Anti-Mexican sentiment

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Anti-Mexican sentiment is an attitude towards people of Mexican descent, Mexican culture and/or accents of Mexican Spanish most commonly found in the United States.

In general, it is closely associated with Mexican and American independence wars, and the struggle over the disputed Southwestern territories that once belonged to Spain through the establishment of building Catholic Missions. This eventually would lead to the war between the two nations and the defeat of Mexico which came with a great loss of territory. In the 20th century, anti-Mexican sentiment continued to grow after the Zimmermann Telegram incident between the Mexican government during the Mexican Revolution and the German Empire during World War I.[1] Most of all, anti-Mexican sentiment in the United States stems from illegal immigration.


Throughout U.S. history, most Americans have circulated many negative stereotypes regarding Mexican-Americans.[2] Such stereotypes have long circulated in film and other media.[3]

1840s to 1890s[edit]

As the result of the Texas Revolution and Texas annexation, the United States inherited border disputes of the Republic of Texas with Mexico, which was the factor to the eruption of the Mexican–American War (1846–48). After the United States' victory over Mexico, Mexicans signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This treaty entailed that Mexico cede over half its land to the United States in exchange for 15 million dollars but also guaranteed that Mexican citizens living in ceded lands would retain full property rights and would be granted United States citizenship if they remained in the ceded lands for at least one year.[4] This Treaty and others led to the establishment of the International Boundary and Water Commission in 1889 which was tasked with the maintenance of the border, the allocation of river waters between the two nations, and provision for flood control and water sanitation.[5]

The lynching of Mexicans and Mexican US-Americans in the Southwest has long been overlooked in American history.[6] This may be because the Tuskegee Institute files and reports, which contain most comprehensive lynching records in the United States, categorized Mexican, Chinese, and Native American lynching victims as white.[7] Statistics of reported lynching in the United States indicate that, between 1882 and 1951, 4,730 persons were lynched, of whom 1,293 were white and 3,437 were black.[8] The actual known amount of Mexicans lynched is unknown. William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb estimate that at least 597 Mexicans were lynched between 1848 and 1928[7] of which 64 were lynched in areas which lacked a formal judicial system.[7]

During the California Gold Rush, as many as 25,000 Mexicans arrived in California.[citation needed] Many of these Mexicans were experienced miners and had great success mining gold in California.[citation needed] Some Anglos perceived their success as a collective loss to U.S. wealth and intimidated Mexican miners with violence. Between 1848 and 1860, at least 163 Mexicans were lynched in California alone.[citation needed] One particularly infamous lynching occurred on July 5, 1851 when a Mexican woman named Josefa Segovia was lynched by a mob in Downieville, California. She was accused of killing a white man who had attempted to assault her after breaking into her home.[9]

1900s to 1920s[edit]

The Bisbee Deportation was the illegal deportation of about 1,300 striking mine workers, their supporters, and citizen bystanders by 2,000 vigilantes on July 12, 1917. The workers and others were kidnapped in the U.S. town of Bisbee, Arizona and held at a local baseball park. They were then loaded onto cattle cars and transported 200 miles (320 km) for 16 hours through the desert without food or water. The deportees were unloaded at Hermanas, New Mexico, without money or transportation, and warned not to return to Bisbee.[citation needed]

Between 1910 and 1919, Texas Rangers were responsible for the deaths of hundreds to thousands of ethnic Mexicans in South Texas.[10][11] The violence continued through the Porvenir Massacre on January 28, 1918, when Texas Rangers summarily executed fifteen Mexicans in Presidio County, TX.[10] This caused State Representative José Canales to head an investigation into systematic violence against Mexicans by the Texas Rangers, largely ending the pattern of violence and leading to the dismissal of five rangers involved in the massacre.[12]


The Mexican American community has been the subject of widespread immigration raids. During the Great Depression, the United States government sponsored a Mexican Repatriation program, which was intended to pressure people to move to Mexico, but many were deported against their will. More than 500,000 individuals were deported, one source estimates that approximately 60 percent of which were United States citizens.[13][14][15]


A US army soldier stands beside a Zoot suiter, Washington D.C. 1942

According to the National World War II Museum, between 250,000 and 500,000 Hispanic Americans served in the Armed Forces during World War II. Thus, Hispanic Americans comprised 2.3% to 4.7% of the Army. The exact number, however is unknown as at the time Hispanics were classified as whites. Generally Mexican American World War II servicemen were integrated into regular military units. However, many Mexican–American War veterans were discriminated against and even denied medical services by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs when they arrived home.[16] In 1948, war veteran Dr Hector P. Garcia founded the American GI Forum to address the concerns of Mexican American veterans who were being discriminated against. The AGIF's first campaign was on the behalf of Felix Longoria, a Mexican American private who was killed in the Philippines in the line of duty. Upon the return of his body to his hometown of Three Rivers, Texas, he was denied funeral services because he was Mexican American.

In the 1940s, imagery in newspapers and crime novels portrayed Mexican American zoot suiters as disloyal foreigners or murderers attacking non-Hispanic White police officers and servicemen. Anti-zoot suiters sentiment sparked a series of attacks on young Mexican American males in Los Angeles which became known as the Zoot Suit Riots. The worst of the rioting occurred on June 9, during which 5,000 servicemen and civilians gathered in downtown Los Angeles and attacked Mexican-American zoot suiters and non-zoot suiters alike. The rioting eventually spread to the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Watts.[not in citation given][17][18]

In Orange County, California, Mexican American school children were subject to racial segregation in the public school system and forced to attend "Mexican schools." In 1947, the Mendez v. Westminster ruling declared that segregating children of "Mexican and Latin descent" in state-operated public schools in Orange County was unconstitutional. This ruling helped lay the foundation for the landmark Brown v Board of Education case which ended racial segregation in the public school system.[19][better source needed]


In many counties in the southwestern United States, Mexican Americans were not selected as jurors in court cases which involved a Mexican American defendant.[20] In 1954, Pete Hernandez, an agricultural worker, was indicted of murder by an all-non-Hispanic White jury in Jackson County, Texas. Hernandez believed that the jury could not be impartial unless members of other races were allowed on the jury-selecting committees, seeing that a Mexican American had not been on a jury for more than 25 years in that particular county. Hernandez and his lawyers decided to take the case to the Supreme Court. The Hernandez v. Texas Supreme Court ruling declared that Mexican Americans and other cultural groups in the United States were entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.[21]

Many organizations, businesses, and homeowners associations had official policies to exclude Mexican Americans. In many areas across the Southwest, Mexican Americans lived in separate residential areas, due to laws and real estate company policies. This group of laws and policies, known as redlining, lasted until the 1950s, and fall under the concept of official segregation.[22][22][23][24]

Operation Wetback was a 1954 operation by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to remove illegal immigrants, mostly Mexican nationals from the southwestern United States.


One of the most vicious cases occurred at the U.S.–Mexico border west of Douglas, Arizona on August 18, 1976, when three campesinos were attacked crossing a ranch belonging to Douglas dairyman George Hanigan. The three were kidnapped, stripped, hogtied, had their feet burned before being cut loose and told them to run back to Mexico. As they ran, the Hanigans shot birdshot into their backs. The pair made it to Agua Prieta, Sonora where the Mexican police notified the Mexican consul who lodged formal complaints against George Hanigan and his two sons. The elder Hanigan died of a heart attack; after three trials, one of the Hanigan sons was convicted in federal court (and sentenced to three years) and the other was found not guilty.[25][26]


In 1994, California state voters approved Proposition 187 by a wide majority.[27] The initiative made illegal immigrants ineligible for public health,(except for emergencies), public social services, and public education; it required public agencies to report anyone they believed to be illegal to either the INS or the California attorney general; and it made it a felony to print, sell, or use false citizenship documents.[27] Many Mexican-Americans opposed such measures as reminiscent of pre-civil rights era ethnic discrimination and denounced these actions as illegal under state and federal laws, as well international law when it involves the rights of foreign nationals in other countries.[27] The law was eventually declared unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.[27]

The Chandler Roundup was a law enforcement operation in Chandler, Arizona, in 1997 in which suspected illegal immigrants were arrested based solely on their skin color. Many U.S. citizens and legal residents were also stopped and arrested.[citation needed]


As of July 2013, 34.6 million Americans or 10.9% of the United States' population, identify themselves as being of full or partial Mexican ancestry;[28] comprising 64.1% of all Hispanics and Latinos in the United States.[28] The United States is home to the second largest Mexican community in the world second only to Mexico itself comprising over 24% of the entire Mexican origin population of the world (Canada is a distant third with a small Mexican Canadian population of 96,055 or 0.3% of the population as of 2011).[29] In addition, as of 2008 there were approximately 7,000,000 undocumented Mexicans living in the United States.[30] In 2012, the United States admitted 145,326 Mexican immigrants[31] and 1,323,978 Mexicans were waiting for a slot to open up so they could emigrate to the United States.[32] A 2014 survey indicated that 34% of all Mexicans would immigrate to the United States if they were able.[33]

Some private citizens groups have been established to apprehend immigrants that have crossed into the United States illegally. These groups have also been accused of discrimination like the Minuteman Project and other anti-immigration organizations because of their aggressive and sometimes illegal tactics.[citation needed]

As Mexicans make up the majority of Latinos in the United States, when the non-Latino population is asked to comment on their perception of Latinos, they tend to think of Mexicans which is often based on stereotypes of Mexicans fueled by the media which focuses on illegal immigration. Per a 2012 survey conducted by the National Hispanic Media Coalition, one third of non-Hispanic Americans (Whites, Blacks, and Asians) falsely believe that half or more of the nation’s Hispanics are "illegal immigrants with large families and little education."[34] The report has been criticized on the grounds that it makes the same mistake that the media makes in aggregating all Latinos into a single group, thereby missing both the diversity of the situations the different groups are in and the varying perceptions of those groups by the non-Latino population.[34]

The relationship between Mexican Americans and the Black community have been tense at times as migrants from Mexico often arrive to the United States with extant, racist sentiments regarding Blacks.[35] In Mexico, Afro-Mexicans (who make up 1% of the population) report that they are regularly racially harassed by the local and state police.[35] Mexican phrases that attribute negativity associated with the word Black - such as "getting black" (meaning getting angry), the use of "negro" (when used to mean ugly), a "supper of blacks" or "cena de negros" (meaning a group of people gathering together to cause trouble)[35][36] "el negrito en el arroz" (translated as "the black in the rice" meaning an unpleasant dark skin tone), and "trabajar como negro" (translated as "work like black" which refers to work as a slave)[36] abound. The origin of the tension has also been attributed to competition for blue-collar jobs, cultural disputes in changing neighborhoods, and resentment by Blacks that Latinos are benefiting from their efforts during the civil rights movement.[35] The Mexican Mafia has strived to drive out Black residents from prestigiously Black neighborhoods through racial intimidation, threats, and violence.[37][38]

American president Donald Trump expressed his intense dislike and fear of illegal Mexicans during his campaign speech in 2016 and called Mexicans “criminals, rapists and drug dealers”. He also shown intense hatred for Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Mexican drug cartels and the Mexican government. Trump also said he would build a taller wall near the Mexico-United States border.[39][40]

Additional recent incidents[edit]

In July 2008, Luis Ramirez, a Mexican illegal immigrant, was beaten to death by several young men in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania while walking home one evening. Witnesses reported that the assailants yelled racial epithets at Ramirez as they attacked him.[41] Luis' White non-Hispanic fiancé and mother of his two children, Crystal Dillman, was quoted as saying of the four teenagers, "I think they might get off, because Luis was an illegal Mexican and these are 'all-American boys' on the football team who get good grades, or whatever they're saying about them. They'll find some way to let them go." [42] Brandon Piekarsky, 17, and Derrick Donchak, 19, received sentences of 7 to 23 months for their roles in the murder of 25-year-old Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez.[43] Piekarsky and Donchak were subsequently convicted of civil rights violations in federal court and sentenced to 9 years in federal prison.

In 2008, Mexican Rodolfo Olmedo was dragged down by a group of men shouting anti-Mexican epithets and bashed over the head with a wooden stick on the street outside his home, the first of 11 suspected anti-Hispanic bias attacks in the Staten Island neighborhood of Port Richmond, Staten Island in that year. Port Richmond is a predominantly African-American neighborhood that has seen a large influx of Mexican immigrants.[44] Rolston Hopson, William Marcano and Tyrone Goodman, all age 17, were charged in the assault.[45]

From 2003 to 2007 in California, the state with the largest Mexican and Mexican-American population, the number of hate crimes against Mexicans has almost doubled.[46] This statistic has been challenged by the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform for selecting a base year (2003) in which anti-Latino hate crimes were reported at an unusually low level and for not indexing the increase with the corresponding increase in the Hispanic population. The anti-Mexican feelings can also be directed against other Latino American nationalities in the US, even though anti-Mexican sentiment exists in some Caribbean and Latino groups.[47][48]

Since Alabama's immigration H.B.56, Birmingham, Alabama delicatessen owner Steve Dubrinsky "has been 'under attack' since speaking out for his restaurant's documented immigrant employees." [49]

There have been many criticisms toward ICE and various politicians on what has been perceived by some as anti-Mexican speech or actions.[citation needed] In modern times, organizations such as neo-nazi, white supremacist, American nationalist, and nativist groups have all been known to intimidate, harass and advocate the use of violence towards Mexican-Americans.[50][51][52][53] Ethnic slurs such as "wetback", "spick" or "spic", "dirty Mexican", "beaner", "cucaracha", "bandido" or "bandito" (a Mock Spanish derivative of English "bandit" emulating aspects of West Iberian languages) have been used.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Resources 4 Educators". Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  2. ^ Flores Niemann Yolanda, et al. Black-Brown-Red Relations and Stereotypes (2003); Charles Ramírez Berg, Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, & Resistance (2002); Chad Richardson, Batos, Bolillos, Pochos, and Pelados: Class & Culture on the South Texas Border (1999)
  3. ^ Powers, Elizabeth. "Life on the Texas-Mexico Border: Myth and reality as represented in Mainstream and Independent Western Cinema" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003
  4. ^ Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Article 8
  5. ^ Robert J. McCarthy, Executive Authority, Adaptive Treaty Interpretation, and the International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S.-Mexico, 14-2 U. Denv. Water L. Rev. 197(Spring 2011) (also available for free download at
  6. ^ "When Americans Lynched Mexicans". The New York Times. February 20, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Carrigan, William D. and Clive Web. "The lynching of persons of Mexican origin or descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928" The Journal of Social History 37:2 (Winter 2003): 413.
  8. ^ "lynching." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. December 22, 2009<>.
  9. ^ "Latinas: Area Studies Collections".
  10. ^ a b Carrigan, William D.; Webb, Clive (2013). Forgotten Dead. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 65, 86–87.
  11. ^ "Refusing to Forget: Monica Muñoz Martinez Uncovers America's History at the Border". The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  12. ^ E., OROZCO, CYNTHIA (June 15, 2010). "PORVENIR MASSACRE". Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  13. ^ 1930s Mexican Deportation: Educator brings attention to historic period and its effect on her family Archived October 5, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Mexican Repatriation in 1930s is Little Known Story Archived March 13, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Chapter Fifteen Archived August 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ press3b Archived December 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ Zoot Suit Riots Archived June 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Chapter Sixteen Archived October 2, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "LatinoLA - Hollywood :: Mendez v. Westminster". LatinoLA.
  20. ^ CARL, ALLSUP, V. (June 15, 2010). "HERNANDEZ V. STATE OF TEXAS".
  21. ^ "Hernandez v. Texas | The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law". Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  22. ^ a b "RACE - History - Post-War Economic Boom and Racial Discrimination".
  23. ^ JS Online: Filmmaker explores practice of redlining in documentary Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ Black, Brown, Yellow, and Left: Radical Activism in Los Angeles - Laura Pulido - Google Boeken. December 17, 2005. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  25. ^ History News Network: "From Hanigan to SB 1070: How Arizona Got to Where It Is Today" by Geraldo Cadava August 22, 2010
  26. ^ Miller, Tom. On the Border: Portraits of America's Southwestern Frontier, p. 143-173.
  27. ^ a b c d García, Alma M. (2002). The Mexican Americans. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 119. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
  28. ^ a b US Census Bureau 2013 American Community Survey B03001 1-Year Estimates HISPANIC OR LATINO ORIGIN BY SPECIFIC ORIGIN retrieved September 27, 2014
  29. ^ "National Household Survey (NHS) Profile, 2011". Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  30. ^ Pew Hispanic Center: "A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants to the United States" April 11, 2009
  31. ^ Department of Homeland Security: "2012 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics" 2012
  32. ^ "U.S. State Department: "Annual Report of Immigrant Visa Applicants in the Family-sponsored and Employment-based preferences Registered at the National Visa Center as of November 1, 2014" (PDF).
  33. ^ CNN: "Third of Mexicans would migrate to U.S., survey finds" By Rafael Romo August 27, 2014
  34. ^ a b Torregrosa, Luisita Lopez (September 18, 2012). "Media Feed Bias Against Latinos". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2015.
  35. ^ a b c d Los Angeles Times: "Roots of Latino/black anger" by Tanya K. Hernandez January 7, 2007
  36. ^ a b Consejo Para Prevenir y Eliminar La Discriminación De La Ciudad De Mexico: "Personas Afrodescendientes" Archived September 25, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. retrieved September 24, 2015 | "'"En la vida diaria, el racismo se expresa sobre todo en chistes, comentarios y frases que ridiculizan, minusvaloran o desprecian a las personas por su tono de piel, su historia, su cultura, sus tradiciones o su condición social. Frases como “El negrito en el arroz”, que califica como desagradable el tono de piel oscura; “Trabajar como negro”, que refleja la condición de esclavo y sobreexplotación a la que estuvieron sometidos los pueblos africanos; “Cena de negros”, que indica que las personas de este tono de piel se comportan de manera violenta o poco amable, son algunos ejemplos de esas prácticas, que muchas veces se reproducen de manera irreflexiva"
  37. ^ Fox News Latino: "Latino Gang Tried to Drive All Blacks From California City" June 8, 2011
  38. ^ Los Angeles Times: "Attack on family in Compton latest incident in wave of anti-black violence" By Sam Quinones, Richard Winton and Joe Mozingo January 25, 2013
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Federal Grand Jury Indictment Alleges Hate Crime and Police Cover-Up in the Murder of Mexican Immigrant". December 16, 2009. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  42. ^ Hamill, Sean D. (August 5, 2008). "Mexican's Death Bares a Town's Ethnic Tension" – via
  43. ^ Rosario, Mariela (June 18, 2009). "Teens Convicted of Murdering Luis Ramirez Sentenced to 7 Months in Jail". Latina. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  44. ^ Fox News: "Attacks against Mexican immigrants in NYC's Staten Island inflame black-Hispanic tensions" August 16, 2010
  45. ^ NY1: "Four Teens Charged With Alleged Staten Island Bias Attack" By Tetiana Anderson April 10, 2010
  46. ^ "FBI Statistics Show Anti-Latino Hate Crimes on the Rise".
  47. ^ Archived February 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  48. ^ Orlando Sentinel: "Hate Fuels Fight In Kissimmee - Puerto Rican Youth Is Beaten, 2 Men Are Charged In Attack" By Lenny Savino July 8, 1998 | ``One of them [Crespo] said you're Mexican, talk to Mexican girls, not American girls, Rosado said. ``He got out of the car. I didn't say anything. He punched me in my nose and eye."
  49. ^ "Max's Deli owner talks about backlash after speaking out for legal immigrants |". October 20, 2011. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
  50. ^ News, A. B. C. (January 8, 2009). "New Immigrant Backlash: KKK Targets Mexicans". ABC News.
  51. ^ " Anti-Latino Violence".
  52. ^ Mead, Julia C. (June 15, 2006). "4 Are Held in Attack on Mexican Immigrants" – via
  53. ^ "News: Hispanics become targets of hatred in Ohio -".