Latina/o Conservatives: Respectability Politics, Strategic Recasting of Identity, and Activism

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on the Status of ALANA Historians and ALANA Histories and IEHS

Saturday, April 1, 2023, 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Type: Paper Session

Tags: African American; Latino/a; Politics

Abstract

This panel centers new discussions regarding Latina/o conservatives in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Dr. Gerry Cadava will serve as chair, and Dr. Thomas will comment. The first panelists, Dr. Márquez, will discuss the participation of Latino/as on the white nationalist online forum, Stormfront. It will explore this white supremacist politic within the long history of Latino/a claims to whiteness to understand Latino/a’s evolving relationship with white supremacy over the twentieth century. Sánchez’s will introduce evidence from political records and print media, to demonstrate how Mexican American political elites framed their activism relative to their Black counterparts. In adopting this kind of race-based respectability politics, Mexican American civil rights leaders and politicians believed they could achieve more moderate policy demands that were otherwise foreclosed to the more radical Black Civil Rights Movement and later Black Power Movement. Lastly, Dr. González’s presentation is a biographical piece on Anita N. Martínez, the first Mexican American woman to serve on Dallas, Texas, city council from 1969 to 1973. Martínez's economic advantages (owner of a renowned Mexican restaurant chain in the area) helped her gain notoriety with Dallas' Anglo business community, which led to her to run for city council. However, this paper argues that despite Mexican American women often being viewed as symbols or tokens for the Republican Party and conservative politics more broadly, Martínez's actions in office contributed to advancing the Mexican American community.

Papers Presented

“Sons and daughters of the Conquistadors”: Latino/as and the Recent History of the Alt-Right

This paper analyzes the participation of Latino/as on the white nationalist forum, Stormfront (a white supremacist online forum). In addition to a Spanish and Portuguese language forum on the website, there are several discussion spaces for “Spaniards in the US.” In the United States many of those users would be categorized as ethnically “Latino/a” or “Hispanic,” however, through Stormfront they attempt to recast themselves as “Spanish” or “Latin.” While there has been a great deal of scholarship on Latino/as and whiteness, there is little scholarship on Latino/as and their participation in extremist white supremacist politics. This paper will explore the racial claims of Latino/a Stormfront participants within the long history of Latino/as identifying as “Spanish” as a way to eschew both blackness and indigeneity. The forum’s most frequent users claim the pan-European white supremacy of organizations like Stormfront, the KKK, and the Proud Boys. They argue that, despite sometimes multi-generational lineage in Latin American countries, they maintained “pure” Spanish blood. Claims to Spanishness, of course, are not new in the history of Latino/a racial formations. Stretching back into the early twentieth-century, Latino/as have had a vexed relationship with whiteness, Spanishness, and ethnic identity. By contextualizing the activities of these Stormfront participants within the history of Latino/a claims to Europeanness this paper will offer an analysis of the history of Latino/as and white supremacy.

Presented By
Cecilia Márquez, Duke University

Allies at Arm’s Length: Respectability Politics and the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement

For decades, the scholarship on Black and Mexican American civil rights movements has developed into two robust, yet largely separate, discourses. As a result of this split in the study of Black and Mexican American freedom struggles, there is a dire lack of theorization and historicization across both movements. This paper thus compares both movements’ trajectories by asking how Mexican Americans, in particular, constructed their distinctive racial politics in relation to the currents of Black activism in the twentieth century. To this end, this project reviews the historical literature in both fields, while also introducing evidence from political records and print media, to demonstrate how Mexican American political elites framed their activism relative to their Black counterparts. At the center of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement lay an inherently conservative strategy that consistently denied Mexicans’ association with, and condonement of, radical Black protest politics. In adopting this kind of race-based respectability politics, Mexican American civil rights leaders and politicians believed they could achieve more moderate policy demands that were otherwise foreclosed to the more radical Black Civil Rights Movement and later Black Power Movement. By bringing together both historiographies into conversation, we can begin to see the mutually contingent—but ultimately separate—paths taken by both groups in the long civil rights movement periodization.

Presented By
Jaime Sánchez Jr., Harvard Society of Fellows

“Partners for Good Government”: Anita Martínez, Conservative Politics, and Leadership from 1969 to 1973

There remains little scholarship on Latina involvement in conservative politics in the twentieth century. This working paper is a biographical piece on Anita N. Martínez, the first Mexican American woman to serve on Dallas, Texas, city council from 1969 to 1973. In 1969, ran a campaign for a seat on the Dallas City Council, which was under the an-large system, with the support of the white Anglo business elite known as the Citizens Charter Association. Political campaign ads published in the Dallas Morning News promoted a respectable gendered announcement for Martínez, often referring her to as "Mrs. Alfred (Anita) Martinez." She won her election and remained in office until 1973. Martínez's economic advantages (owner of a renowned Mexican restaurant chain in the area) helped her gain notoriety with Dallas' Anglo business community, which led to her to run for city council. However, this paper argues that despite Mexican American women often being viewed as symbols or tokens for the Republican Party and conservative politics more broadly, Martínez's actions in office contributed to advancing the Mexican American community. While in office, Martinez was able to support a Five State Youth Leadership Institute to help disadvantaged high school students and other initiatives. She became known as the "Defender of Dreams."

Presented By
Tiffany Jasmin Gonzalez, James Madison University

Session Participants

Chair: Geraldo Luján Cadava, Northwestern University

Presenter: Tiffany Jasmin Gonzalez, James Madison University
Dr. Tiffany Jasmin González is an Assistant Professor in History at James Madison University. Her research focuses on the histories of Chicana/Latina political participation in government and social movements in the late 20th century. Dr. González manuscript-in-progress is under-contract with the University of North Carolina Press. Her work has been supported by the Radcliffe Institute of Harvard University, American Association for University Women, the Coalition for Western Women’s History, and other institutions.

Presenter: Cecilia Márquez, Duke University
Cecilia Márquez is the Hunt Family Assistant Professor in History at Duke University. Her research focuses on the history of Latinxs in the US South from 1940-Present. Dr. Márquez writes and teaches about the formation of Latinx identity, Latinx social movements, and the importance of region in shaping Latinx identity. Her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Presenter: Jaime Sánchez Jr., Harvard Society of Fellows
Jaime Sánchez, Jr. is a scholar of modern American political history. His dissertation explores the institutional development of the Democratic National Committee and coalition politics from Roosevelt to Reagan. Sánchez’s research agenda also includes work in U.S. Latino history, a teaching interest that he pursues as a host for the New Books in Latino Studies(link is external) podcast. His forthcoming scholarly work will be featured in the Journal of Policy History and American National Biography.

Commentator: Lorrin Thomas, Rutgers University - Camden