I didn’t move to Arizona until 1980 so I didn’t know much about Arizona history. In preparation for the current “stay at home” order, my housemate brought a stack of books for me from the library. One of them was Border Citizens: The Making of Indians, Mexicans and Anglos in Arizona, Eric V Meeks, 2007, 2020, University of Texas Press, Austin. It took me a while to get into it. I plodded through the beginning because I thought it would be good information but then it really got interesting.
His thesis is that ethnic identities are socially constructed just as racial identities are. The meaning of those terms – Indian, Anglo, Mexican – has changed over time. At the time of the Gadsden Purchase in 1850, the area was mostly under indigenous control. The incoming Caucasians favored the pastoral Indians and thought they were actually more citizen material than the Mexicans. That changed to put them all under guardianship so they could never be citizens. Other tribes attacked the Yaqui and the Tohono because they were too Mexican.
While water fights were going on between Caucasian ranchers and Indians, those fighting for statehood thought there were too many Mexicans though the Mexicans were categorized as white while the Greeks, Italians, and Slavs brought to work in the mines weren’t – but they had the better jobs! About this time in the book I said out loud – it’s hard to believe how corrupt and openly racist they were.
Arizona had an anti-miscegenation statute in 1865 prohibiting marriage between whites and Indians, Mongolians, or Blacks. It got worse – by 1913 the law prohibited marriages between Caucasian blood or their descendants with Negros, Mongolians, or Indians and their descendants and in 1931 – Hindus and Malays were added to the non-marrying kind.
Anglos could marry Mexicans but Mexicans could not marry any of the categories because they were Caucasian – descendants of the Spanish. That hierarchy explained the fights between Mexicans and Mexican-Americans that still goes on today.
But in spite of being classed as white, discrimination never stopped and even if they were citizens, they were treated as aliens and often deported! Like today. Mexican-Americans tried to protect themselves by using the white label and thus created the hard feelings between them and the Black and Native Americans that also exists to this day.
From 1945 to 1972 unbelievable discrimination existed against all people of color – in voting, working, housing, and public accommodations. Some names I began to recognize were involved such as Eugene Pulliam, Del Webb, Barry Goldwater, William Rehnquist, Paul Fannin, and John Rhodes.
In the 1940s and 1950s many legal actions were brought and won to tear down legal discrimination. But a legal ruling and lived reality are two different things.
By the 1960s, the history started to include people whose names I knew and some I even worked with such as Gustavo Gutierrez, Alfredo Gutierrez, Socorro Bernasconi, Raul Grijalva, Joe Eddie and Rosie Lopez, and Ed Pastor.
The author outlined a litany of the anti-immigration and anti-Mexican-American bills that the Arizona legislature has been passing for a long time, including English only. In the afterword, the author brought us up to 2020 with the machinations of Sheriff Joe, HB1070, and the border wall. It’s hard to believe how corrupt and openly racist they are.
This is the cabal that has ruled Arizona since it was taken from Mexico. They won’t change. We must vote them out. Be sure you and everyone you know is registered on PEVL so you can vote by mail in November and VOTE.