This dissertation examines the efforts of activists, elected officials, and bureaucrats to make Hispanic identity into a meaningful tool in postwar U.S. politics. Opposing radical nationalism as well as assimilation, Mexican American and Puerto Rican leaders sought to convince all "Spanish-speaking Americans"—irrespective of nationality, immigration status, or language ability—to see themselves as a single, nationwide ethnic group. They gained support from liberals reinventing their creed amid the New Deal coalition's collapse. They also found allies in conservative Republicans, who perceived a chance to exploit anti-black sentiment among Latino Democrats. Bipartisan interest in these voters produced a consensus that "Hispanics" deserved government recognition as a distinct national minority group, with their own presidential advisors, a unique place in federal statistics, and parity in the civil service. There were limits, however, to pan-Hispanic politics. Mexican American and Puerto Rican congressmen who attempted to unify grassroots political activists found they would not subordinate their distinct national identities to pan-ethnic solidarity. Furthermore, even as Hispanics came to be recognized as "America's second largest minority," presidents remained more concerned with the Electoral College than with ethnic fairness. Their favoritism toward certain segments of this population exposed and exacerbated national origin rivalries, challenging leaders who sought to mobilize the country's "Latino Vote." This electorate's failure to realize its vast potential—its status as a "sleeping giant" of politics—became itself a key component of Hispanic identity, which activists would deploy in an effort to achieve the political power that long eluded them.
|Commitee:||Gerstle, Gary, McCartin, Joseph, Tutino, John|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 74/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||American history, Modern history, Ethnic studies, Hispanic American studies|
|Keywords:||Ethnic leadership, Hispanic politics, Hispanic vote, Immigration, Latino politics, Latino vote|
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