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These cultures arrive in the United States, and Los Angeles, through immigration. Los Angeles has been built up from the contributions of various types of people. They, with the exception of very few, can all trace their ancestry back to immigration. Unfortunately, the so-called natives of the city have not always seen them as beneficial. This sentiment is displayed by the experiences of Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles during the turn of the century. Their experiences reveal the continuing paradox of the city: an undying distaste for that which make it unique.

Immigration into the Los Angeles area has been a continuous process. Massive migration across the US-Mexican border occurred during the early part of the twentieth century). During this period, quotas did not hinder Mexican immigration into the US. The demand for Mexican immigrantsí labor allowed for easy entry. Reenganches, or labor recruitment agencies, would recruit Mexican Immigrants outside the Immigration Service building. Immigration officials allowed Mexican Immigrants entrance not to help them, but to help the American employers (Sanchez, 51). Mexican immigrants were a source of cheap labor, and often took jobs that Americans would not (Cornelius and Bustamante, 4). The first job many Mexicans in Los Angeles held was agricultural labor. Combined with industrial labor, the immigrant was able to have year round employment. With more experience, they were able to avoid exploitation by the labor recruiters. They knew which jobs offered were dangerous or unpleasant and did not want to accept them for meager wages. This helped create the stereotype of the "lazy Mexican" (Sanchez p. 69). This refusal to work at unpleasant jobs for small wages was a result of the Mexican immigrantís growing awareness that he was being exploited. For this reason, the labor recruiters preferred the immigrants with no labor experience in the United States; they were more easily manipulated. Not until 1921 were restrictions to Mexican immigrations made by the federal government, and even then Mexican immigration swelled (Sanchez, 54). Mexican labor was seen as a benefit to the Los Angeles community.

Mexican immigrants had several reasons for moving to Los Angeles. The most prominent being the various occupations that were available there. The growing Mexican community was also attractive. By 1910 there were, according to the United States Census, 51,037 Mexicans in California, 19,349 in the Southland, and 8, 917 of these resided in Los Angeles (Morales, 67). Communication between the native-born Californios and the Mexican-born immigrants was minimal because there were few longstanding Spanish-speaking residents in the community. Many of the Californios migrated out of the city. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of the Mexican population of Los Angeles had migrated there after the Mexican War of 1848 (Sanchez p. 70). Los Angeles was an attractive location for Mexican immigrants because of its job opportunities and growing Mexican community.

deport.jpg - 65.0 K Although many Mexican immigrants found Los Angeles attractive, the city government often neglected them. Housing in Mexican communities was often below housing code regulations. Inadequate housing was built in unincorporated areas such as Belvedere mainly because developers could ignore city regulations concerning lot size, sewage, and other services (Sanchez, 201). Mexican Americans were segregated to live in these less desirable areas (Sanchez, 201). According to a 1912 survey, many of houses Mexicans lived in "had dirt floors; wood was used as fuel; there were no bathing facilities; and the outdoor hydrant and toilet, used by a group of families, were universal" (McWilliams, 203). Many homes, such as those in Chavez Ravine, another Mexican community, remained this way until the late 1940s. Chavez Ravine was described as a "quite village which might have been in Mexico except for the backdrop of the Pasadena Freeway and Los Angeles City Hall" (Los Angeles Central Public Library Pamphlet 1997). Many of these areas were also without recreational facilities. In these areas, the volume of youth services was only one-third that of the better areas of the city (Dieppa, 10). The city government neglected Mexican immigrant communities, creating a physically and psychologically unhealthy environment.

Mexican immigrantsí utility as low wageworkers disappeared after the Stock market crash of 1929. The decrease in jobs forced many Mexicans to go on relief (Morales 68). The city was unprepared to deal with the prewar depression (Dieppa, 6). Mexicans were soon seen as a burden and charged as "job stealers." The local governmentís solution to this problem was "repatriation." Through this plan, 80,000 Mexicans were sent back to Mexico, along with their belongings, and in many cases, their American born children (Morales, 68). The great irony of this action was that many of the Mexicans who were "repatriated," had been actively recruited by American job agencies. Feelings of alienation, fear and distrust of the American government and its society were strengthened among Mexican Immigrants as their friends and family members were shipped back to Mexico as unwanted surplus (Morales, 69).

Through the neglect and repatriation of Mexican Immigrants, Los Angels rejected diversity. The treatment Mexicans encountered hindered, rather than fostered the growth of that community. Negative feelings abounded, creating a tense environment in Los Angeles. . Anglo viewed Mexicans with disdain, while Mexicans viewed Anglo as an insensitive and unjust upper class (Dieppa, 31). Mexicans were not the only groups to suffer from discrimination and injustice. Asians and African Americans were also subject to the segregation laws that prohibited the presence of minority groups in exclusive residential communities, and consequentially trapped minorities in less desirable areas. Japanese residents of Los Angeles faced the humiliating experience of the internment camps during the Second World War. Pervious to that, most Asians were prohibited entry into the United States through the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and subsequent legislation in 1924 that prohibited all immigration from east Asia (Eds. Encyclopedia Britannica, 988) Through exclusionary legislation, the United States, strove to maintain a homogeneous society. This anti-immigrant sentiment continues in California through state legislation such as Proposition 187, which prohibits the illegal aliens and their American born children from receiving public benefits such as medical care and education. Los Angeles has been a true American city in the manner it has treated its immigrant population. These minority groups are not accepted as Americans because they failed to be Anglo-Saxon (McDonagh, 50). This position created a psychological dilemma for the American born children of immigrants who believed themselves to be American, yet were not accepted as such by the dominant society. This dilemma has been an ever-present characteristic of Los Angeles, straining the delicate relationships that exist in this racially diverse city. The tensions created eventually explode, as they often have in Los Angeles. Zoot Suit Riots was one of these explosions.


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