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Acuña | Overlooked public intellectuals in the commotion of the Sixties | mexmigration: History and Politics of Mexican Immigration

During the sixties Los Angeles became a Mexican City, and not just because it was the third largest Mexican city after Mexico City and Guadalajara but because it was a media center.

Acuña | Overlooked public intellectuals in the commotion of the Sixties | mexmigration: History and Politics of Mexican Immigration

Context is everything in understanding what happened in the past.

“Historical context refers to the moods, attitudes, and conditions that existed in a certain time. Context is the ‘setting’ for an event that occurs, and it will have an impact on the relevance of the event. Context is an important factor to consider when describing something in history.”

It is difficult to understand the sixties without the proper context even if you lived through them. Much of what is being written today overly relies on oral histories or “war stories” as they are sometimes called.

While I take pride in having lived through the sixties, I realize that living through that decade does not guarantee I know what happened. The best I can get is to develop a “feeling” for the decade. Even newspapers and documentaries are often as opinionated as the results of many oral interviews.

The sixties were an awakening for me. They were an escape from the fifties that were stifled by the army; marrying young and hustling a degree; working 40 to 60 hours a week while carrying 16 to 18 units. The sixties’ baruyo, commotion, disorder and chaos, seduced me. I was the last one leaving meetings because I thought I was going to miss something.

Los Angeles in 1950 was the whitest major American city – at the time it was 78 percent white. The 1960 Census counted a total of 3,464,999 Spanish-surnamed persons across the Southwestern states; this was clearly an undercount (see, for e.g., Issacharoff and Lichtman; Hillygus et al.) About 82 percent of the Mexican-origin population lived in just two states: Texas and California. During the 1960s, Los Angeles County’s Mexican population doubled from 576,716 to 1,228,593—an increase of 113 percent. The white population decreased from 4,877,150 to 4,777,909, which was a 2 percent drop.

During the sixties Los Angeles became a Mexican City, and not just because it was the third largest Mexican city after Mexico City and Guadalajara but because it was a media center.

At the center of the baruyo was the Los Angeles Times that ruled Los Angeles. By 1959, the Times’ ruling elite realizing that LA was changing and so Rubén Salazar, an El Paso reporter, was hired as a foreign correspondent and columnist.

It is safe to say that the baruyo seduced Salazar who became more engaged. Being a columnist for the Times put Salazar in the eye of the storm. At the time the rap was that if you wanted to read the funnies (comics) or the sports page you should buy the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner; if you wanted serious news, then you read the Times.

Salazar had an immediate impact on Mexican Americans. Most the Chicana/o activists anticipated Salazar’s articles, and we would discuss them. Mexicans in print then were as rare as people of color in the reader Dick and Jane.

When I read about the sixties, I am dismayed that no one has really put Salazar’s articles into a historical context. His 1963 and 1964 articles are keys to understanding Mexican American identity in urban centers of the Southwest.

Cholos [sic] Credit: simonsbrickyard

By 1963 Salazar hit his stride, reviewing the disparate labels describing Mexican Americans: la raza, pocho, Mexican-American, cholo, American born-Mexican, Spanish-American, and Latin American. Salazar covered the rare Mexican American conferences and the school dropout problem.

via Acuña | Overlooked public intellectuals in the commotion of the Sixties | mexmigration: History and Politics of Mexican Immigration.

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