Study Questions for George J. Sánchez’s Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945

The following study guide/study questions for George J. Sánchez’s Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 will help you prepare for assignments/discussions/etc.

Throughout all of the chapters be sure to consider corresponding hopes and fears, reflections and expressions and how these both mirror and shape subsequent events and peoples. 

Chapter one (“Farewell Homeland) and two (“Across the Dividing Line): 

How did industrialism affect life in Mexico and in the U.S., especially where trains and notions of health and education are concerned? Why did people cross the border between geopolitical areas called “United States” and “Mexico” – consider “push” and “pull” factors on micro and macro levels; political, economic, social, and religious levels too? What reactions did people in the U.S. have to this “circular migration”? How did people in the U.S. cause this immigration?  How did new immigration laws change how, when, and why people crossed and did not cross the border? What does the book mean when it discusses the deep roots of Mexicans in the U.S.?

Chapter three (“Newcomers in the City of Angels”):

Why were people recruited from Mexico? Why did they move to Los Angeles? How did Los Angeles’s population change and as a result of this change, how did attitudes and the geography of the city change? How did employment opportunities or expectations of employment opportunities change? What aspects of industrialism discussed in-class overlap with content in this chapter?

Chapter four (“Americanization and the Mexican Immigrant”):

What were the demographics of Los Angeles, and how did these change? What is nativism? What did the Americanization programs attempt to do, why were they created, and what were the intended and unintended limits? Why did some programs focus on Mexican women? How did White people in Los Angeles attempt to transplant their culture and regulate morality? How did reformers react to fears of “the Other(s)”? What gap existed between the ideal and the real? What happened to Mexican Americans in the 1930s?

Chapter five (“The ‘New Nationalism,’ Mexican Style”):

What were the different aspects involved in the “battle for cultural allegiance,” and how does this relate to notions of nationalism? What “divided loyalties” existed? What were the consequences of the Mexican Revolution and the Constitution of 1917? What role did the Mexican government play in the everyday life of Mexicans living in Los Angeles? What form did Mexicianization efforts take in everyday life, in work, in schools, and in political activity? How did Mexicans slowly become “Mexican Americans”? 

Chapter six (“Family Life and the Search for Stability”):

How does Sánchez disagree with other historians? How does he characterize/historicize the ever-changing immigrant experience, the Mexican family, and problems they encountered? What variables help determine the changing experiences Mexicans had coming to and settling in the United States? Who did Mexicans marry, at what age, and why? How many children did they have? Who worked and didn’t? Did immigrants find more freedom and independence in the Los Angeles? What kind of sex/gender mores existed? 

Chapter seven (“The Sacred and the Profane: Religious Adaptations”):

What manifestations did religion take? How did notions of sex/gender, economics, private vs public spaces, and competition factor in? What challenged “traditional” religious mores, and why? How does Protestantism connected to changes associated with industrialism? When and why did people change their religious beliefs and how they expressed these? How did bonds of ethnicity and identity prove more powerful and long-lasting than politics / religion? 

Chapter eight (“Familiar Sounds of Change: Music and the Growth of Mass Culture”):

What factors made Los Angeles the on-going destination for Mexicans? What were consequences of the declining power of religion? How and why did music become so important? What forms did it take, and how did it change over time? How did it reflect and shape the times? What about movies, theatre, and radios? How does all of this fit into the wider opportunities for leisure time, which was one of the very important consequences of industrialism? 

Chapter nine (“Workers and Consumers: A Community Emerges):

Who worked: Where, and why? When, why, and where did women work? What kind of pay did Mexicans receive, and what did they do with this money? How did food, clothing, and cars factor in? 

Chapter ten (“Where is Home?: The Dilemma of Repatriation”):

Where was “home” for Mexicans? To what process does “repatriation” refer to? To what degree was this “voluntary”? What were the short- and long-term demographic changes as a result of the Great Depression and the exodus of Mexicans out of the United States? How and why were Mexicans scapegoated? What consequences did FDR’s election have? 

Chapter eleven (“Forging a New Politics of Opposition”):

How was the second generation different than the first, and what consequences did this have? What did their activism seek to change? Who were some of the key individuals, and what did they do? What divided these activists? Where they successful? 

(No need to worry about the specific union names and those specific details.) 

Chapter twelve (“The Rise of the Second Generation”):

What kind of philosophies and ideologies guided the second generation? How did the MAM function, and what kind of reactions did people have to it specifically and Mexicans and Mexican Americans generally?  How and why were the 1940s so transformative?

As you finish Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 be sure to consider the title: How did people become Mexican American?