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Mexican American Voters

1.06 Mexican American Voters

Voter registration at the Community Service Organization (C.S.O.). Cesar Chavez is the last person on the right, circa 1950's.

When Mexican American G.I.s returned from World War II only to encounter continued racist discrimination at home, they fought back through the courts using such organizations as the League of United Latin America Citizens and the G.I. Forum. Edward Roybal's election to the Los Angeles City Council in 1949 and then to Congress in 1962 also represented this rising Mexican American political power.

By the late 1960s the movement had grown. Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales's founding of the Crusade for Justice in Denver in 1966 and Reies Lopez Tijerina's land grant movement in New Mexico in 1967 planted the seeds of Chicano (Mexican American) nationalism. The 1968 Los Angeles school walkouts expressed Mexican American demands to end segregation, increase graduation rates, and reinstate a teacher fired for supporting student organizing. A notable event in the Chicano movement was the 1972 Convention of La Raza Unida (United People) Party, which organized with the goal of creating a third party that would give Chicanos political power in the U.S.

The most well known symbol of Mexican American voting and civil rights struggles was Cesar Chavez, a founder of the United Farm Workers union, which used strikes, boycotts, fasting, prayer, and political activism to gain better conditions and wages for farm workers. Chavez began his organizing career in the 1950s with the Community Service Organization (CSO), which organized Mexican American farm workers to demand their rights and conducted voter registration drives. His mother had worked with the CSO, and from her and the CSO he learned his first organizing skills. The work of these pioneering activists provided a base to mobilize Mexican Americans and increase their political power in the late twentieth and early twenty- first centuries.

Ed Roybal campaigning for Los Angeles City Council in 1949.
Cesar Chavez with Senator Robert Kennedy after ending a 24 day fast in April 1968.

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