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More recently UNO has had meetings with Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and with the so-called Commitee of 25, representing the city's Anglo establishment. UNO also did battle with the Safeway grocery chain after Mrs. Diane Tarango had initiated a complaint about the service in her local Safeway store. Initially, Miss Lopez said, the chairman of the Safeway board simply hung up when UNO telephoned him. But after a UNO campaign, Safeway is undertaking improvements in the entire East Los Angeles area, with the chairman of the board himself calling Mrs. Tarango to report progress or explain delays.Skip to next paragraph
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Fr. Villaroya said: "The Mexican-American is losing his sense of infiority. He has seen that he does not have to become Anglo to get anywhere. Once you get taste power, you do not surrender it."
As an outsider journeys from one Hispanic community to another in the US, he realizes that if the Mexican-American has long had a sense of inferiority, he has also had something denied other Hispanics which gives him a latent strength and an abiding consciousness of his roots. This is the umbilical cord provided by the geographical contiguity of Mexico with the US and by the knowledge that the five states where most Chicanos live were once totally or partially under the Mexican flag. They did not become part of the US until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, which sealed the victory of the US in the Mexican-American War (1846-48).
In New Mexico in particular, there are Mexican-American families who can trace their ancestry there back through several generations to the era that preceded the war. (Ironically, however, New Mexico is the one of the five Southwestern states with Hispanic concentrations in which Latinos are declining as a proportion of the total population. The other four are California, Arizona , Colorado, and Texas.) But whether they be of such longstanding residence or relative newcomers, Hispanics in the southwest live with reminders of the area's Mexican past in the names of cities, rivers, mountain ranges, even of streets. Often there goes with these a residue of Mexican-Spanish architecture.
Consequently, their relationship to the country under whose flag they now live is radically different from that of descendants of the great 19th-century European migration to the US. European immigrants consciously broke with their past, cut the umbilical cord to their native lands, and crossed 3,000 miles of ocean -- a symbolic divide -- to start a new life in the New world. Unlike the Chicanos, the two other major Hispanic groups, the Puerto Ricans and the Cubans, also had to cross water to get here, even if the circumstances of their arrival also differ from that of the Europeans.
In his recently published book, "Race and and Class in the Southwest," Mario Barrera of the University of California at Berkeley has written: "In the 19th century the area known now as the Southwest was incorportated into the United States through a war of conquest. With the Southwest came a population of former Mexican citizens who were granted citizenship by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. These were the original Chicanos. During the remainder of the century a social and economic structure crystallized in the Southwest in which Chicanos and other racial minorities were established in subordinate status. It is into this structure that succeeding generations of Chicanos have been fitted during the 20th century, with some modifications."
That structure persists. But Chicanos are making the first effective efforts to change it. They are increasingly conscious of the latent power that is theirs if it is harnessed and directed.
Next: The Cubans