Hispanics throughout the United States enthusiastically respond to the war effort as the country enters World War II.
The so-called "Zoot Suit" riots take place in southern California. Some elements of the California press had been portraying Mexican Americans as unwelcome foreigners. Bands of hundreds of sailors, marines, and soldiers in southern California range the Hispanic neighborhoods, looking for Mexican American young men in zoot suits. When they find them, the soldiers beat them and tear their suits off of them.
Operation Bootstrap, a program initiated by the Puerto Rican government to meet U.S. labor demands of World War II and encourage industrialization on the island, stimulates a major wave of migration of workers to the United States.
The American G.I. Forum, a new civil rights organization, is founded by Mexican American veterans in response to a Three Rivers, Texas, funeral home's denial to bury a Mexican American soldier killed in the Pacific during World War II.
Immigration from Mexico doubles from 5.9 percent to 11.9 percent, and in the 1960s rises to 13.3 percent of the total number of immigrants to the United States.
Most of the two million Puerto Ricans who have trekked to the U.S. mainland in this century are World War II or postwar-era entries. Unlike the immigrant experience of Mexicans, or Cubans before 1959, the majority of Puerto Rican immigrants entered the United States with little or no red tape.
Young Mexican Americans throughout the United States become caught up in the struggle for civil rights and seek to create a new identity for themselves. These efforts become known as the Chicano Movement. The movement sparks a renaissance in the arts among Mexican Americans. Many Chicano artists call attention to inequalities faced by Mexican Americans, developing new styles of art that eventually gain acceptance in mainstream literary and art scenes.
April. Anti-Communist Cuban exiles who are trained and armed by the United States, attempt a foray into Cuba that is doomed from the beginning. The failure of the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion embitters thousands of exiled Cubans, while strengthening Castro's position at home. Many observers throughout the world criticize President John F. Kennedy's administration for this attempt.
Congress enacts the first comprehensive civil rights law since the post-Civil War Reconstruction period when it passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One result of the act is the establishment of affirmative action programs. Title VII of the Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, creed, race, or ethnic background, "to achieve equality of employment opportunities and remove barriers that have operated in the past." Discrimination is prohibited in advertising, recruitment, hiring, job classification, promotion, discharge, wages and salaries, and other terms and conditions of employment. Title VII also establishes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as a monitoring device to prevent job discrimination.
October. The United States blocks a Soviet plan to establish missile bases in Cuba. Soviet Premier Khrushchev agrees to withdraw the missiles with the proviso that the United States declare publicly that it will not invade Cuba.
The Economic Opportunity Act (EOA) is the centerpiece of President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty. The EOA also creates the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to administer a number of programs on behalf of the nation's poor. These include the Job Corps, the Community Action Program (CAP), and the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
The end of the bracero program forces many Mexicans to return to Mexico. They settle near the U.S. border. To provide jobs for them, the Mexican and U.S. governments begin border industrialization programs, allowing foreign corporations to build and operate assembly plants on the border. These plants, known as maquiladoras, multiply rapidly, transforming the border region. The maquiladors attract companies because they provide cheap labor close to American markets. They employ hundreds of thousands of Mexicans in assembly work, but often in poor working conditions.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is passed, aimed at African American enfranchisement in the South. Obstacles to registration and voting are faced by all minorities, but the act's potential as a tool for Hispanic Americans is not fully realized for nearly a decade.
For the first time, the United States enacts a law placing a cap on immigration from the Western Hemisphere, becoming effective in 1968.
Fidel Castro announces that Cubans can leave the island nation if they have relatives in the United States. He stipulates, however, that Cubans already in Florida have to come and get their relatives. Nautical crafts of all types systematically leave Miami, returning laden with anxious Cubans eager to rejoin their families on the mainland.
A major revision of immigration law results when Congress amends the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. The national origin quota system is abolished.
A program is initiated to airlift Cubans to the United States. More than 250,000 Cubans are airlifted to the United States before the program is halted by Castro in 1973. About 10 percent of the island's population immigrates to the United States between 1966 and 1973.
At this time 82 percent of the Hispanic population of the nation lives in nine states, with the proportion rising to 86 percent in 1990. The largest Hispanic populations are in California, Texas, and New York, and to a lesser degree Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey.
A Chicano Moratorium is announced in a protest against the Vietnam War organized in Los Angeles. More than 20,000 Chicanos and supporters draw attention to the disproportionately high number of Chicano casualties in that war. Conflicts erupt between police and demonstrators. Journalist Rubén Salazar, not involved in the struggle, is accidentally killed by police.
The struggle over affirmative action continues when opponents coin the term "reverse discrimination," suggesting that white males are victims of discrimination as a result of affirmative action on behalf of women, blacks, Hispanics, and other under-represented groups.
Brutality against Mexican Americans continues. In López v. Harlow, a case filed in an attempt to bring the violence under control, a police officer shoots and kills López, a Mexican American, allegedly in self-defense, because he thought López was about to throw a dish at him.
The amendments constituting the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1970 add a provision that is designed to guard against inventive new barriers to political participation. It requires federal approval of all changes in voting procedures in certain jurisdictions, primarily southern states. This act prevents minority votes from being diluted in gerrymandered districts or through at-large elections.
Source: Hispanic-American Almanac, Gale, 1997.