Before the cause of the Great Depression, the economy of the United States experienced a high growth in history after World War 1. The 1920’s hit an economic boom with many individuals consuming more than ever. Wages for many workers increased and stock prices had risen at its greatest. Americans invested their money in the stock market and deposited it into banks, eventually leading the supply of money to grow rapidly. Banks opened at a rate of 4-5 a day, leaving the stock market to fall down 40% during the late 1920’s.
It became a rough period for the economy because the crash added a significant amount of pressure on banks and a great deal of money to be taken out of the economy. The Great Depression became the worst economic crisis not only in the United States but internationally that began in 1929 and lasted until 1939. It was the longest and most severe depression ever experienced. This financial crisis led to unemployment for many Americans, but it was much worse for Mexican and Mexican Americans. Mexican Americans dealt with a higher percentage of unemployment compared to whites. It was at this point, when Mexicans went through hardship to fight for their rights during the summer of 1940.
While coming to the United States, many Mexicans believed migrating to California would give them a higher pay wage than what Mexico could give. Mexico went through a crisis that affected all individuals, such as whole families who were frequently positioned in pursuit of employment. They were in need of relocation to support their families and even young children took part of the economic crisis working to earn income. An image taken during the Great Depression, shows a young boy working in the farm field, forced into child labor at such an early age, working intensive hours for the motive of survival.
Although Mexicans were in fact paid more in the United States than in Mexico, Mexican Americans were paid significantly less than white workers. In “Depression Era: 1930’s: Repatriation for Mexican & Filipino Farm Workers” by Tadeo Weiner Davis, states three quarters of California’s 200,000 farm workers were Mexican or Mexican Americans. Government officials claimed Mexican immigrants took plentiful of jobs in California, leaving Americans to become “unemployed”, but in reality this was far from true because many times Mexican Americans were the first to be fired as employees felt imperative to give preference to Anglo workers.
Although Mexican Americans did take most of the employment than any other ethnic group, with the exception of whites, they faced challenges as well, such as cheap labor and discrimination based on their race. They were put at a disadvantage during the 1930’s, perceived as foreigners, regardless of their actual citizenship. Mexicans were unable to find work due to work relief programs adopting a “citizen only” policy, which regarded “whites only”. America did not only give Mexican workers cheap labor, but they too demanded that Mexicans should be deported in the attempt to open more job opportunities for Americans.
Mexicans were left with only so little hope that their only option to survive in the Great Depression was to depend on programs supported by the government, such as the Farm Security Administration that established camps for migrants workers who were unemployed, yet again programs such as these had residency requirements, denying those who were ineligible under workers compensation, Social security, etc. Mexicans were perceived as scapegoats who were willing to take orders and easy to have control of.
Americans were able to hand Mexican Americans the least secure job with low pay and betray them due to lack of education. Mexicans came in hopes of coming to a land filled with opportunities of stability, but the crisis that was occurring during the 1920’s lead for many to feel bilittle and taken advantage of.
The crisis worsen as many were forced to leave the United States. The government created a program to repatriate immigrants to Mexico. The majority of Mexicans voluntarily traveled back to Mexico knowing they had no choice but to follow the government’s order and to leave their home in the United States. Free rides were offered to Mexicans, a way to get rid of them rapidly, leaving more than half of the the United States population to travel to Mexico, including Mexican American native borners. Any individual with a Mexican-sounding name or in suspicion of being Mexican were sent to Mexico.
As seen, racism was the primary factor during The Great Depression, whites believed their rights came before anyone else’s, but in reality Mexican Americans had rights of their own to be served too, yet it was unnoticed due to the discrimination and hatred that was occuring during The Great Depression.
Republicans believed “true” Americans were ones who were not of Spanish descent and legally born in the United States, but didn’t the city of Los Angeles first start as a Spanish Pueblo that was later taken away by whites? Were they not the first residents to arrive in the Spanish land that is now known as the city of Los Angeles? Furthermore, raids were held in workplaces and in public to seize Mexicans back to the country they originated from.
One of the most famous spots in where Mexicans were found for deportation was in downtown Los Angeles’ Placita Olvera. In “Mass Deportation May Sound Unlikely, But It’s Happened Before” by Adrian Florido, states raids were planned to spread fear throughout Mexican barrios and add pressure on Mexican and Mexican Americans to leave on their own, sadly it succeeded. Mexicans were betrayed and filled with lies as social workers shared the disadvantage they would face if they stayed in the United States. Most were told they’d lose their jobs and be better off living in Mexico, but Mexico was greatly impacted from the Great Depression too, with not much job opportunities to give to their people. Once Mexicans were sent back to Mexico, job openings were soon made for whites to acquire, but why were individuals of Mexican heritage the target for deportation?
In “A Decade of Betrayal: How the U.S Expelled Over a Half Million U.S Citizens to Mexico in 1930’s” by Professor Francisco Balderrama, states Mexican Immigration was very current, with a saying “Last hired, first fired.” Citizens reflected in larger cities the idea that “A Mexican is a Mexican” and it should stay in those terms whether one was born in the United States or not, but how can a Mexican American be repatriated in a country in where they were not born or raised in? Children of young age had to travel to Mexico, dealing with the process of adapting to a new environment and learning a language they weren’t accustomed to. They were in full hopes to return to their country, but due to the economy’s status during the period of The Great Depression, they remained detained in Mexico.
Few Mexican Americans later returned back to America, due to having a friend or family member that undertook a copy of their birth certificate or proof of citizenship and for those who weren’t U.S citizens had an “opportunity” to flea back to the country in which they had been removed from to join labor that was in high demand in the U.S. Mexicans that were once kicked out of were then needed back in the country to complete low-paying agriculture work. In 1942, the repatriation movement ended, creating an Emergency Farm Labor Program, commonly known as the Bracero Program. The Bracero Program was designed as a seasonal employment program that gave many workers employment. The program brought Mexican workers to replace American workers who were dislocated from the war.
The U.S and Mexico signed an agreement to create this Mexican Farm Labor Program to establish the legislation and controllment of Mexican migrant workers coming along in America’s southern border area with guarantees of Mexican workers getting paid the minimum wage of 30 cents per hour and receiving “proper treatment”. In “Depression, War, and Civil Rights” Nicholas De Genova states that during the 1940’s President Harry S., a Truman’s Commision on Migratory Labor declared, “The demand for migratory labor is thus essentially twofold: To be ready to go to work when needed, to be gone when not needed.” The United States was eager to recruit Mexicans during the period of World War II.
Many individuals took advantage of Mexican workers believing they would work for cheap wage under harsh circumstances. Even though Mexican immigrant workers were in desperate need to acquire a job in the United States they too were aware of creating standards that were needed in order to stay protected. Furthermore, the United States did not fulfill its promise.
Employers ignored the 1943 protection agreement that included standards such as protection for workers wages, housing, and food. Mexican workers were given excessive costs with poor food and housing and under the exposure to harmful substances. The United States federal government gave up their role as supervisors, allowing workers and employers to create their own contracts. It created discrimination practices towards Mexican workers as they were stripped off and sprayed with DDT, which is a toxic chemical that was used to get rid of Mexican migrants who had diseases and presumed to be carrying it in the United States.
Many Mexican individuals underwent medical examinations as they seemed poor and impoverished. Workers who only spoke Spanish were picked at by farmers and treated as scapegoats. The treatment of Mexicans being treated as scapegoats was due to Americans becoming upset by the Bracero Program agreement.
They were angered that Mexican immigrants had the guarantees of coming back to the United States. Violations then occurred as Mexican workers were given tasks beyond those specified in their contract agreement. A particular spot in where racism was highly held was in Texas. Texas had frequent abuses going on between its growers and Mexican workers, a high number of undocumented workers who were allowed to cross the border worked without the government’s supervision nor required a written contract. Texas growers employed men, women, and even children to work well below the levels specified by the Bracero program, giving them an average income less than ten dollars a week.
Although Mexicans sought opportunities to return to the United States with high hopes in acquiring a job by the Bracero Program, they continued to face racial prejudice and taken as second-class citizens. Many Mexicans and Mexican Americans had a hard time accustoming in the United States. The city of Los Angeles was unprepared to provide affordable housing for a large amount of immigrants. This lead Mexicans to live in barrios, such as the Chavez Ravine that is now known to be the Dodger Stadium. Chavez Ravine quickly became a segregated community with poor living conditions, isolating Mexican Americans with racial segregation and discrimination. Mexican American young individuals who came to the United States during the 1940’s were the first in their families to grow up in an urban environment, faced with a challenge to live in two cultures.
Though they were native borners many were still denied equal rights and privileges because of the segregation that was occurring during that time. It lead Mexican Americans to associate with members of their race and class, creating a social isolation in society. The Zoot Suit Riot was then a series that took place in 1943 in where violent fights occurred between Zoot Suiters and Marines in the city of Los Angeles. Zoot Suiters who identified themselves as Pachucos wore extravagant suits, creating a scandal in which many believed was an unpatriotic movement during WWII. Mexicans took pride of their distinctive style because it allowed them to create a community of their own with a sense of belonging. They were challenged with many hardships as they were beaten in the streets and accused of wrongdoings, but it lead many Mexicans to take part in this community, creating a difference in the treatment their race was facing during a hard time of segregation.
While many whites believed Mexicans immigrating to the United States was a negative factor during the 1940’s, it was more of a positive outcome as Mexicans helped during a hard period of time. They were challenged and discriminated by many civilians, but rather than taking it as an acceptance they made a movement to fight for their rights and equality because they too had reasons to stay in the United States. They had rights of their own, and even though it was unnoticed at first they made an improvement in improving the racial prejudice their race was facing, and now many can look back at the hardships Mexicans had faced to break the isolation that occured from The Great Depression.