From 1836 to 1914 over 13 million people immigrated to the United States(many latinos). Puerto Ricans and Cubans will arrive along the trade rooms that brought tobacco, coffee and sugar into the US. As the new century dawn, many more Latinos would venture North from places linked to America by trade or taken by conquest. The huge Latino presence in the United States is a direct result of the nation territorial expansion. Tens of thousands would come from Puerto Rico. An island torn by war in 1898. They would build a community that in time would see more Puerto Ricans in New York than on the island itself. Nearly one million would come from Mexico following the tracks that brought silver and copper to America and provided the only escape from a violent Revolution. Many emigrants saw the United States like this paradise where there was food and jobs for everyone. But later for many Mexican Americans that dream would be denied. Half a million of Mexicans and Mexican Americans are deported during the Great Depression. Many of those people lost everything. It sets a pattern –wanting Mexican labor in times in which employment is needed and wanting people to just leave, when that labor is no longer needed.
In the 1960s Cesar Chavez would become one of the most significant Mexican American lieder of his generation. He would fight for rights of some of Americans poorest workers. The workers were literally like slaves. His success would ignite a movement challenging a long history of prejudice and injustice. He transformed centuries of oppression into an ethnic power. He brought millions of Mexican Americans who had never voted to the polls, eventually doubling the numbers of Latinos elected to political office. Because of his will Latinos became part of the American system.
During the 1960s and 70s a whole generation of Mexican Americans discovered a new sense of pride as they fought for equality and challenged America to accept them on their own terms.
53 million Hispanic Americans live in America today, Latinos have helped form what is now the USA, ways we were often never taught in school- from the Wild West to the Civil Rights Movement to the current fight over comprehensive immigration reform, it has been a 5 century journey.
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Additional resources: Hispanic and Latino Americans