Project

PhD, History, University of California, Santa Barbara

Program

ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships

Department

College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Work Affiliation

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

PhD Granting Institution

University of California, Santa Barbara

Position Description

"Voices of the People: The Mexican American Alternative Press in San Diego, 1963-1978"

This study is a social and political history of the different social and political strands of the San Diego Mexican American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 1970s through the lens of four community newspapers published during those decades. It is the first in-depth study of the Mexican American Alternative Press, an umbrella term I use to refer to the collection of politically, socially, and ethnically distinct Mexican American civil rights era newspapers published between 1960 and 1980.
“Voices of the People” demonstrates the existence of a political and ethnically distinct collection of Mexican American movements that included second and third generation Mexican Americans, Chicanas and Chicanos, multiracial Mexicans, Democrats, Republicans, Mexican immigrants, and Mexicans that lived in Mexico who worked together and on their own to advance the rights of all Mexican descent people in San Diego. Each movement, in its own distinct way, used newspapers to challenge San Diego’s historically white, affluent, and conservative traditions to be more inclusive and responsive to Mexican descent peoples’ needs.
Two community papers, the Mexican American/Amigo (Friend) and La Verdad (The Truth), and two student productions, Inside the Beast and Voz Fronteriza (The Voice of the Border), are the focus of this study. The Mexican American/Amigo magazine encouraged working with the liberal wing of the Republican Party to advance the political and economic interests of Mexican Americans in Southern California. La Verdad was guided by the ideology of Chicano cultural nationalism, which pushed Mexican descent youth to embrace their histories and cultural identities as tools to attain self and collective advancement. Inside the Beast, out of San Diego State University, called for the formation of a progressive and multiracial Third World student front to combat racism, sexism, and economic exploitation on-and-off campus. Lastly, the University of California, San Diego student newspaper Voz Fronteriza used San Diego’s location along the U.S.-Mexico border to push for the creation of a working-class, binational movement against racial and class exploitation and imperialism. Despite political differences, newspaper contributors and community activists guided by distinct ideologies often engaged in dialogue with one another through the newspapers and in person on the front lines. Each newspaper is a window into the development and trajectory of one particular strand of Mexican American activism in San Diego. Collectively, they demonstrate the variances in civil rights tactics that were common in Southern California among Mexican descent activists in the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, they contain voices that are seldom recognized in the existing literature on the Civil Rights Movement, the Mexican American/Chicana/o Movement, and the Underground Press.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Mexican Americans with a wide spectrum of political beliefs demanded to be treated with dignity and respect by white society and sought solutions to longstanding systematic problems that affected their communities. They challenged national and local problems such as racism, labor and wage exploitation, lack of opportunities for higher education, political underrepresentation, lack of voting rights, police violence, racist immigration policies, and U.S. imperialism. However, many of the stories and experiences of the participants in the movement in San Diego remain absent from the general public’s memory and in scholarly works. This is especially striking because Mexican Americans in San Diego voiced their concerns via visible strikes, marches, walkouts, protests, music, art, and most importantly, in newspapers and local media. It is within community newspapers that we can especially see the diverse ethnic and ideological voices that made up the San Diego Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. Moreover, they were the first attempts to record the history of local Mexican American civil rights activism that was ignored by the mainstream white press. These newspapers are part of the Mexican American Alternative Press, one of the most important yet understudied legacies of the Mexican American and larger Civil Rights Movement eras. Using History and Social Science methods such as newspaper content analyses and oral history interviews, “Voices of the People” argues for the inclusion of the Mexican American Alternative Press as part of the larger Civil Rights Movement Alternative Press, as it demonstrates the role that newspapers played in advancing the Mexican American fight for social justice in one of the most understudied and conservative of California’s major cities.