October 27, 2014
American Heritage II The Inequality of Social Reforms The Progressive Era was a combination of local, regional, and national movements focused on a variety of reform initiatives to improve the lives of many Americans. The main goals of this movement were to create a legislative response to industrial excess, provide better safety conditions for workers, grant women suffrage, make alcohol illegal, and end childlabor.
However, progressives seemed to neglect race and labor issues that specifically involved
MexicanAmericans due to the political conflicts that arose from the 19101940, the tense race relations of MexicanAmericans and Anglos in unions, and the inability of this ethnic group to unite and seek better representation.
Political beliefs from this era can easily explain why progressives opt to ignore labor and race issues. The Russian Revolution of 1917 proved the immense power of the Bolsheviks to overthrow their tyrannical government and create a new one. Fears that communism, socialism, or anarchism would reach America as a result of Southern and Eastern immigration from Europe increased the feelings of nativism that not only affected European immigrants that came from these regions, but also other ethnic groups such as Mexican immigrants. When women from Él
Paso, Texas went into a strike, “El Pasoans seemed to share with other Americans a fear that organized labor might lead the way to Bolshevism” (Ledesma, p. 397). It is obvious that progressive leaders would not be willing to support Mexican immigrants in labor issues if they were creating a sense of rebellion with their strikes that caused other people to fear them because they were thought to be communist. If progressives helped these immigrants, they would more
than likely lose the support of Anglo voters who could actually help them achieve their multiple reform initiatives. Moreover, “World War I antiforeign propaganda and Pancho Villa raids into
New Mexico generated hostile antiMexican sentiment” (Ledesma, p. 394). Certainly, supporting
Mexican immigrants during times of war and turmoil would be considered unpatriotic, thus making progressives traitors to the wareffort if they decided to help the Mexican race improve their way of living.
Despite the political climax, another factor that played an important role in the lack of help from progressive leaders was the tense race relations between MexicanAmericans and
Anglos within unions. These two groups failed to create a compromise between them. According to David Montejano, “Texas Unions handled Mexican workers in much the same way that they dealt with blacks: through outright exclusion, through segregated locals, and through racial quotas in employments” (p. 179). White people (the race mainly in charge of unions) discriminated against MexicanAmericans just like they did with any other race during the 20th century. So, if they were unable to create stable relations with unions, how could
MexicanAmericans possibly make their voice heard by progressive leaders if when standing next to unions, MexicanAmericans were just a minority that would not provide much support for social reforms? Moreover, Irene Ledesma stated, “organized labor also resented Mexican