Perceptions and Misconceptions
As the Mexican American community became larger,
it became increasingly prominent in American public life.
When former Mexican territories became states,
they began to affect the balance of power in the U.S. government.
National political figures began to court voters in Mexican American
regions of the country, even though the candidates themselves
were still overwhelmingly European Americans. In this newsreel
from 1916, Theodore Roosevelt campaigns in Albuquerque, New Mexico,
for Republican presidential nominee Charles Evans Hughes. The
man seated next to Roosevelt in the car appears to be Albert
B. Fall, one of the new state of New Mexico's first U.S. senators.
The entertainment industry also showed some
awareness of the new importance of Mexican culture.
Publishers and songwriters turned out a steady stream of products
with "Mexican" or "Spanish" themes, from advertisements to plays to popular
songs. These works generally had little or nothing to do with
the realities of Mexican life, in the U.S. or anywhere else. At
best, they pandered to romanticized images of life south of the
border. The worst among them perpetuated gross ethnic stereotypes
and racist slurs.
Other groups saw the growing Mexican immigrant
population as a social problem and worked to eliminate what they
saw as the negative aspects of Mexican American life. One school
pamphlet, "Americanization through Homemaking," suggested
that putting Mexican girls into sewing, cooking, and cleaning
classes was the key to social harmony. "If we assimilate the
countless number of Mexicans that cross our Southern border…we
must begin at the basic structure of their social order--the