History Department
History Department

Zamora publishes book tracing Mexican workers employment opportunities during WWII

Fri, December 19, 2008

The book covers Mexican workers fight for equal rights in transnational settings, an enterprise that has allowed him to make recognized contributions in various fields, including Mexican American, Texas, labor and Mexico history.

In Claiming Rights and Righting Wrongs in Texas, Zamora traces the wartime experiences of Mexican workers as they moved from rural to urban settings in search of improved employment opportunities. Zamora contends that although the expanded wartime economy allowed many of them to improve their occupational standing, discrimination slowed their movement from agricultural to nonagricultural employment and reinforced inequality.

Zamora also points out that the fight against discrimination and inequality—a historic concern in the Mexican community—achieved added importance during the war years in large part because they energized Mexico’s advocacy policy of Mexicans in the exterior and prompted the State Department to promote the Good Neighbor Policy principles of wartime understanding and good will in the domestic arena.

Inserting the cause for equal rights among Mexicans as a defining concern in intergovernmental relations meant that race had assumed hemispheric importance. Texas, according to Zamora, became a point of contention as Mexico isolated it as a test site for the application of a Good Neighbor Policy and the State Department rendered aid and advice to policy makers in Texas to win the favor of the U.S.’s principal ally in the Americas.

The State Department’s response to Mexico’s interventions included an inter-agency focus on Mexicans in the United States that Zamora assesses with an examination of the work of the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) in Texas. Although the FEPC’s efforts at enforcing the nation’s nondiscrimination policy in wartime industries did not achieve great success, they stood in contrast to the policy of the United States Employment Service to discourage the movement of Mexicans out of agriculture.

Against a backdrop of a booming wartime economy, heightened intergovernmental relations and inconsistent U.S. government policies, Zamora also examines the civil and labor rights activity of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Although other organizations spoke out against discrimination and inequality, LULAC became the favored intermediary between the Mexican and U.S. governments. Its members worked closely with Mexican consular staff and FEPC officials to advance pan-Americanism, equal rights and a political identity as Americans in the original (hemispheric) sense of the word.

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