Annual Meeting Preview: "Twentieth Century Mexican American Activists: Political Biographies of Gender and Leadership"

This session takes place on Thursday, April 4, at the 2019 OAH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia and is Endorsed by theImmigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS) and the Western History Association

Chair and Commentator: Monica Munoz Martinez, American Studies

"Doing Dignity Work: Alicia Escalante and the East Los Angeles Welfare Rights Organization, 1967-1974
Rosie Bermudez, University of California Santa Barbara

"Representation for a Change": Irma Rangel and the Chicana/o Movement in Texas
Tiffany González, Texas A&M University

Alonso S. Perales: Principle LULAC Founder and Civil Rights Leader in the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement in Texas, 1920-1960
Cynthia E. Orozco, Eastern New Mexico University, Ruidoso

See other sessions relating to this topic on the Theme Visualizer

Latinas and Latinos have a long history in shaping and influencing electoral and grassroots politics. Most historiographies of US politics are white and male. This panel seeks to center the leadership, activism, and gendered experiences of women and men from both the Mexican American movement (1920-1960) and Chicana movement (1963-1978). These women and man impacted organizing and electoral politics in Texas and California. The panel will also stress the significance of biography, knowledge of understudied historical actors, and the complexity of the struggles waged.

Cynthia E. Orozco will provide an overview of both the grassroots and electoral politics that Alonso S. Perales of San Antonio, the principle founder of LULAC, was involved with at the local, state, national, and international levels before 1960. Orozco has completed a full length biography of Perales since his papers are now in a library.

Rosie Bermudez will address Alicia Escalante’s lived experience of poverty and social justice in Los Angeles and the development of a militant grassroots Chicana feminism rooted in the struggles for human dignity surpassing the concept of “la familia.” Escalante founded the East Los Angeles Welfare Rights Organization in Los Angeles in 1967 during the Chicano movement. Bermudez is the first to study her in depth.

Tiffany J. Gonzalez focuses on the work of Irma Rangel, the first Texas Mexican American woman to join the Texas legislature in the 1970s. She will discuss Rangel in the context of women working across political lines for the realignment of the Democratic Party in the state. Gonzalez provides the first in depth study of Rangel of Kingsville in South Texas.


Cynthia E. Orozco, No Mexicans, Women or Dogs Allowed: the Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement (University of Texas Press, 2009)

Rosie C. Bermudez, “La Causa de los Pobres: Alicia Escalante’s Lived Experiences of Poverty and the Struggle for Economic Justice,” in Chicana Movidas: New Narratives of Activism and Feminism in the Movement Era, Ed. Maylei Blackwell, Maria E. Cotera, and Dionne Espinoza (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018).

Tiffany J. Gonzalez, “Pathways to Political Office: Maria Cardenas and the Creation of Single-Member Districts in San Angelo,” US Latina & Latino Oral History Journal 1 (2017).

Posted: February 15, 2019
Tagged: Previews, OAH Works, Conference