September 22, 2000
Hispanic Heritage Month: September 15 - October 15
Jose Pitti, Ph.D., Professor of History and Ethnic
California State University, Sacramento
Antonia Castaneda, Ph.D.
Carlos Cortes, Professor of History
University of California, Riverside
THE MEXICAN WAR
In 1846, the U.S-Mexican War erupted. Tensions between the two countries had been developing for years over the obvious U.S. goal of expanding to the Pacific coast. The United States had made several offers to purchase all or part of northern Mexico, offers that Mexico rejected. In 1842, the United States revealed that it was prepared to use force to take what money could not buy, when the commander of the Pacific squadron invaded and captured Monterey, the capital of California, and returned it with apologies.
On the other side, Mexico's antagonism toward the United States was exacerbated by annexation of Texas, a former Mexican province that had revolted in 1835. The Texas rebels had extracted a battlefield treaty from Mexico recognizing the independence of Texas, but the Mexican government had never ratified it. To Mexico, therefore, U.S. annexation of Texas was grand theft and unconscionable aggression.
The precipitating incident of the war came in April 1846, when small units of Mexican and U.S. soldiers clashed in disputed territory between the Nueces River (the Texas boundary recognized by Mexico) and the Rio Grande (the boundary claimed by Texas). The incident provided a pretext for an annexation decision already made by U.S. President James K. Polk, who ordered invasion by U.S. troops. Fighting in northeastern Mexico was followed by the landing of U.S. forces at Veracruz and an advance overland from there to Mexico City. Simultaneously, other U.S. forces occupied the province of New Mexico and then marched to California, most of which had already come under U.S. control as the result of a naval invasion and the Bear Flag Revolt.
The initial U.S. occupation of California occurred without bloodshed, but Mexican armed reaction ultimately broke out in both New Mexico and California. Mexican patriots, mainly citizen volunteers, were victorious in 1846 in battles at Los Angeles, San Pasqual, Chino Rancho, and elsewhere. But eventually they had to submit to the trained and better-armed U.S. forces. By early 1847, the United States had established control over California and the rest of northern Mexico, and proceeded to absorb this territory. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between the United States and Mexico confirmed the land transfer.
No sooner had the treaty been signed than the first major post-war influx of Anglos began, fueled by the discovery of gold in 1848. The 10,000 Californios (pre-conquest Mexican Californians) soon found the territory swamped by Anglo-American migrants and foreign immigrants. The latter included Chileans, Peruvians, Basques, and Mexicans, particularly miners from the Mexican province of Sonora. However, despite this Latino immigration, the Spanish-speaking population of California fell to 15 percent by 1850, and to four percent by 1870.
Northern California received the major thrust of the Anglo gold rush migration, while southern California remained heavily Mexican. This ethnic contrast was one factor in the debate over the possibility of dividing California into two states, as happened in the case of New Mexico and Arizona. However, the coming of the transcontinental railroad to southern California in the 1870s spurred a land boom and the state's second major population explosion. By the 1880s, Anglo settlers were also numerically dominant in the southern part of the state.
The presence of a Mexican majority in 1848 contributed to a promising start for good ethnic relations in California. Californios participated widely in the early post-conquest government, and provided eight of the 48 delegates to the 1849 state constitutional convention. There they won such transitory victories as a provision that all state laws and regulations be translated into Spanish. In southern California, where Californios remained a majority in some places until the 1880s, they continued to be elected to local and county positions, and a handful held state offices or seats in the legislature.
However, the rapid establishment of a heavy statewide Anglo majority quickly rendered Mexican Americans politically powerless at the state level. As a result, they could not prevent enactment of inequitable and sometimes discriminatory laws. For example, the legislature placed the heaviest tax burden on land, an abrupt and decimating shift from the Mexican system of taxing production rather than land. Although this tax also hurt Anglo landowners, it seriously undermined the Cal-ifornio economic position, based primarily on ranching. The Foreign Miners' Tax of 1850, a $20 monthly fee for the right to mine, was applied not only to foreign immigrants but also to California-born Mexicans, who had automatically become U.S. citizens under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The state anti-vagrancy act of 1855 was so obviously anti-Mexican that it became known popularly as the Greaser Law. Possibly the most blatantly anti-Mexican law was the 1855 act negating the constitutional requirement that laws be translated into Spanish. Finally, there were growing vigilantism and squatter violence against Californio landowners.
Land had been the basis of the California socio-economic system. The loss of land after the U.S. conquest undermined that system, in spite of the theoretical protections provided by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Holders of Spanish and Mexican land grants, most of whom were Mexican Americans, had to seek legal confirmation of their titles. In effect, the federal government placed the burden of proof on the landowners instead of automatically accepting all titles and then handling challenges on an individual basis.
Already suffering from heavy taxes and lacking capital, Chicano landowners had to go through the slow, expensive process of legally confirming their claims, and often were forced to borrow money at high interest rates to cover the costs of the legal struggle. Moreover, they had to argue their cases before U.S. judges and land commissioners unfamiliar with Hispanic legal principles and the land tenure system on which land grants were based. Even when they did win confirmation of their grants, Mexican Americans often found themselves personally destitute, or had to sacrifice their land to pay their legal expenses.
Loss of land contributed heavily to relegation of Mexican Americans to the lower echelons of the California socio-economic system. The loss eroded their economic base, undermined their political power, and displaced ranchworkers. Some Chicanos managed to find work in traditional occupations, such as vaquero or sheepshearer, but often only on a part-time basis. Most displaced Chicanos became laborers, poorly paid and often migratory, in expanding large-scale commercial agriculture. Others moved to cities, where their pastoral and agricultural skills were of little use. Many found employment in railroads, construction, and food processing.
Increasingly incorporated into the labor market in the nineteenth century as unskilled or semi-skilled manual laborers, Chicanos experienced job displacement, and in some areas, actual downward occupational mobility. Anglo hostility and low levels of education limited their access to jobs in the rapidly expanding white-collar sector, and Chicanos also encountered obstacles to upward mobility even in occupations in which they had considerable skill and experience. In Los Angeles, for example, Chicanos disappeared completely from the ranks of hatmakers, masons, and tailors. Despite long pastoral experience, Chicanos found employment on ranches only as ranchhands, while Anglos held most supervisory positions.
Another aspect of the nineteenth century economic shift was the entry of Mexican American women into the labor market. As Mexican American men found themselves more occupationally disadvantaged, women became increasingly employed as domestics, laundresses, farm laborers, and cannery and packinghouse workers. A rise in the proportion of female-headed households reflected these socio-economic stresses.
Concomitant with the Chicano economic decline was emergence of residential and social segregation. Chicano barrios and colonias consisted of various types. Some traditional Mexican towns became transformed into barrios as Anglos immigrated and established their own segregated neighborhoods, or as newly established Anglo cities expanded until they enveloped historic Mexican communities. Displaced Chicanos and immigrating Mexicans often established new barrios and colonias.
Barrios and colonias developed and survived through a combination of force and choice. In Anglo areas, anti-Mexican segregation, often embedded in restrictive covenants on real estate, slammed the residential door on the vast majority of Mexican Americans, the major exceptions being Chicanos with wealth, social status, light skins, and presumed Spanish identity. On the other hand, most Chicanos and new Mexican immigrants probably preferred living among people who shared their heritage, culture, and language. The little intermarriage that took place almost always involved Anglo men and daughters from wealthy "Spanish" families events that often accompanied business partnerships or political alliances.
In Chicano areas, traditional extended family and community social life flourished. There were bullfights, rodeos, horse races, and various fiestas, including the celebration of Mexican Independence Day (September 16) and Cinco de Mayo (May 5 the 1862 Mexican victory over the French at Puebla). The Catholic Church often provided a focus for social as well as religious life. Mexican American political, cultural, patriotic, and mutual aid organizations began to develop, but remained generally local in focus. Chicano newspapers strengthened community cohesion and spoke out against injustices, but they were undercapitalized, and were forced to engage in a constant, ultimately losing strug-gle for survival.
Faced with a pervasive pattern of economic dislocation, declining political influence, violence, and discrimination, Chicanos fought back.
Usually, they maneuvered within the system through the courts, political channels, and newspapers but at times they resorted to force to defend their rights. Some Chicanos, such as Tiburcio Vasquez, turned to banditry for survival and as a means of expressing grievances and frustrations with Anglo treatment. Nonetheless, by the end of the nineteenth century, Chicanos had declined from an influential majority to a relatively powerless minority.
REVOLUTION TO DEPRESSION: 1900-1940
The first three decades of the twentieth century saw rapid growth in the size of the California Chicano population. However, the stage for this growth had been set by years of social and economic changes in Mexico and the United States.
Development of mining and industry in northern Mexico, as well as building of north-south railroad lines, attracted large numbers of Mexicans to the northern part of the country in the late nineteenth century. There they learned new industrial, mining, and railroad skills that would be useful later in the United States. The railroad also provided a quicker and easier means of travel to the north. At the same time, economic pressures were mounting. Many small landowners were losing their holdings to expanding haciendas, while farm workers were increasingly and systematically trapped into peonage by accumulating debts.
Finally in 1910, political opponents of President Porfirio Diaz revolted. He was quickly overthrown, but replacement of his government did not end the Mexican Revolution which spread throughout the country and took on deep social and economic, rather than merely political ramifications. The resulting chaos drove thousands of Mexicans north. Beyond physical proximity, the United States offered jobs in industry, in mines, on railroads, and in agriculture and all at wage levels far higher than those in Mexico. World War I further increased the demand for Mexican labor.
In the 1920s, the pace of emigration increased, spurred in part by the short but violent Cristero Revolution (1926-1929), while the U.S. economy continued to expand and attract Mexican labor. Nearly one-half million Mexicans entered the United States on permanent visas during the 1920s, some 11 percent of total U.S. immigration during that decade. Thousands more entered informally, before passage of restrictive regulations. Even after establishment of more stringent immigration rules and procedures, thousands continued to cross without legal sanction. Many of them were ignorant of the required legal processes; others sought to avoid the head tax, the expense of a visa, and bureaucratic delays at the border. Coyotes as the professional labor contractors and border-crossing experts were known often received commissions from U.S. businesses. They began the industry of smuggling people and forging documents that continues to the present.
Most Mexican immigrants settled in the Southwest. By 1930, more than 30 percent of Mexican-born U.S. residents lived in California. They entered nearly every occupation classified as unskilled or semi-skilled. Chicanos became the bulwark of southwestern agriculture. By 1930, manufacturing, transportation, communications, and domestic and personal service had become the other major sectors of Chicano employment. Chicanos made up 75 percent of the work force of the six major western railroads. They also held blue-collar positions in construction, food processing, textiles, automobile industries, steel production, and utilities. In California during the 1920s, Chicanos constituted up to two-thirds of the work force in many industries.
A small Chicano middle class developed, often oriented toward serving the Chicano population. The growth of barrios and colonias fostered expansion of small businesses such as grocery and dry-goods stores, restaurants, barber shops, and tailor shops. Small construction firms emerged. Chicanos entered the teaching profession, usually working in private Chicano schools or in segregated public schools.
Many factors kept Chicanos in a marginal status. The geographical isolation of employment sites, particularly in railroading, agriculture, and agriculturally related industry, often reduced opportunities for Chicanos to gain familiarity with U.S. society through personal contact. Chicanos also encountered various forms of segregation. These included maintenance of separate Anglo and Mexican public schools, restrictive covenants on residential property, segregated restaurants, separate "white" and "colored" sections in theaters, and special "colored" days in segregated swimming pools. Numerous government agencies, religious groups, and private social service organizations, however, made special efforts to assist in the acculturation of Chicanos by providing instruction in the English language, U.S. culture, and job skills.
The dramatic increase in Mexican immigration affected Chicano residential patterns. Thousands settled in older barrios, causing over crowding and generating construction of cheap housing to meet the sudden demand. In some barrios, Mexican immigrants attained such numerical dominance that U.S.-born Chicanos became a minority within a minority. Immigrants sometimes formed new barrios adjacent to historical Chicano areas or new colonias in agricultural or railroad labor camps.
The growth in the size and number of Chicano communities fostered the growth of community activities. In the early twentieth century, there was a major increase in Chicano organizations, particularly mutualistas (mutual aid societies). Some adopted descriptive or symbolic names, such as Club Reciproco (Reciprocal Club) or Sociedad Progresista Mexicana (Mexican Progressive Society). Others selected names of Mexican heroes, such as Sociedad Mutualista Miguel Hidalgo (the father of Mexican independence), Sociedad Mutua-lista Benito Juarez (the famous Mexican Liberal president), or Sociedad Ignacio Zaragosa (the victorious Texas-born general at the Battle of Puebla, 1862).
Membership varied. Some organizations were exclusively male or female; others had mixed membership. Most developed as representative of the working class, but others were essentially middle or upper-class, or reflected a cross-section of wealth and occupations. Although each mutualista had its special goals, they all provided a focus for social life with such activities as meetings, family gatherings, lectures, discussions, cultural presentations, and commemoration of both U.S. and Mexican holidays.
Most provided services, such as assistance to families in need, emergency loans, legal services, mediation of disputes, and medical, life, and burial insurance. Some organized libraries or operated escuelitas (little schools), providing training in Mexican culture, Spanish, and basic school subjects to supplement the inferior education many Chica-nos felt their children received in the public schools. Mutualistas helped immigrants adapt to life in the United States. Many mutualistas became involved in civil rights issues, such as the legal defense of Chicanos and the struggle against residential, school, or public segregation and other forms of discrimination. Some engaged in political activism, including support of candidates for public office. At times, mutualistas provided support for Chicanos on strike. Coalitions of Chicano organizations were formed, such as La Liga Protectora Latina (Latin Protective League) and El Confederacion de Sociedades Mexicanas (Confederation of Mexican Societies) in Los Angeles.
In addition to mutualistas, a variety of other cultural, political, service, and social organizations were developed in the early twentieth century, as communities grew or were formed. Possibly the most turbulent Chicano organizational activity of that era was in the labor sphere, where Mexicans played ironically conflicting roles. Because of depressed wages and unemployment in Mexico, Mexican workers could earn more in the United States, even by accepting jobs at pay levels that Anglos refused. Employers thus used Mexican labor to hold down pay scales, and often reached across the border to recruit Mexicans as strikebreakers. Because of the antipathy Mexicans generated in these roles, and also because of the biases of union leaders, local chapters of U.S. labor unions often refused to accept Chicanos as members, or required them to establish segregated locals.
There were Mexican strikers as well as strikebreakers, though. Chicanos were in the forefront of agricultural strikes. In 1903, more than 1,000 Mexican and Japanese sugar-beet workers carried out a successful strike near Ventura. In 1913, Mexican workers participated in a strike against degrading conditions on the Durst hop ranch, near Wheatland, Yuba County. Although the intervention of National Guard troops and the arrest of some 100 migrant workers broke the back of the strike, the Wheatland events contributed to establishment of the California Commission on Immigration and Housing, and recognition of the oppressive living and working conditions of agricultural laborers.
Throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s, Mexicans heed or participated in a number of agricultural strikes throughout California. Mexicans struck Imperial Valley melon fields in 1928 and 1930. In 1933, El Monte strawberry fields, San Joaquin Valley cotton fields and fruit orchards, Hayward pea fields, and many other locales were affected. Strikes spread to Redlands citrus groves in 1936, and to Ventura County lemon groves in 1941. Mexicans also challenged the related food-processing industry through strikes by lettuce packers in Salinas in 1936, cannery workers in Stockton in 1937, and others.
Chicanos created a number of their own unions. El Confederacion de Uniones Obreras Mexicanas (CUOM, Confederation of Mexican Labor Unions) was formed in 1928. Among its goals were equal pay for Mexicans and Anglos doing the same job, termination of job discrimination against Chicano workers, and limitation on the immigration of Mexican workers into the United States. At its height, CUOM had about 20 locals and 3,000 workers.
In the early 1930s, Chicanos established some 40 agricultural unions in California. The largest, El Confederacion de Uniones de Campesinos y Obreros Mexicanos (CUCOM, Confederation of Mexican Farm Workers' and Laborers' Unions), created in 1933, ultimately included 50 locals and 5,000 members. Most of these unions later joined the American Federation of Labor or the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
The Great Depression brought a dramatic population reversal among Mexican Americans. Tabulated immigration to the United States from Mexico fell from nearly 500,000 during the 1920s to only 32,700 during the 1930s. At the same time, official figures indicate that some half- million persons of Mexican descent moved to Mexico.
The Depression displaced millions of American workers, and the drastic midwestern drought dispossessed thousands more, many of whom headed for California. As a result, California Chicanos not only lost their jobs in the cities along with other Americans, but also found themselves displaced from agricultural jobs by Dust Bowl migrants. Whereas before the Depression Anglos had composed less than 20 percent of California migratory agricultural laborers, by 1936, they had increased to more than 85 percent.
The shrinking job market caused Anglo attitudes toward Mexicans in the United States to change. Previously welcomed as important contributors to an expanding agriculture and industry, Mexicans now were seen as "surplus labor." No longer considered the backbone of California agriculture and invaluable contributors to other employment sectors, Mexicans instead were viewed as an economic liability, and had become objects of resentment as recipients of scarce public relief funds.
The government's solution was the Repatriation Program. In cooperation with the Mexican government, which had regretted the loss of so many able workers, U.S. federal, state, county, and local officials applied pressure on Mexicans to "voluntarily" return to Mexico. At times, this procedure resulted in outright deportation. Mexican aliens who lacked documents of legal residency, including many who had entered the United States in good faith during an earlier period when immigration from Mexico was a more informal process, were particularly vulnerable. Among the victims of the process were naturalized and U.S.-born husbands, wives, and children of Mexican repatriates, who had to choose between remaining in the United States or maintaining family unity by moving to Mexico.
The Depression era also sharpened long-existent Chicano distrust of government, particularly its agents of law enforcement. During the Depression, the use of violence to break strikes and disrupt union activities was widespread and added to Chicano antagonism toward law-enforcement officials. The Repatriation Program further increased Chicano distrust of government.
WORLD WAR II AND ITS AFTERMATH
World War II marked another sharp reversal in the course of Chicano history, renewing hope where the Depression had brought despair. The Depression had left in its wake a population decline, devastated communities, and shattered dreams; the war brought population growth, resurgent communities, and rising expectations.
World War II caused a tremendous labor shortage. When the military forces called for recruits, Mexican Americans responded in great number and went on to serve with distinction. Some 350,000 Chicanos served in the armed services and won 17 medals of honor. The war also brought industrial expansion, further aggravating the labor shortage caused by growth of the armed forces. Chicanos thus managed to gain entry to jobs and industries that had been virtually closed to them in the past. These new opportunities liberated many Chicanos from dependence on such traditional occupations as agriculture.
The turnaround from the labor surplus of the 1930s to the labor shortage of the 1940s had a special impact on agriculture and transportation. For help, the United States turned to Mexico, and in 1942 the two nations formulated the Bracero Program. From then until 1964, Mexican braceros were a regular part of the U.S. labor scene, reaching a peak of 450,000 workers in 1959. Most engaged in agriculture; they formed 26 percent of the nation's seasonal agricultural labor force in 1960.
Along with opportunities, World War II also brought increased tensions between Chicanos and law-enforcement agencies. Two events in Los Angeles brought this issue into focus. In the Sleepy Lagoon case of 1942-1943, 17 Chicano youths were convicted of charges ranging from assault to first-degree murder for the death of a Mexican American boy discovered on the outskirts of the city. Throughout the trial, the judge openly displayed bias against Chicanos, and allowed the prosecution to bring in racial factors. Further, the defendants were not permitted haircuts or changes of clothing. In 1944, the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee obtained a reversal of the convictions from the California District Court of Appeals, but the damage had been done. Los Angeles newspapers sensationalized the case and helped create an anti-Mexican atmosphere. Police harassed Chicano youth clubs, and repeatedly rounded up Chicano youth "under suspicion."
In the aftermath of the convictions and the press campaign, conflict broke out between U.S. servicemen in the area and young Mexican Americans who often dressed in the zoot suits popular during the wartime era. Soldiers and sailors declared open season on Chicanos, attacking them on the streets and even dragging them out of theaters and public vehicles. Instead of intervening to stop the attackers, military and local police moved in afterward and arrested the Chicano victims. Spurred on by sensational, anti-Mexican press coverage of the "zoot-suit riots," these assaults spread throughout Southern California and even into midwestern cities. A citizens' investigating committee appointed by the governor later reported that racial prejudice, discriminatory police practices, and inflammatory press coverage were among the principal causes of the riots. The Sleepy Lagoon case and the zoot-suit affair provided the basis for Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit, which in 1979 became the first Chicano play to appear on Broadway.
Despite such events as these, the World War II era proved to be generally positive for Mexican Americans and is often viewed as a watershed in their history. Progress continued after the war. The G.I. Bill of Rights gave all veterans such benefits as educational subsidies and loans for business and housing. Moreover, returning Chicano servicemen refused to accept the discriminatory practices that had been the Chicanos' lot. The G.I. generation furnished much of the leadership for post-war Mexican American civil rights and political activism.
Veterans were instrumental in the founding and growth of a variety of Chicano organizations. Among the heavily political organizations, the Unity Leagues and the Community Service Organization registered voters in California and supported Chicano candidates. These groups also engaged in such diverse activities as language and citizenship education, court challenges against school segregation, and assistance in obtaining government services. Even more overtly political had been the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA).
When it comes to military service, combat decorations, and wartime casualties, however, Chicanos have been overrepresented in terms of population. Because of their lower educational attainment and restricted employment opportunities, Chicanos have traditionally viewed military service as a viable economic option. And since they were underrepre-sented in higher education, Mexican Americans did not benefit from student deferments as frequently as Anglos.
Finally, the 1970 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report, Mexican- Americans and the Administration of Justice in the Southwest, documented unequal treatment of Chicanos by law-enforcement agencies and the judicial system. Among widespread abuses cited in this and other studies are the lack of bilingual translators in court proceedings; underrepre-sentation of Chicanos on grand juries, as judges, and as law-enforcement officers; unequal assignment of punishment and probation to convicted Chi-canos; excessive patrolling of Chicano barrios; anti-Mexican prejudice among police and judicial officials; and even wrongful use of law-enforcement agencies. In the search for undocumented Mexicans, the U.S. Border Patrol has exacerbated antipathy among Mexican Americans by periodic raids on houses, apartments, restaurants, and bars in Chicano communities and predominantly Chicano places of employment.
THE CHICANO MOVEMENT
This negative side of the post-World War II Mexican American experience provided background and impetus for the Chicano movement
Rising from the turbulent 1960s and drawing on the century-long foundation of Mexican American experience, the Chicano movement became a dynamic force for societal change. The movement wa not a monolith, but rather an amalgam of individuals and organizations who share a sense of pride in Mexicanidad, a dedication to enhancement of Chicano culture, mutual identification, a desire to improve the Chicano socio-economic position, and a commitment to making constructive changes in U.S. society.
A major focus of contemporary Chicanos has been politics. Political goals have included increasing the number of Chicano candidates, convincing non-Chicano candidates to commit themselves to the needs of the Mexican American community, conducting broad-scale voter registration and community organization drives, working for appointment of more Chicanos in government, and supporting passage of constructive legislation.
Chicanos have given considerable contemporary attention to economic change. Goals and strategies have varied upgrading occupations, creating more private businesses (Brown Capitalism), and forming cooperative community development enterprises are examples. The most visible and publicly dramatic aspect of the Chicano economic struggle has been the United Farm Workers' movement led by Cesar Chavez. Education has long been a primary target of Mexican American reformers. Well before the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed school desegregation in the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, California Chicanos had challenged educational discrimination. In 1946, Mendez v. Westminister School District resulted in banning separate Chicano schools in California. Yet the U.S. Civil Rights Commission pointed out that in the late 1960s, one-quarter of Chicanos in California attended schools with more than 50 percent Chicanos.
Students have provided much of the effort toward educational reform through such organizations as the United Mexican-American Students (UMAS) and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA, Chicano Student Movement of the Southwest). The Chicano movement also spurred establishment of Chicano alternative schools and institutions of higher education, such as Universidad de la Tierra in Goshen, Universidad de Campesinos Libres in Fresno, and Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl University in Davis, Yolo County, the first Chicano/American Indian university.
The Chicano movement also generated a Chicano cultural renaissance and contributed to a broader Hispanic cultural renaissance in the United States. Art, music, literature, theater, and other forms of expression have flourished.
As we enter the new millennium MexicanAmericans, Chicanos and Hispanics will continue, as they have in the past, to shape the future of the state of California.