A History of Mexicans in America (1848–2015)

Produced for the benefit of middle school and high school US History students in collaboration with CHatGPT

Peter Paccone
22 min readMar 23, 2023

Mexican Americans have a long and complex history that spans various periods, including pre-colonial times, Spanish colonization, Mexican independence, and the period following the Mexican-American War. Here, we’ll focus on the history of Mexican Americans from 1848 to 2015, which can be broadly divided into several stages:

  1. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848): Following the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the war and ceding a large portion of Mexican territory (including modern-day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming) to the United States. This treaty guaranteed Mexican citizens living in these territories the right to become U.S. citizens, but many faced discrimination, land loss, and other difficulties in the years that followed. In 1850, in California for example, California passed a law denying Mexican-Americans the right to vote, hold public office, or testify in court against white citizens. It was not until 1870 that the 15th Amendment granted citizenship and voting rights to all men regardless of race, including Mexican-Americans.
  2. Mexican Immigration: After the war, many Mexicans found themselves living in the newly acquired territories, and they continued to migrate northward in search of work in agriculture, mining, and railroad construction.
  3. The Rise of Anti-Mexican Sentiment: As the number of Mexicans in the United States increased, so did the discrimination and prejudice against them. In the 1920s and 1930s, Mexican Americans faced forced repatriation and deportation during the Great Depression.
  4. The Mexican Revolution: The Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910, had a profound impact on Mexican Americans in the United States. Many Mexican-Americans supported the revolutionaries, and some even returned to Mexico to fight.
  5. The Bracero Program: During World War II, the U.S. faced a labor shortage and established the Bracero Program, which allowed millions of Mexican workers to enter the United States temporarily as contract laborers, mainly for agricultural work. The program ended in 1964, but it set the stage for future immigration patterns and labor relations between the U.S. and Mexico.
  6. The Zoot Suit Riots: In 1943, tensions between Mexican-American youth and white sailors erupted in violence in Los Angeles, resulting in the Zoot Suit Riots, which highlighted the racism and discrimination faced by Mexican-Americans.
  7. Mendez v. Westminster (1947): This case involved the segregation of Mexican American students in California schools. The Court held that the segregation was unconstitutional and that Mexican American students had the same right to a quality education as other students.
  8. The Civil Rights Act of 1965 : This was a landmark piece of legislation that aimed to end discrimination and promote equal rights for all Americans. It had a significant impact on Mexican Americans.
  9. The Chicano Movement (Mid 1960s-1970s): The Chicano Movement emerged as a response to the discrimination and marginalization faced by Mexican Americans. Activists in this movement, known as Chicanos, fought for civil rights, education reform, political representation, and cultural recognition. The movement led to greater awareness of Mexican American issues and contributed to the development of Chicano studies programs at universities.
  10. Plyler v. Doe (1982): This case involved a Texas law that denied funding for public education to undocumented immigrant children. The Supreme Court held that the law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and that all children, regardless of their immigration status, had a right to a public education.
  11. Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986): This act aimed to control and deter illegal immigration by implementing sanctions on employers who knowingly hired undocumented immigrants. The act also granted amnesty to certain undocumented immigrants who had entered the U.S. before January 1, 1982, which allowed many Mexican Americans to obtain legal status and eventually citizenship.
  12. North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1994): NAFTA sought to eliminate trade barriers and promote economic integration between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. While the agreement brought economic growth to some sectors, it also resulted in job losses and wage stagnation for many workers in both the U.S. and Mexico, contributing to increased migration flows between the two countries.
  13. Immigration and Mexican American population growth (1990s-2015): During this period, Mexican immigration to the U.S. increased significantly due to economic instability in Mexico and the demand for low-skilled labor in the U.S. By 2015, Mexican Americans represented the largest Hispanic group in the United States, accounting for more than 60% of the Hispanic population. Mexican Americans made significant contributions to the U.S. in areas such as politics, culture, sports, and the economy.

In summary, the history of Mexican Americans from 1848 to 2015 is marked by territorial changes, migration, labor relations, social movements, and economic integration. Over time, Mexican Americans have faced numerous challenges, but they have also made significant contributions to the United States, shaping the nation’s cultural, social, and economic landscape.

Words / Terms / Phrases

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) and the Mexican Cession

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, marked the end of the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). The treaty had significant implications for both the United States and Mexico, as well as the Mexican population living in the territories ceded to the U.S. Key points of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo include:

  • Land cession: Mexico ceded a large portion of its northern territory to the United States, which included present-day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma. This area, often referred to as the Mexican Cession, expanded U.S. territory by approximately 525,000 square miles.
  • Payment: In exchange for the ceded land, the United States agreed to pay Mexico $15 million and assume $3.25 million in debts owed by the Mexican government to American citizens
  • Citizenship and property rights: The treaty guaranteed Mexican citizens living in the ceded territories the choice to either become U.S. citizens or retain their Mexican citizenship while still living in the territories. They were also promised protection of their property rights and religious freedom.
  • Border establishment: The treaty established the Rio Grande as the border between Texas and Mexico, resolving the border dispute that had initially sparked the war.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had long-lasting effects on the history of Mexicans in America. Many Mexicans who lived in the ceded territories became Mexican Americans, facing new challenges as they integrated into U.S. society. Despite the treaty’s guarantees, Mexican Americans often experienced discrimination, loss of property, and infringement on their rights, shaping their struggle for social justice and equal rights throughout the following decades.

Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny impacted Mexican Americans by promoting westward expansion of the U.S., which led to the Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. As a result, Mexican Americans experienced territorial losses, became a minority in their own lands, and faced discrimination and challenges to their property rights.

California Gold Rush (1849)

The California Gold Rush began in 1849 after gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California. This event attracted thousands of people, known as “forty-niners,” from around the world to seek their fortunes in the goldfields. The Gold Rush had significant impacts on Mexican Americans, as California was recently ceded to the United States by Mexico after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Key impacts of the California Gold Rush on Mexican Americans include:

  • Population influx: The rapid influx of gold-seekers led to a dramatic increase in California’s population, which changed the demographic makeup of the region. The Mexican American population, which had been the majority, suddenly became a minority in their own land.
  • Discrimination: As thousands of non-Hispanic settlers poured into California, Mexican Americans faced increasing discrimination, racial hostility, and violence. They were often pushed out of mining claims and excluded from profitable ventures.
  • Legal challenges: Mexican Americans experienced challenges to their property rights, as many land titles granted under Mexican rule were not recognized by U.S. authorities. Land disputes became common, often resulting in the loss of property for Mexican American families.
  • Economic opportunities: Despite the challenges, some Mexican Americans took advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the Gold Rush. They worked as miners, merchants, and service providers, catering to the needs of the growing population. Some Mexican Americans were able to achieve financial success during this period.
  • Cultural influences: The California Gold Rush brought a diverse range of people to the region, leading to a blending of cultures. Mexican influence persisted in the areas of cuisine, architecture, and language, with many Spanish words and expressions becoming part of California’s vernacular.

Overall, the California Gold Rush had a profound impact on Mexican Americans, transforming the region’s demographics, exacerbating discrimination, and challenging their property rights. However, it also provided some economic opportunities and contributed to the rich cultural tapestry of California.

Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first significant law restricting immigration into the United States, targeting Chinese immigrants specifically. It set a precedent for further immigration restrictions and discriminatory policies against other non-European immigrant groups, including Mexicans.

Following the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the demand for cheap labor in the United States shifted towards other immigrant groups, such as Mexicans. The exclusion of Chinese laborers contributed to an increased demand for Mexican workers, particularly in agriculture, mining, and railroad industries. This led to a growth in Mexican immigration to the United States and shaped the labor market dynamics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Bracero Program (1942–1964)

he Bracero Program (1942–1964) was a bilateral agreement between the United States and Mexico that allowed millions of Mexican laborers to enter the U.S. on a temporary basis to work primarily in the agricultural sector. The program was initiated to address labor shortages in the U.S. during World War II and lasted for over two decades. Its name derives from the Spanish word “brazo,” meaning “arm,” signifying the manual labor performed by the workers.

Key aspects of the Bracero Program include:

  • Labor shortages: During World War II, many American men were drafted into military service, which led to a significant labor shortage in the agricultural sector. The Bracero Program aimed to fill this gap by recruiting Mexican workers to perform labor-intensive tasks in American farms, particularly in the Southwest.
  • Temporary work permits: Mexican workers were granted temporary work permits, which allowed them to live and work in the United States for a specified period. The workers were typically employed under contracts, which outlined their wages, living conditions, and terms of employment.
  • Exploitation and poor working conditions: Bracero workers often faced poor working conditions, low wages, and inadequate housing. Although the program’s guidelines stipulated fair treatment and living conditions, these standards were frequently violated. Many workers experienced exploitation and discrimination, with limited legal recourse due to their temporary status.
  • Impact on immigration patterns: The Bracero Program contributed to increased Mexican immigration to the United States, as workers often sought ways to stay in the country after their work contracts expired. This led to the growth of undocumented immigration and established migration networks between the two countries that persist to this day.
  • Legacy and termination: The Bracero Program was terminated in 1964 due to increasing criticism of its exploitative practices and concerns about its impact on American workers. However, its legacy continues to shape U.S.-Mexico relations, labor policies, and immigration patterns. The program influenced subsequent guest worker programs and brought attention to the importance of addressing labor rights and immigration reform.
The Bracero Program

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the doctrine of “separate but equal.” While the case primarily pertained to African Americans and the segregation laws in the Southern United States, it had indirect implications for the history of Mexicans in America.

  • “Separate but equal” doctrine: The ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson legitimized the “separate but equal” doctrine, which allowed for the legal segregation of public facilities based on race. This doctrine was later applied to other racial and ethnic groups, including Mexican Americans, who faced similar forms of segregation in schools, housing, and public spaces, especially in the Southwest.
  • Segregation and discrimination: Mexican Americans were often subjected to de facto segregation, even though no specific laws mandated it. The Plessy v. Ferguson decision allowed for discrimination against Mexican Americans under the guise of “separate but equal” facilities. In reality, the facilities provided for Mexican Americans were frequently inferior and underfunded compared to those designated for white Americans.
  • Legal challenges: The Plessy v. Ferguson ruling had a lasting impact on Mexican Americans’ efforts to fight against segregation and discrimination. One example is the case of Mendez v. Westminster (1947), in which a group of Mexican American parents sued four Orange County, California school districts for segregating their children from white students. The plaintiffs argued that the segregation was a violation of their children’s constitutional rights. This case was won in federal court and marked a significant step toward desegregation, predating the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) decision.
  • Civil rights movements: The Plessy v. Ferguson ruling contributed to the development of civil rights movements for marginalized groups in the United States, including Mexican Americans. The Chicano Movement, which emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, fought against various forms of discrimination, including segregation, and sought to improve educational opportunities, political representation, and social conditions for Mexican Americans.

In summary, while Plessy v. Ferguson primarily impacted African Americans, the case also had indirect implications for the history of Mexicans in America. The ruling reinforced segregation and discrimination against Mexican Americans and other minority groups, shaping their experiences and struggles for civil rights in the 20th century.

Chicano Movement (1960s-1970s)

The Chicano Movement, also known as the Chicano Civil Rights Movement or El Movimiento, emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in the United States as a response to the long-standing social, political, and economic marginalization faced by Mexican Americans. The movement sought to advance civil rights, education reform, political representation, and cultural recognition for Mexican Americans. Key aspects of the Chicano Movement include:

  • Identity and self-determination: The term “Chicano” was adopted by activists to assert pride in their Mexican heritage and challenge assimilationist pressures. The movement emphasized the importance of self-determination, reclaiming history, and promoting cultural pride.
  • Education reform: One of the major goals of the Chicano Movement was to improve educational opportunities for Mexican American students. Activists fought against segregation, unequal funding, and the lack of representation in school curricula. The East Los Angeles Walkouts (1968) were a significant series of student-led protests against the substandard conditions in predominantly Mexican American schools in Los Angeles.
  • Farmworkers’ rights: The United Farm Workers (UFW), led by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, played a crucial role in the Chicano Movement by advocating for better wages, working conditions, and labor rights for farmworkers, who were predominantly Mexican American. The UFW organized strikes and boycotts to raise awareness and pressure growers to improve conditions for workers.
  • Political representation: The Chicano Movement sought to increase political representation for Mexican Americans by encouraging voter registration and the formation of independent political organizations, such as the La Raza Unida Party. These efforts aimed to challenge the established two-party system and promote candidates who would address the unique concerns of Mexican Americans.
  • Cultural expression: The Chicano Movement also fostered a renaissance in Mexican American art, literature, and music. Artists and writers, such as Luis Valdez and the Teatro Campesino, used their talents to express the Chicano experience, raise political awareness, and promote cultural pride.
  • Intersectionality: The Chicano Movement intersected with other civil rights movements of the time, including the African American Civil Rights Movement, the American Indian Movement, and the Women’s Rights Movement. These movements shared common goals of dismantling discriminatory practices and achieving social justice for marginalized communities.

The Chicano Movement had a significant impact on the lives of Mexican Americans and continues to influence contemporary activism, cultural expression, and politics in the United States. The movement contributed to the development of Chicano Studies programs in universities, increased political representation for Mexican Americans, and raised awareness of the unique challenges faced by this community.

The Chicano Movement


Nativism is the preference for native-born inhabitants over immigrants. In the history of Mexicans in America from 1848–2015, nativism has had several impacts:

  • Discrimination: Mexicans and Mexican Americans faced prejudice and hostility due to nativist sentiment.
  • Immigration policy: Nativism influenced policies that restricted Mexican immigration, such as the Immigration Act of 1924 and Arizona’s SB 1070 law.
  • Labor market: Nativism shaped the labor market, with Mexicans often taking low-paying, manual labor jobs due to discrimination.
  • Education and housing: Nativist attitudes contributed to segregation and unequal opportunities for Mexican Americans in education and housing.
  • Civil rights activism: The struggle against nativism helped drive the Chicano Movement, which sought to advance civil rights and social justice for Mexican Americans.

Great Migration

While the Great Migration primarily involved African Americans, it also led to changes in labor market dynamics in the United States. As African Americans moved to northern cities to fill industrial jobs, the demand for labor in the South and Southwest increased, particularly in agriculture. Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans were often recruited to fill this labor gap, leading to an increase in Mexican migration to the United States during the early 20th century.

Moreover, the Great Migration contributed to a growing awareness of racial and ethnic diversity in the United States, with implications for civil rights activism and social movements. As the African American population increased in northern cities, they began to organize and fight for their rights, which inspired other marginalized groups, including Mexican Americans, to do the same. This set the stage for later civil rights movements, such as the Chicano Movement, that sought to address the unique concerns of Mexican Americans and other Latino communities in the United States.

DREAM Act (2001)

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, was first introduced in the United States Congress in 2001. The bill was designed to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and met certain eligibility requirements.

The DREAM Act would have allowed eligible individuals to apply for temporary legal status, which would have enabled them to work, attend school, and travel freely without fear of deportation. After a certain period of time, they would have been able to apply for permanent residency and eventually citizenship.

The DREAM Act was designed to address the plight of undocumented immigrant children, many of whom had grown up in the United States and considered it their home. Many of these children were unable to attend college or pursue their career goals due to their lack of legal status, and were often subject to discrimination and exploitation.

Although the DREAM Act gained significant support from immigrant rights advocates, civil rights organizations, and some lawmakers, it faced opposition from some conservative groups and lawmakers who viewed it as a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Despite several attempts to pass the bill, it has never been enacted into law.

However, the DREAM Act has had a significant impact on the national conversation on immigration reform and has paved the way for other efforts to provide relief and support for undocumented immigrants, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was implemented by executive order in 2012.

The Fight to Pass the Dream Act

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA, 1994)

he North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trade agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico that went into effect in 1994. NAFTA was designed to promote economic growth and development by eliminating trade barriers and increasing the flow of goods and services between the three countries.

For Mexicans in America, NAFTA had both positive and negative effects. On the positive side, the agreement created new opportunities for Mexican businesses and workers to participate in the North American market, and led to increased trade and investment between the United States and Mexico. Many Mexican Americans were able to take advantage of these opportunities and found new jobs or started their own businesses as a result.

However, NAFTA also had negative consequences for some Mexicans, particularly farmers and other workers in rural areas. The influx of cheap agricultural imports from the United States led to the displacement of many Mexican farmers and contributed to a decline in rural communities. Many of these farmers and workers were forced to migrate to the United States in search of better opportunities, leading to an increase in undocumented immigration.

NAFTA also had broader implications for Mexican American communities and the relationship between the United States and Mexico. Some critics argued that NAFTA contributed to the exploitation of Mexican workers and contributed to economic inequality, while others argued that it helped to strengthen ties between the two countries and promote mutual economic development.

Overall, NAFTA was a significant event in the history of Mexicans in America and had a significant impact on their economic and social lives. The agreement remains a controversial topic in both the United States and Mexico, and continues to shape debates over trade policy, immigration, and economic development.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA, 2012)

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is an immigration policy that was implemented by executive order by President Barack Obama in 2012. The policy provided temporary protection from deportation and work permits for undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children and met certain eligibility requirements.

Under DACA, eligible individuals could apply for a two-year period of deferred action, during which they would be protected from deportation and able to work legally. DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, were required to have arrived in the United States before the age of 16, have lived in the country continuously for at least five years, and be enrolled in or have graduated from high school or college.

DACA was designed to address the plight of undocumented immigrants who had grown up in the United States and considered it their home, but were unable to pursue their career goals or fully participate in American society due to their lack of legal status. The policy provided a measure of relief and stability for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and their families, and helped to highlight the need for broader immigration reform.

Since its implementation, DACA has faced significant legal and political challenges. The Trump administration attempted to rescind the policy in 2017, but the decision was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court in 2020. The policy remains in place, but its future remains uncertain and its protections continue to be a topic of debate and contention in American politics.

For Mexicans in America, DACA has had a significant impact on their lives and futures. Many Dreamers are Mexican American, and the policy has enabled them to pursue their education and career goals without fear of deportation or being separated from their families. DACA has also brought attention to the contributions and struggles of undocumented immigrants, and has helped to mobilize support for broader immigration reform.

Repatriation (1930s)

Repatriation refers to the forced deportation or “voluntary” return of Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans from the United States to Mexico during the 1930s. This event was largely influenced by the economic hardships of the Great Depression, which led to high unemployment rates and increased competition for jobs. Key aspects of the repatriation in the 1930s include:

  • Unemployment: As the Great Depression worsened, many people blamed Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans for taking jobs away from native-born U.S. citizens. This sentiment fueled the push for repatriation.
  • Deportation and “voluntary” return: Both federal and local governments conducted forced deportations, while others encouraged or pressured Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans to “voluntarily” return to Mexico. It is estimated that around 400,000 to 2 million people were repatriated during this period.
  • Impact on families: The repatriation process often separated families and forced many U.S.-born Mexican American children, who were American citizens, to leave the country. This caused significant disruption and hardship for those affected.
  • Loss of rights: Many repatriated individuals, particularly those who were U.S. citizens, lost their rights and property in the United States due to their forced relocation to Mexico

The repatriation of the 1930s had long-lasting effects on Mexican Americans and their communities. It led to the fragmentation of families, loss of property, and a deepening sense of marginalization for those who remained in the United States. This event also contributed to the broader history of Mexican American civil rights struggles and the ongoing fight against discrimination and injustice.

Proposition 187

Proposition 187 was a controversial ballot initiative that was approved by California voters in 1994. The initiative was designed to deny public services to undocumented immigrants, including health care and education, and required public officials to report suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Supporters of Proposition 187 argued that it was necessary to address the economic and social costs of illegal immigration, while opponents argued that it was discriminatory and would lead to racial profiling and violations of civil rights.

The proposition was challenged in court and ultimately ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge. However, it had a significant impact on the political landscape of California and the national debate on immigration policy. The initiative was seen as a backlash against the growing Latino population in the state and helped mobilize Latino voters, who became a key constituency for the Democratic Party. The controversy surrounding Proposition 187 also helped to solidify the Republican Party’s position on immigration, which has remained a contentious issue in American politics ever since.

Immigration and Nationality Act (1965)

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965 abolished the national origin quotas that had been in place since the 1920s and established a new system based on family reunification and skills. The law significantly changed the demographic makeup of the United States and opened up immigration to people from all parts of the world, including Mexico.

For Mexican Americans, the INA of 1965 marked a significant milestone in their struggle for civil rights and immigration reform. Prior to the law, Mexican immigration had been largely restricted to workers in agriculture and other low-wage industries. The INA of 1965 allowed Mexican Americans to sponsor family members to come to the United States and paved the way for more skilled workers and professionals to immigrate.

However, the INA of 1965 did not completely solve the problems of discrimination and prejudice faced by Mexican Americans. In the years following the law, many Mexican Americans continued to face discrimination in housing, education, and employment, and were often subject to stereotypes and negative perceptions. Additionally, the new system of family reunification sometimes led to long waiting periods for family members to be reunited, causing emotional and economic hardships.

Nonetheless, the INA of 1965 was a significant milestone in the history of Mexican Americans and opened up new opportunities for them and their families. It also contributed to the growth and diversification of the Mexican American community, which has become a major cultural, political, and economic force in the United States.

Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW)

Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers (UFW) were at the forefront of the labor and civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s. The UFW was founded in 1962 as a union for farm workers, many of whom were Mexican Americans and migrant workers, and quickly became a powerful force in the struggle for better working conditions and wages.

Under the leadership of Chavez, the UFW organized a series of strikes, boycotts, and other nonviolent actions to pressure growers to recognize their union and negotiate better contracts for workers. One of their most successful campaigns was the Delano grape strike of 1965, in which farm workers refused to harvest grapes until their demands were met. The strike lasted for five years and eventually led to the first collective bargaining agreement between farm workers and growers.

Chavez and the UFW also became involved in broader social and political issues, including civil rights, immigration reform, and environmental justice. They formed alliances with other groups, such as the Chicano movement and the Black Panther Party, and organized voter registration drives and other forms of political mobilization.

Chavez’s leadership and his emphasis on nonviolent resistance and community organizing inspired a new generation of activists and social movements. He became an iconic figure in the struggle for civil rights and labor rights, and his legacy continues to inspire and influence social justice movements today.

Delano Grape Strike

Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986):

A U.S. law that granted amnesty to some undocumented immigrants while strengthening border control and penalizing employers for hiring undocumented workers.


The process by which minority groups adopt the customs, values, and language of the dominant culture.


The process of cultural change and adaptation that occurs when two or more cultural groups come into contact.

Zoot Suit Riots (1943):

A series of violent clashes between U.S. servicemen and Mexican American youths wearing “zoot suits” in Los Angeles, fueled by racial tensions and anti-Mexican sentiment.

Mendez v. Westminster (1947):

A federal court case that ruled against the segregation of Mexican American students in California schools, laying the groundwork for desegregation efforts in the U.S.

Plyler v. Doe (1982):

A U.S. Supreme Court case that ruled denying public education to undocumented children was a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Sanctuary movement (1980s):

A religious and political movement that provided safe havens for Central American refugees fleeing civil wars, often defying U.S. immigration policies.

Mexican Revolution (1910–1920):

A major armed conflict that led to significant social, political, and economic changes in Mexico, causing many Mexicans to flee to the United States.

Chicano Moratorium (1970):

A series of protests against the Vietnam War and the disproportionate number of Mexican American casualties, culminating in a large demonstration in East Los Angeles.

Chicano Moratorium

Short Answer Questions

  1. Briefly describe ONE historical development that contributed to the increase in Mexican migration to the United States after 1848.
  2. Briefly describe ONE significant difference in the treatment of Mexican immigrants compared to European immigrants during the early 20th century.
  3. Briefly describe ONE factor that led to the emergence of the Chicano movement in the 1960s.
  4. Briefly describe ONE reason why many Mexican Americans supported the United Farm Workers union led by Cesar Chavez in the 1960s and 1970s.
  5. Briefly describe ONE historical situation that led to the creation of the Bracero Program in 1942.
  6. Briefly describe ONE significant similarity between the experiences of Mexican immigrants and other immigrant groups in the early 20th century.
  7. Briefly describe ONE factor that contributed to the growth of the Mexican American middle class in the post-World War II era.
  8. Briefly describe ONE significant difference in the educational opportunities available to Mexican American students compared to white students in the 1950s and 1960s.
  9. Briefly describe ONE cause of the Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles in 1943.
  10. Briefly describe ONE outcome of the Mendez v. Westminster case in 1947.
  11. Briefly describe ONE reason why many Mexican Americans opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s.
  12. Briefly describe ONE significant similarity between the experiences of Mexican American and African American civil rights activists in the 1960s.
  13. Briefly describe ONE factor that contributed to the emergence of Mexican American feminist activism in the 1970s.
  14. Briefly describe ONE historical situation that led to the Mexican Repatriation campaign in the 1930s.
  15. Briefly describe ONE factor that contributed to the growth of Mexican American political power in the late 20th century.
  16. Briefly describe ONE historical development that led to the emergence of transnationalism among Mexican Americans in the late 20th century.
  17. Briefly describe ONE reason why many Mexican Americans were drawn to the Democratic Party in the mid-20th century.
  18. Briefly describe ONE significant difference in the way Mexican American and white American soldiers were treated during World War II.
  19. Briefly describe ONE historical situation that led to the emergence of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
  20. Briefly describe ONE factor that contributed to the emergence of the “Latino vote” as a significant political force in the 21st century.

APUSH Key Concepts

The below consists of the APUSH CED Key Concepts that explicitly mention Mexico, Mexican Americans, Latin Americans, or Latin America.

The United States added large territories in the West through victory in the Mexican– American War and diplomatic negotiations, raising questions about the status of slavery, American Indians, and Mexicans in the newly acquired lands.

U.S. government interaction and conflict with Mexican Americans and American Indians increased in regions newly taken from American Indians and Mexico, altering these groups’ economic self-sufficiency and cultures.

Businesses increasingly looked outside U.S. borders in an effort to gain greater influence and control over markets and natural resources in the Pacific Rim, Asia, and Latin America.

Foreign policymakers increasingly looked outside U.S. borders in an effort to gain greater influence and control over markets and natural resources in the Pacific Rim, Asia, and Latin America.

As migrant populations increased in number and the American bison population was decimated, competition for land and resources in the West among white settlers, American Indians, and Mexican Americans led to an increase in violent conflict.

Migration to the United States from Mexico and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere increased, in spite of contradictory government policies toward Mexican immigration.

Cold War competition extended to Latin America, where the United States supported non-Communist regimes that had varying levels of commitment to democracy

International migration from Latin America and Asia increased dramatically. The new immigrants affected U.S. culture in many ways and supplied the economy with an important labor force.



Peter Paccone

San Marino High School social studies teacher. Also the Community Outreach Manager for Class Companion and a member of the CB's AI in AP Advisory Committee.