How Native Americans, Mexican “Tejanos,” Anglo-Americans, and Mexicans From the Central High Valley Heartland of Mexico, Viewed Themselves and Each Other in a Southwest of “Shifting Borders”
After all, it was the state that built the infrastructure linking the center to all corners of the nation, increasing the network of communications within a territory and thus helping integrate a national market. Under the auspices of the state, a nationalist ideology was fashioned and disseminated to all prospective citizens. And it was the state bureaucracy, employing novel means of communication such as mass education, that perpetuated the nation unto subsequent generations. Whether accounts spotlight institutions or identities, the underlying theme is centralization: The national state wins out over lesser political organizations and potential challengers, and the people divest themselves of previous ethnic or local loyalties as the nation becomes their overriding identity.
Rather they are viewed through the stereotypic lens of being non-white or brown and largely indigenous-looking. Still much about the racial status of Mexicans is debated. Two issues in particular are—one is whether Mexican is a racial category and, two is whether Mexicans are white or non-white. Mexican Americans themselves often provide ambiguous responses to race questions, perhaps reflecting their own uncertainty about their race as well as ambivalence about being non-white (Gomez, 1992). Historically, Mexican Americans responded to questions about ethnic background with labels such Latin American or Spanish, as we showed with 1965 data in Generations of Exclusion (Telles & Ortiz, 2008). This reinforced European ancestry in responses about group membership and a distancing from indigenous heritage. Up to the 1960s, Mexican American leaders, such as those in the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), emphasized the Spanish/European/White heritage of Mexican Americans, in attempts to secure rights as first class citizens and despite their treatment as non-white in American society.
By the 1960s, supporting that image, ethnic Mexicans helped develop “internal colonialism”—a theory dismissed in the 1980s, but persistent.
Gomez L. The Birth of the “Hispanic” Generation: Attitudes of Mexican-American Political Elites toward the Hispanic Label. Latin American Perspectives. 1992;19(4):45–58.
Telles E, Ortiz V. Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race. New York: Russel Sage Foundation; 2008.