In BECOMING MEXICAN AMERICAN George J. Sanchez breaks new ground in ethnic studies by arguing persuasively that even before World War II, Mexican Americans in Los Angeles had formed their own unique identity oriented not toward Mexico but to their new home. Often denied equal opportunity in employment and education, Mexican immigrants nevertheless built cohesive communities and adapted their cultural practices to American conditions. Beset by pressures from Americans to assimilate and from Mexican government representatives to remain loyal to their homeland, Mexican Americans found a middle way of being Mexican while living as citizens of the United States. In the American milieu of competing religious faiths, many Mexican women quietly continued Catholic traditions at home while others converted to Protestantism. Mexican Americans continued to eat their native foods, but immediately adopted American fashions. Spanish-language musicians flourished by commercializing their evolving styles of music. When the second generation came of age in the 1930’s, they participated in American party politics and labor unions in order to improve conditions for Mexican Americans.
Using statistical analysis, narrative, and compelling individual histories, Sanchez demonstrates that Mexican Americans became loyal, hard-working citizens deserving of equal rights and privileges. When faced with discrimination and unlawful repatriation, Mexican Americans quietly persevered and survived to assert their identity as a distinctive ethnic community within the American nation.