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Mexican Americans have a unique relationship with the United States. Because of the proximity of the neighboring countries, the old traditions of Mexico remain ever close to their hearts even as they embrace a new life in America. As a matter of fact, the first Mexican Americans did not leave their homeland by choice to come to the United States. Instead,...
Mexican Americans have a unique relationship with the United States. Because of the proximity of the neighboring countries, the old traditions of Mexico remain ever close to their hearts even as they embrace a new life in America. As a matter of fact, the first Mexican Americans did not leave their homeland by choice to come to the United States. Instead, the United States went to them. At the end of the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848, Mexico was forced to cede territory that is now the southwestern United States, and the roughly 80,000 Mexicans who had been living in this vast territory suddenly found themselves living within U.S. borders. As the Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent) say, "We never crossed a border. The border crossed us." Since then many Mexicans have crossed that border by choice, most in search of jobs. The obstacles they faced--racism, exploitation, the language barrier, poor wages--have not prevented them from becoming an integral part of the United States. The gifts they brought with them--folk art, food, music, literature, new words for the American vocabulary (taco, ranch, rodeo, fiesta), and strong ties to family and religion--are now a part of the American tradition. The Mexican American Family Album is the record of generations of Mexicans who made the journey from the old country to a new life in the United States, told in their own words and photographs. César Chávez, Richard Rodriguez, Sandra Cisneros, Lee Trevio, Linda Ronstadt, and others profiled here testify to the success that many immigrants found in this country. But there are also stories from families not so famous. Their diary entries, letters, personal remembrances, and photographs culled from family archives, scrapbooks, and newspapers, tell of the hardship of poverty in the old country, of the decision to leave and the difficulties often encountered in crossing the border, of life in El Barrio, of finding work, putting down roots, and the transition from newcomer to Mexican American. Through it all the common thread is a celebration of the Mexican heritage even as the immigrant becomes more and more "Americanized." It is that spirit that envelops The Mexican American Family Album--not only as a history of immigration from one country to another, but as a chronicle of the contributions, large and small, made by Mexican Americans. The continuing pride in the culture and traditions of Mexico have enhanced and strengthened their lives in their newly adopted country, and brought new dimensions to the multicultural society of America.
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