Newspaper content from 1942 through 1960 portrayed Mexico as “el buen vecino” (the good neighbor), the loyal neighbor south of the Rio Grande who had eagerly filled the laboring needs of the United States in a welcomed opportunity to gain international respect and partner in commerce. When the United States transferred Japanese residents and US citizens into internment camps, the US looked to fill its laboring vacancies in agriculture, defense, and commerce with Mexican labor. When the northern neighbor called for laboring support, Mexico had repeatedly answered the U.S. call for help.
Since the 1900’s, Mexican immigrants, more than any other group, had served as the backbone of the American Southwestern economy responding to America’s vacancies in labor and its request for Mexican help.
Mexican Americans joined the ranks of the National Guard, the Army Reserve, and enlisted in the United States Military. They signed Bracero agricultural agreements to work in U.S. fields, relocating north to provide a service to the United States while laying community roots in the process. As alliances with the United States were firmly established, many hoped that Mexico-American collaborations would lower racial barriers to allow Mexican laborers a degree to socioeconomic and political mobility. However, post -WWII accounts of these relationships reveal that as Mexicans set out to work alongside Americans, legal and social discrimination would follow them.
The political and economic agreements initiated by FDR and Mexican President Avila Camacho in 1943, began a multiplicity of alliances, contracts, and relationships. However, the war increased incidents of juvenile delinquency at home, feeding discrimination against Mexicans in the military, and in society at large. Cold War anti-immigrant legislation further fanned discrimination leading to hostile legislation that pushed thousands who had changed their lives to fill U.S. jobs to be forcefully returned to Mexico. The Mexican laborers and soldiers who braved anti-immigrant tensions to serve in the US hoped their sacrifices would pave an honorable path toward the American Dream.
LatinaRepublic recognizes the history behind the alliances behind Mexico, the US and its many Central American neighbors. We have ties and histories that date back centuries. Good Neighbors work to understand each other, help where we can and set out to collaborate and coexist peacefully and for the good of our communities. We need each other. As Dr. King said, hate will never eradicate hate. We are less effective when we are angry. Instead, let’s look to history to understand the background of our complex border histories, and use the present to compassionately build together.
Soledad Quartucci, PhD
Editor & Owner, LatinaRepublic