Americans used their paternalistic discourse and social organizations to advocate for and aid the lower classes. In November, the Daily Star published a story that focused on Club Latino's special draft committee. After giving a short explanation, the staff writer complimented the program, calling it a "distinct community service," and adding that the club "has in its membership many of the outstanding Spanish-American citizens of Tucson." Echoing Martin's contentions that because many Mexican Americans eligible for the draft "do not fully understand English, much misunderstanding of regulations is possible," the writer noted that "seeming inequalities between those of Spanish-American ancestry and other Arizonans are due. … to population divisions and selective service regulations and not due to any prejudicial choice by the boards." The writer did not acknowledge the overwhelming numbers of Mexican Americans drafted, but instead he chose to focus on the members of Club Latino whose free service was an "educational aide to the selectees and their dependents." The Club Latino committee was not only helping Spanish American youths "who would otherwise be unable to accurately prepare their questionnaires, but it also aided the draft boards as well, since cases [End Page 174] where competent advice is given and full records … will be easier for the draft boards to handle."30

English-language newspapers, like the Daily Star, did not distinguish between social classes of Mexican Americans and generally referred to people of Mexican descent as Spanish American, regardless of class. In other ways the article echoed Club Latino's perspective with its paternalistic tone which emphasized that the middle-class Spanish Americans gave, "competent advice" to those who cannot "accurately prepare" their draft questionnaire, alluding to working-class Mexican Americans. The middle class preferred to be the leaders of the community, to embody a sense of responsibility to not only themselves but to all Mexican Americans. The conservative rhetoric of Spanish Americans likely appealed to the Daily Star editors and readers, who were predominantly Anglos. The reporter's choice to include the fact that the draft board would also benefit from the committee demonstrated that Spanish Americans were not only taking care of their own people, but they wanted to make Anglos' jobs easier, which in turn helped the war effort.

Whether it was the fact that many Mexican American draftees had difficulty reading and understanding the draft questionnaire or whether they felt pressured to have the committee look over their questionnaire, many of them turned to Club Latino's program. The Daily Star continued to cover the committee's efforts, and on November 13 the paper published an interview with the club president Roy Laos. Laos reported that the club was open every day, from five to seven o'clock in the evening, and because of the demand the special committee had to hire an additional notary. Laos reported that in addition to helping men fill out their draft blanks (questionnaires,) members also helped dependents of men serving in the military obtain their government allotments.31 Laos made the point that even though Club Latino was a Spanish American club, all servicemen and their families were welcomed to [End Page 175] take advantage of the service.32 Just as Laos stated that their committee would make the draft board's job easier, he also demonstrated that they were helping all men who were serving in the war, both Anglos and Mexican Americans. There are no records from the draft committee, so it is impossible to know if any Anglos took advantage of the program; however, the fact that Laos made the point that it was open to Anglos highlighted Spanish Americans' willingness to support the war by working with Anglos.

Identity and Representation

Discussion of the draft and military service centered on the very question of Spanish American identity. Eduardo Jacobs believed that the percentage of Mexican Americans serving in the army warranted Spanish American representation on the draft board, while Andy Martin wanted the middle class to establish a draft-board assistance program. The question, however, was not only which method was more effective, but it was also who had the right to claim to be Spanish American. Martin was a tireless advocate for not only the Mexican American community but for the fairness of the draft as a whole. Martin, like many of his draft-board counterparts, was a World War I veteran and a long-time resident of Tucson. He had attended San Agustin Parochial School, later owned and operated Martin's Drug Store in downtown Tucson, and became a member of the Elks, the Rotary Club, and the Knights of Columbus. He and Jacobs moved in the same social circles, and actually shared much more than just business and social contacts. Like Jacobs, he was not full Mexican. Jacobs's mother was Mexican American, but his father was Peruvian. Martin's father had been born in Ireland, while his mother hailed from Mexico. In the 1930 census, in which people of Mexican descent were classified as Mexican, Martin was listed as "white," and on his World War I draft card he was listed as Caucasian. In addition, Martin's sister, Matilda, was married to Ricardo Ronstadt, the brother of influential and powerful Tucsonense Frederico Ronstadt. Because race is socially and culturally constructed, Martin was truly an amalgamation of races.33 [End Page 176] His Anglo name and white skin color put him on the white side of the binary, but his family and social contacts also tied him to the Spanish American community.

Martin's activism, however, centered on performing whiteness. His speech at Club Kiwanis stressed the privilege that Martin and other Anglos possessed. Spanish Americans could not have made the same statements as Martin, no matter what the relationship between Tucson's Anglo elite and themselves. Martin's whiteness created a space to help Spanish Americans interject themselves into a larger debate. He used his biculturalism to bridge the gap between Anglos, Mexican Americans, and Spanish Americans. Martin may have been difficult to classify, especially within the Spanish American community, and this may have been one of the reasons that Jacobs, Moreno, and others in Club Latino did not acknowledge Martin as a Spanish American draft-board member.34 And even though Martin was an outspoken member of the draft board who brought attention to the draft disparity of Mexican Americans, members of Club Latino identified him as white. Martin was not part of the Spanish American elite, and while his activism mirrored that of other Spanish Americans, his light skin color and cultural whiteness, excluded him from others considering him a member of the Spanish American community. His close ties to the Anglo community mitigated his Spanish ethnicity. While Spanish Americans welcomed his activism, many of them did not consider Martin Spanish American. [End Page 177]

Other Tucson residents noted that the lines between white, Mexican, and Spanish were difficult to untangle. Tucsonans disagreed on how to classify Martin. In the mid-1940s, anthropologist Harry Getty studied Tucson's ethnic community as part of his dissertation. His study contains oral histories he conducted throughout Tucson's Mexican American community. Getty did not identify his interview subjects, referring to them only as informants with numbers. But in one such interview, Getty spoke to a Mexican American man concerning attitudes of Mexican Americans toward the war and how they felt they were represented within the community. The informant believed that Mexican Americans were overrepresented in the draft. He also stated that his father was on Board Two and that the board "handled [the draft] absolutely fairly, there is no discrimination."35 Getty commented that since Andy Martin was on Board One and his father was on Board Two, then Mexicans did have representation. The informant agreed, but then qualified his remark. He stated that his father was full Mexican, and Andy Martin was half Mexican. He does not give any more information about why he qualified Martin's racial identity, but he pointed out that "not many people realize that he is part Spanish-American."36 The same informant noted the ethnic/racial ambiguities of other Spanish American elites and questioned their allegiances. He mentioned Esteban Ochoa, who served on the Tucson City Council from 1936 to 1940 and was the secretary for the draft board. The informant complained that Ochoa was on the city council and while he "talked to Mexicans, when their backs were turned he would say insulting things about them to the Americans so he would get a laugh from the Americans." When Getty asked if he thought things might improve after the war, the informant stated that Charles Brady [End Page 178]

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Tucson Draft Board One. From left to right: J. B. Mead, Daniel J. Maye, Andrew P. Martin, Chairman Monte Mansfield, H. S. Corbett, and Ralph Bilby. Image 59443, PC 1000, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson.

was recently elected to the city council, and he might help improve Mexicans' prospects. He also pointed out that while Brady had an Irish name, he was fully Mexican, "because the Bradys have married so much with Mexicans that they are really Mexican now."37 The informant did not explain how Brady was going to help Mexicans in Tucson or why he accepted Brady as Mexican and not Martin, but his observations point to the complicated nature of the Mexican American community in Tucson.

Mexican Americans in Tucson worked in the in-betweenness of Mexican and American.38 Anglo political structures necessitated Mexican Americans turn to their own groups for help. The question, [End Page 179] however, was who represented Mexican Americans. While Martin was biracial, his name, his skin color, and his association with Anglos lessened his Mexican identity. In addition, in his first speech at the Kiwanis Club he stated he was ashamed of "our race," meaning Anglo, thereby performing his whiteness. Mixed-race Mexicans were common in Tucson, but for middle-class Spanish Americans, there was an understanding that one must identify and be recognized as a Spanish American in order to take on a leadership role within the community. While there was noticeable animosity between the working class and middle class, both acknowledged that Mexican Americans were best served by their own people. Martin was a fierce advocate for the fairness of the draft and was the one who pointed out that Mexican Americans were the bulk of draftees. He held meetings at Spanish American clubs and looked to the middle class to institute a committee in which to educate the working class. His paternalistic discourse resembled Alianza's message, in which the middle class must be the ones who lead the working class, but he was not a leader of the Mexican American community. Nowhere in the news articles or his letter to Governor Osborn did Jacobs acknowledge that Martin was Spanish American. Martin also never identified himself as Spanish American in any of his speeches or in response to Jacobs's contentions. Instead he continued pushing the middle class to help Mexican Americans with the draft questionnaire. In addition, his associations, especially after the war, centered much more on the Anglo community. Martin may have truly been caught in the middle of two ethnic groups, and he most likely felt more comfortable in the Anglo world. Martin never married and even though his sister was married to a Mexican, he was much closer to his brother, George, who also never married. He had contacts and friendships with the Spanish American middle class and felt that it was his duty to point out discrimination and inequality, but he did so from the white side of the binary.

Martin's interaction with the Spanish American community and Jacob's activism represented the distinctiveness of the sociocultural construction of race and ethnicity in the Tucson community. Tucson's relatively small population, large percentage of people of Mexican descent, and a well-established middle class which facilitated trade and economics across the U.S.–Mexico border encouraged Anglos and Spanish Americans to occupy the same political, [End Page 180] physical, and economic space. Unlike in other southwestern cities, such as Los Angeles, Tucson's Mexican Americans and Anglos had a relatively conciliatory relationship.39 In part because of this conciliatory relationship, large local civil rights organizations—ones that challenged discrimination in the courts or the press—developed later in Tucson than elsewhere. Instead Spanish Americans, including Jacobs and Moreno, served as the representatives and activists for Mexican Americans. As the draft-board controversy revealed, when faced with discrimination Tucson's Mexican Americans looked to their own leaders rather than national groups.

By 1943, the discussion of the draft-board had disappeared from the Tucson newspapers. Besides the publishing of the draft rolls, still with many Spanish surnames, there was no mention of the percentages of Mexican American draftees or the makeup of the draft board. While archival sources do not answer the question about why the controversy suddenly subsided, by 1943, with the growing need of men in the military, draft deferments became rare, even among Anglos. When deferments dropped, the fight for deferments or representation became less important. Jacobs, however, continued his service to the community. He became chairman of the war bond committee of the Committee of Festivities on Mexican Independence Day; helped establish La Asociación Hispano-Americana de Madres y Esposas, a Mexican American women's home-front association; and as owner of the Riverside Auditorium, he encouraged local officials to establish a recreation center for African American soldiers.40 Jacobs's work on behalf of the war effort helped maintain [End Page 181] his position as a liaison between the Mexican American community and Anglo leadership. Martin continued his work on the draft board and was also appointed honorary official of La Asociación Hispano-Americana de Madres y Esposas, continuing his relationship with the Spanish American community. After the war, he served as chairman of the mayor's emergency housing committee for returning veterans, remained involved in city politics, and continued to be a successful business owner.41

Race and class in the Tucson Mexican American community was complicated and non-linear. The middle class was comfortable being the leaders of the community and with their roles as spokesmen of the Mexican community. In one of Getty's interviews, an informant commented on the hierarchy of Mexican Americans in Tucson. According to him, in order to be considered a Spanish American elite, a person had to come from one of the old families, demonstrate qualities of leadership, and have money. The older and more prominent families had the most power.42 Jacobs was a descendent from one of the most prestigious families, the Carrillos. His maternal grandfather, Leopoldo Carrillo, was a pioneer in the freighting business and one of the original members of the Spanish American middle class. Jacobs's familial ties to Tucson and his successful businesses placed him in a position to question the fairness of the draft. For Martin, his power to be on the draft board came from his whiteness, but with his mixed ethnicity he felt he could be the bridge between Spanish Americans and Anglos. His defense of Mexican Americans, while rooted in paternalism and stereotypes, was an important catalyst in the quest for equality. The right to be an advocate did not just rest on ability. It was an amalgam of race, familial associations, gender, and class. [End Page 182]

Lora M. Key

LORA M. KEY is a doctoral candidate in the History Department at the University of Arizona, working on a dissertation titled "We're All Americans Now: How Mexican American Identity, Culture, and Gender Forged Civil Rights in World War II and Beyond."


1. "Andy P. Martin, Habla Claro!!" El Tucsonense (Tucson, Ariz.), August 4, 1942, p. 1.

2. It is unclear what sources Martin used to gather the population statistics of Mexican Americans in Tucson. Based on the 1940 U.S. census, the percentage of Mexican Americans in Tucson was most likely closer to 30 percent.

3. Richard Griswold del Castillo and Arnoldo De León, North to Aztlán: A History of Mexican Americans in the United States (New York, 1997), 102.

4. Throughout this essay I will use the term Mexican American for people who are of Mexican descent and citizens of the United States. If the citizenship of a person is in question, I will use the term person of Mexican descent. As I will argue, there was a distinction between Mexican Americans and Spanish Americans in Tucson. The middle class identified exclusively as Spanish American and referred to the working class as Mexican American. In addition, El Tucsonense and the two English-language newspapers usually referred to all people of Mexican descent as Spanish Americans, unless they reported on Mexican nationals.

5. Discrimination against Mexican Americans in wartime employment is well documented. Carlos Castañeda, a well-known Mexican American activist, served as the field examiner of the Dallas Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) and director of the San Antonio office. As a distinguished historian at the University of Texas, Castañeda wrote extensively about defense industries refusing to hire or promote people of Mexican descent. He was also involved with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in fighting discrimination in the workplace. For more information on discrimination against Mexican Americans in the defense industry, please see Emilio Zamora, Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas: Mexican Workers and Job Politics during World War II (College Station, Tex., 2010); Alonso Perales, Are We Good Neighbors? Mexican American (New York, 1974); Richard Griswold del Castillo, ed., World War II and Mexican American Civil Rights (Austin, Tex., 2008); Kevin Leonard, The Battle for Los Angeles: Racial Ideology and World War II (Albuquerque, 2006).

6. Estimate taken from the 1940 census records. It is extremely difficult to gain accurate demographic and population figures regarding people of Mexican descent. The 1940 census, unlike the 1930 census, did not distinguish people of Mexican descent; in the 1940 census they are categorized as "white." Therefore, the only way to determine population is through Spanish surnames and/or looking at the place of birth of their parents. The problem, however, is that many people of Mexican descent may have had Anglo/English surnames. In addition, in Arizona many Pascua Yaquis had Spanish surnames, spoke Spanish, and intermarried with Mexican Americans; however, they identified as Native Americans. Mexican American population figures from Thomas Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses: The Mexican Community in Tucson, 1854–1941 (Tucson, 1986), 3. Harry T. Getty, an anthropologist studying ethnic Tucson in the late 1940s, estimated there were eighteen thousand people of Mexican descent in Tucson. His estimates are high, given the population of Tucson using the 1940 census. It is probable that Getty used estimates from a small sample section and/or included Pascua Yaquis in his figures. Harry T. Getty dissertation draft, "Mexican Society in the Community of Tucson, Arizona," p. 30, Box 1, MS 14, Harry T. Getty Papers, Arizona State Museum, Tucson, Ariz. (hereinafter ASM).

7. Members of the middle class banded together to highlight their contributions to the Tucson community and served as an informal civil rights organization. Their economic power partially shielded them from Anglo subjugation. For more information on the foundation and function of Tucson's Spanish American middle class, see Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses and Geraldo Cadava, Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland (Cambridge, Mass., 2013).

8. For more information on Mexican Americans' distinct racial construction, please see Ian Haney-Lopez, White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York, 2006); Neil Foley, Becoming Hispanic: Mexican Americans and the Faustian Pact with Whiteness in Reflexiones 1997: New Directions in Mexican American Studies (Austin, Tex., 1998). For race as a socio-political construction, please see Thomas A. Guglielmo, "Fighting for Caucasian Rights: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and the Transnational Struggle for Civil Rights in World War II Texas," Journal of American History 92 (March 2006): 1212–37; Peggy Pascoe, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (New York, 2009); David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London, 1991); Thomas A. Guglielmo, White on Arrival: Italians, Race, Color, and Power in Chicago, 1890–1945 (New York, 2004); Tyina Steptoe, Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City (Berkeley, Calif., 2016).

9. This essay builds on the foundational historiography of Mexican Americans, in particular, George J. Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900–1945 (New York, 2014); and Vicki Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America (New York, 1998). My study diverges from each of their arguments, however, specifically with Sánchez's "ambivalent Americans" and Ruiz's "cultural coalescence." Spanish Americans in Tucson were not ambivalent, nor did they absorb Americanism. They actively expressed their Spanish (Mexican) heritage and interjected it into Tucson's Anglo community. They valued bilingualism, Mexican holidays, and American patriotism. Their goal, especially during the war, was to make being Mexican acceptable. In Standing on Common Ground, Geraldo Cadava traces the importance of the transnational exchanges between Arizona and Sonora that played a key role in the economy and Spanish Americans' leadership position within Tucson.

10. As George Lipsitz argues, whiteness comes with "wealth, prestige, and opportunity," and middle-class Spanish Americans used their whiteness to their advantage in business and social situations. While Martin's whiteness empowered him to call out overrepresentation of Mexican Americans in the military, Spanish Americans were careful to not be too outspoken or critical of any wartime needs. They were acutely aware that any challenge against the draft could be construed as unpatriotic and reflect badly on all people of Mexican descent. George Lipsitz, Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics (Philadelphia, 2006), vii.

11. The Spanish-language newspaper El Tucsonense was integral to keeping Tucson's Mexican American population abreast of local and national news of the war.

12. El Tucsonense, August 4, 1942. Given the context of the article and Martin's contentions, when he referred to "our young Americans" he was referring to whites.

13. El Tucsonense used the term "Federal Justice Attorneys," but most likely Martin was referring to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

14. Edward Oxford, "The Draft and the Selective-Service System in World War II," American History 29 (Sept/Oct 1994): 30.

15. Compared to the Vietnam-era draft, World War II's draft was more equitable and drew from a wider swath of the population. In addition, because of the attack on Pearl Harbor men were more willing to join the military, and, after suffering through the Depression years, military paychecks provided a dependable source of income. But as Michael C. C. Adams has argued, this is not to say that there was not discrimination with the draft. Adams points out that blacks had a lower deferment rate than whites and many states, especially in the South, refused to let them serve on the draft boards. For more information on America's response to the draft, please see Michael C. C. Adams, The Best War Ever: America and World War II (Baltimore, 1994).

16. Tucson Daily Citizen, October 28, 1942. El Tucsonense often carried stories of Club Latino's members and activities. Before the war, it functioned as more of a social club than a civil rights organization. But during the war, it became more active in the community, specifically with the draft controversy. For more information on Club Latino and other middle-class organizations in Tucson, please see Sheridan, Los Tucsonenses.

17. Tucson Daily Citizen, October 28, 1942.

18. Ruben Flores looks at reforms in education in post-revolutionary Mexico and how Mexican American leaders of the nascent civil rights movement used education to integrate diverse populations into a unified society. Flores argues that Mexican intellectuals George Sánchez, Lloyd Tireman, and Ralph Beals used John Dewey's pragmatism to work for cultural change that led to crafting arguments to challenge school segregation. These pragmatists used Mexico's own struggle with ethnic diversity to model their own desegregation cases in postwar America. Educating across cultures, and classes, was instrumental in this shift. It is not unlike how Spanish Americans used their position in Tucson to negotiate between Anglos and Mexican Americans. See Flores, Backroads Pragmatists: Mexico's Melting Pot and Civil Rights in the United States (Philadelphia, 2014).

19. "Tips to avoid abuse or discrimination," El Tucsonense, October 30, 1942.

20. "We do not have representatives!," El Tucsonense, September 4, 1942, p. 1. Ochoa, who in the English-language press was identified as Stephen T. Ochoa, was serving as secretary of the draft board in May 1942 when the board picked his draft number.

21. Alianza Hispano Americana was a mutual-benefit society founded in Tucson in 1894. The members of Tucson's lodges were most often descendants from older families and prominent business and civic leaders. During the war, members changed their focus from a benefit organization to war-effort activities. While they took part in formal home-front activities, they also highlighted the importance of working-class Mexican Americans serving in the military. Their newsletter, Alianza Alliance, often contained editorials or news items that encouraged Mexican Americans to join the military in order to earn respect from Anglos. Members believed that military service instilled discipline and responsibility, which was integral to postwar success for all people of Mexican descent.

22. "We do not have representatives!," El Tucsonense, September 4, 1942, p. 1.

23. "We do not have representatives!," Tucson Daily Citizen, September 7, 1942, p. 3.

24. David Gutiérrez argues that Mexican Americans felt conflicting pressures, one between their cultural affinity and their desire for political and social inclusion as Americans that they often questioned their political and cultural identity. These pressures resulted in an "ambiguous moral and existential borderland." For Spanish Americans, their desire for inclusion in the Anglo majority meant that they often subjugated, in practice and thought, the working and lower classes. David Gutiérrez, Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity (Berkeley, Calif., 1995), 6.

25. On gender and performance, see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York, 1990). For Spanish Americans, performing masculinity was directly tied to class. They performed their masculinity through business and civic participation with Anglos. They argued that the working class did not have those advantages, but military service was one of the ways in which they could prove themselves.

26. Tucson Daily Citizen, September 7, 1942, p. 3.

27. Evo DeConcini to Sydney Osborn, October 22, 1942, File 20, Box 20, Papers of Governor Sydney Osborn, 1941–1948, RG001, Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records, Phoenix, Ariz.

28. Tucson Daily Citizen, August 5, 1942, p. 7. Pima County's draft boards used First Avenue as the dividing line. West of First Avenue, Board One served more Mexican neighborhoods while Board Two covered everything west of First Avenue that served more Anglo Americans. Each board was responsible for approximately thirty thousand people. In addition, members of the Pascua Yaqui tribe often had Spanish surnames and shared cultural markers with people of Mexican descent, but they identified as Native American. It is, therefore, difficult to gain an accurate percentage of Mexican Americans and Native Americans. For more information on the socioeconomic spaces of southern Arizona, please see Eric V. Meeks, Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans, and Anglos in Arizona (Austin, Tex., 2007).

29. Members of the Spanish American middle class functioned as a nascent civil rights organization during the war years. There was not a LULAC chapter in Tucson during the war, and therefore the middle class assumed the role of activists. But, much like Benjamin Márquez contends about LULAC's philosophy, Spanish Americans in Tucson were very conservative in their activism, which "valued free market capitalism and individual mobility." While members of LULAC and Tucson's middle class did engage with racial issues and discrimination, they tended to focus more on self-activism and economic viability than with direct challenges to specific instances of discrimination. See Benjamin Márquez, LULAC: The Evolution of a Mexican American Political Organization (Austin, Tex., 1993), 3–4.

30. Arizona Daily Star, November 9, 1942, p. 8. English-language newspapers used the term Mexican only when referring to Mexican nationals and at times when people of Mexican descent were accused of a crime or if their nationality was ambiguous.

31. While the sources do not mention specific allotments, family members of the soldiers could authorize the government to send a portion of their paycheck to dependents. In addition, soldiers were also eligible for life insurance in case of death. Mexican American families depended on these benefits, and Club Latino's assistance with filling out the required paperwork proved a great service to the community.

32. Arizona Daily Star, November 13, 1942, p. 7.

33. Marriage is one of the ways in which race is constructed. As Peggy Pascoe argues, intermarriage complicates racial identification and construction. Martin's mixed ethnicity, his sister's family, and his friendship with Spanish American businessmen complicated his racial identity. Please see Pascoe, What Comes Naturally. In addition, Ariela Gross argues that race—especially of Mexican Americans—was produced through language and culture. Martin was Catholic, attended parochial school, and English was his primary language. See Ariela Gross, "'The Caucasian Cloak': Mexican Americans and the Politics of Whiteness in the Twentieth-Century Southwest," Georgetown Law Journal 95 (2007): 337–92.

34. While the historiography of the military draft usually addresses the Vietnam War and the overrepresentation of Chicanos and African Americans in military service, Tucson's draft board offers the opportunity to discuss racial construction in not just the drafting of soldiers but also the makeup of the draft board. For more information on race and the draft, please see Paul T. Murray, "Who is an Indian? Who is a Negro?: Virginia Indians in the World War II Draft," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 95 (April 1987): 215–31; Christian G. Appy, Working-Class War: American Combat Soldiers and Vietnam (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1993). Appy argues that those who fought in Vietnam overwhelmingly came from working-class families because they did not gain a college deferment or have the connections in which to avoid military service. While his monograph focuses on Vietnam, it is important to understand that the working class had much less experience and privileges than members of the middle and upper classes. This holds true for World War II, especially with Mexican Americans. As Martin pointed out, defense industries preferred to hire Anglos and, therefore, working-class Mexican Americans could not earn a deferment due to employment.

35. Harry T. Getty field notes, June 12, 1945, Folder 5, Box 3, M-17, Getty Papers, ASM. It is unclear who served as Getty's informant (the man who claimed his father was on the draft board) in this instance. In reviewing members of Board One in 1945, there is no member with a Spanish surname. He stated that J. B. Mead resigned and moved to Phoenix and Governor Osborn asked his father to fill the vacancy. According to newspaper articles in 1945 and 1946, however, J. B. Mead is still listed as a member of the board.

36. Getty field notes, June 12, 1945, ASM. In this same interview, this informant criticized the Spanish American elite as a whole. Getty only used initials, but the informant referred to "EAJ" and "AJ" (presumably Edward Jacobs and Alex Jácome) and that they were only out for themselves, not the good of the community. He stated that "AJ" was always put on public committees but he did not care about his people. It is interesting to note that throughout the draft-board controversy, Alex Jácome's name was never mentioned, and it does not seem that he waded into the debate even though he was a member of Club Latino and actively involved in Tucson's war effort activities and city events.

37. Getty field notes, June 12, 1945, ASM. Once again, many Mexican Americans referred to Anglos as Americans. In most cases, the term American does not refer to citizenship; they used it to delineate race.

38. David Roediger uses "in-betweenness" to describe eastern and southern European immigrants' racial ambiguity at the turn of the century. The in-betweenness reflects their "less than white" distinction and the inferior social and political conditions they endured. Mexican Americans had legal delineation of whiteness, but they operated between white and Mexican. David Roediger, Working toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White (New York, 2006).

39. For more information on Mexican American activism during World War II, see Griswold del Castillo, World War II and Mexican American Civil Rights; Leonard, Battle for Los Angeles; Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, ed., Mexican Americans and World War II (Austin, Tex., 2005); Luis Alvarez, The Power of the Zoot: Youth Culture and Resistance during World War II (Berkeley, Calif., 2008); Steven Rosales, Soldados Razos at War: Chicano Politics, Identity, and Masculinity in the U.S. Military from World War II to Vietnam (Tucson, 2017); Elizabeth Escobedo, From Coveralls to Zoot Suits: The Lives of Mexican American Women on the World War II Home Front (Chapel Hill, N.C., 2013); Mario T. García, "Americans All: The Mexican American Generation and the Politics of Wartime Los Angeles, 1941–45," Social Science Quarterly 65 (June 1984): 278–89.

40. La Asociación Hispano-Americana de Madres y Esposas (Association of Hispanic-American Mothers and Wives) was organized by middle-class Spanish Americans in March 1944 for Mexican American women to help with the war effort on the home front. They organized bond drives, which often took place on Mexican holidays, and community events. They also published a newsletter, "Chatter," which they sold in the community and sent to the soldiers overseas. All proceeds from the sales went to building a recreation center for Mexican American soldiers. For more information see Christine Marín, "La Asociación Hispano-Americana de Madres y Esposas: Tucson's Mexican American Women in World War II," Renato Rosaldo Lecture Series Monograph, vol. 1 (Tucson, 1985), 5–18. Information on Jacobs taken from various sources, including Jacobs Family biofile, Box 65, MS1475, Elizardo A. Jacobs Family, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson, Ariz. (hereinafter AHSTucson), and articles in El Tucsonense, Arizona Daily Star, and Tucson Daily Citizen.

41. Information on Martin taken from various sources including Andy Martin Papers, MS 476, AHS-Tucson, and articles in El Tucsonense, Arizona Daily Star, and Tucson Daily Citizen.

42. Harry T. Getty field notes, July 17, 1947, Folder 5, Box 3, Harry T. Getty Papers, ASM.

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