Becoming Mexican American

by George J. Sanchez

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What are the three main points of the Mexican American Movement in Sanchez's The Rise of the Second Generation, and has the generational tension continued?

Quick answer:

The three main points of the Mexican American Movement were that education could help Mexican Americans confront prejudice, grasp the larger world, and generate success. The clash between immigrant parents and native-born Mexican Americans revolved around their divergent attitudes toward Mexico, American politics, and self-expression.

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The Mexican American Movement (MAM) revolved around the importance of education. For MAM members, education addressed three critical points. First, it made Mexicans less vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination. Second, education helped Mexicans grasp the complexities of the world and move beyond the barrio. Finally, it propelled success and advancement, as one could accomplish quite a bit with a college degree.

The emphasis on education helped young Mexicans become aware of national issues and engage with politics. Such developments caused clashes between immigrant parents and native-born Mexican Americans. The younger generation thought of itself as American and a part of its democratic process. There were no “divided loyalties between the United States and Mexico.” The younger generation was not keen on Mexico. Their future rested on America. America could provide them with opportunities that were absent in Mexico, whose inept government they criticized.

Some young Mexican Americans argued that their cultural heritage was something of an impediment. While they respected it, they didn’t think it was a “useful guide for success in America.” They asked parents to abstain from imposing their values and beliefs on them so that they could form their own identities. The divergent mores were on display in the clothing worn by the younger generation. George J. Sanchez uses the examples of the zoot suit, bloomers, and short skirts to show how young Mexican Americans were less willing to let their parents dictate their personal expression.

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