Deal with Us: The Business of Mexican Culture in Post-World War II Houston
AdvisorMartinez, Oscar J.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation is an in-depth examination of cultural interactions between Mexican Americans and Anglos in post-World War II Houston. Today, Houston's Mexican American community ranks as the third largest in the United States. This thriving metropolis offers an urban platform through which one can understand how acceptance and celebration of ethnic cultural ways have come to form an intrinsic part of American culture. While much of the past and current literature on Mexican American history in the postwar period focuses on conflicts over desegregation and fights for equal treatment under the law, my research offers a new perspective on less confrontational cultural exchanges between Anglos and Mexican Americans. Ethnic festivals, Spanish-language radio programming, and the Mexican restaurant industry in Houston illuminate how Mexican American businessmen and women introduced aspects of Mexican culture to a large array of Houstonians and, as a consequence, how Houstonians came to accept these cultural manifestations as a natural part of the city's life. My use of English- and Spanish-language newspapers, oral histories, personal papers, business records, advertisements, photographs, and municipal, state, and federal documents allows me to explore the regular cultural exchanges and syntheses of Anglo and Mexican cultures in Texas, even during ongoing struggles for racial equality. Additionally, the surge in celebrations of Mexican ethnicity in the postwar era led to a heightened interest from national corporations in attracting and profiting from the Hispanic dollar. Ethnic festivals, radio broadcasts, and the Mexican food industry gradually opened the way for a repackaging of ethnicity as something to be consumed. By the 1980s, these cultural manifestations remained emblematic of the Mexican heritage but had also become highly marketable commodities; traditions that used to be associated solely with the Mexican American community in Houston now pointed to their increased level of incorporation into the city's cultural life. I conclude that this greater acceptance of certain aspects of Mexican culture signaled the gradual penetration of Mexican American ethnicity into American cultural ways.
Degree ProgramGraduate College