In post-World War II America, Americans of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent had faced discrimina- tion . New immigrants, coming from Cuba, Mexico, and Central Ameri- ca — often unskilled and unable to speak English — suffered from dis- crimination as well . Some Hispanics worked as farm laborers and at times were cruelly exploited while harvest- ing crops; others gravitated to the cities, where, like earlier immigrant groups, they encountered difficulties in their quest for a better life .

Chicanos, or Mexican-Ameri- cans, mobilized in organizations like the radical Asociación Nacio- nal Mexico-Americana, yet did


not become confrontational un- til the 1960s . Hoping that Lyndon Johnson’s poverty program would expand opportunities for them, they found that bureaucrats failed to respond to less vocal groups . The example of black activism in particular taught Hispanics the im- portance of pressure politics in a pluralistic society .

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 had excluded agricultural workers from its guarantee of the right to organize and bargain col- lectively . But César Chávez, found- er of the overwhelmingly Hispanic United Farm Workers, demonstrat- ed that direct action could achieve employer recognition for his union . California grape growers agreed to bargain with the union after Chávez led a nationwide consumer boy- cott . Similar boycotts of lettuce and other products were also successful . Though farm interests continued to try to obstruct Chávez’s organiza- tion, the legal foundation had been laid for representation to secure higher wages and improved working conditions .

Hispanics became political- ly active as well . In 1961 Henry B . González won election to Congress from Texas . Three years later Eligio (“Kika”) de la Garza, another Texan, followed him, and Joseph Montoya of New Mexico went to the Sen- ate . Both González and de la Garza later rose to positions of power as committee chairmen in the House . In the 1970s and 1980s, the pace of Hispanic political involvement in-

creased . Several prominent Hispan- ics have served in the Bill Clinton and George W . Bush cabinets .

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