The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

smaller towns and cities throughout the south where minority representation is
extremely low. The authors make abundantly clear that the federal government,
along with private civil rights lawyers and minority plaintiffs, must continue vig-
orously to challenge and overturn remaining discriminatory election procedures
to ensure additional progress.
Unzverszty of North Carolzna at Greensboro STEVEN F. LAWSON
Mexican Americans: The Ambzvalent Minority. By Peter Skerry. (New York: The Free
Press, 1993. Pp. ix+463. Acknowledgments, notes, index. ISBN 0-02929-
132-1. $27.95.)
Much of the ambivalence faced by Mexican Americans today, according to Pe-
ter Skerry, centers on whether Mexican Americans are an ethnic immigrant
group or a racial minority. The first, according to Skerry, suggests "a positive
identification with an ethnic and cultural heritage" while the second implies a
self-image of a victimized racial minority (p. 15). Skerry argues that national po-
litical changes have increasingly benefitted racial minorities which has encour-
aged Mexican Americans to shift their own view of themselves from ethnic
immigrants to racial minorities.
Skerry successfully argues his point by comparing the diametrically opposed
political methods of the Mexican Americans in San Antonio and Los Angeles. In
San Antonio the old style of patronage, or patr6n politics with strong grassroots
involvement, is gradually but inevitably giving way to the big-money national po-
litical party politics of Los Angeles where there is strong elite control on the
state level but little local interest. Skerry analyzes the effectiveness of these two
forms of politics in providing political power for Mexican Americans and sug-
gests that the local patronage system of San Antonio works effectively on the lo-
cal level but does little for Mexican Americans on the state or national level. In
Los Angeles, on the other hand, the elite governing clique is able to affect both
state and local politics because of the weakness of neighborhoods and the tran-
sient nature of the Mexican American society.
Particularly revealing are the differences in the methods and successes of the
two community action groups organized by Ernesto Cortes based on Saul Alin-
sky's Chicago community organization methods. In San Antonio the Communi-
ties Organized for Public Service (COPS) retains its local roots and works most
effectively through the parish churches, while in Los Angeles the United Neigh-
borhoods Organization (UNO) remains an effective state-level political group
with little local support. National political changes, according to Skerry, have
created the growing rift between Mexican Americans and the larger society. His
analysis provides proof, controversial though it may be, that Mexican American
political leaders have led their constituents into the "not entirely appropriate, di-
visive, and counterproductive stance of a racial minority group" (p. 367). Skerry
notes ironically that "in the past when Mexicans were more likely to be treated
like a racial minority, they denied it, today when they experience dramatically
fewer racial barriers, their leaders are intent on defining them as a minority" (p.

364

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 98, July 1994 - April, 1995. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101216/. Accessed October 25, 2014.