When I was growing up in Northern California in the Napa Valley I began to gain an awareness of the disparity faced by Latinos there. On the one hand, there were more opportunities than had been available in many of their countries of origins. On the other hand, many were overworked. When I moved to Oregon the subtle racism of the Portland area was a frustrating thing to observe with very few Latinos being able to afford the cost of living in the main urban center. In preparation for the film about César Chavez's life that is being released later this month I've decided to read Mario T. García's The Gospel of César Chávez: My Faith in Action. On pp. 2-3 this paragraph stood out to me:
...César, as did Dr. King, stood for a recognition that the work of American democracy was, an still is, not over. In César's time, Mexican Americans and other Latinos were still marginalized and neglected Americans. They represented part of what Michael Harrington in the early 19060s called "The Other America." Not just as farm workers, but as urban workers in industries and services, Mexican Americans were segregated to low-skill jobs, historically referred to as "Mexican jobs" in the Southwest, where historically most Mexican Americans have lived, the paid menial and, in too many cases, unlivable wages that had been historically labeled "Mexican wages." Further segregated in urban barrios with inadequate housing and public facilities, Mexican Americans had to send their children to segregated and inferior so-called "Mexican schools." These were public schools, going back to the early twentieth century, that provided separate but low-level education for Mexican American students who were expected only to reinforce in time the cheap and low-skilled labor force that their parents represented. As such, while Mexican Americans, including many of immigrant background, worked hard and asked for no handouts, they were not integrated into the folds of American democracy. Neither the American dream nor the melting pot touched their lives."
Since moving to San Antonio, TX, a year and a half ago I've had a love-hate relationship with it. I miss the scenic beauty and geographical resources of my native Northern California, but I've come to appreciate this city. It is where my wife was born and raised. As a Chicana herself she was able to receive a good education. She went to college. Now she teaches Kindergarden. While there remains some race-based disparities even here in comparison to north Oregon, where Latinos are treated as merely the manual labor force, or even in Northern California, where much progress needs to be made, here in southern Texas, in San Antonio, far more opportunities abound for Latinos. Our mayor, Julian Castro, is awesome. I hope he runs for (at least) Governor of Texas someday and maybe even takes a shot as being the first Latino President of the United States. Chávez's work has been fruitful, especially here.
Someday if and when my wife and I have children this is the type of city they'll be able to see as a proud part of their heritage, a place of opportunity and (more) equality. Hopefully as they grow older more and more of our country will become like San Antonio in this way. It is something great about this city.