The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003

Class and Consensus

therefore better to look for the meaning that the actors themselves
sought in their lives. If we begin looking for unusual circumstances to
explain an apparently anomalous historical development, then we are
automatically assuming that the emergence of class or race consciousness
of a specific type is natural or essential. The experience of class, as has
been described in other works, is not applicable to Victoria's Mexican
Americans. The labor history of the middle class and working class tells a
story of white Americans. Clearly, there were ethnic divisions and ethnic
prejudices involved in those stories as well. In those stories the struggle
centers on the issue of which group of whites will define the norm. Who
will shape the direction of citizenship? Organized labor? Business own-
ers? Native born? European immigrant? For Mexican Americans, the
struggle involved the movement by Mexican Americans from a public
identity as a separate racial group to one as an ethnic group within the
white race.58 But desires for whiteness did not mean desires to become
Anglo; whiteness simply meant access to equal citizenship. Becoming
Anglo meant almost, if not complete, acculturation to the point of rejec-
tion of one's mexicanzdad. While some Mexican Americans went to this
extreme, the majority did not.
My position emerged out of the inspiration provided by Alex
Saragoza's 1989 historiographical article in Aztldn in which he called
for new directions in Chicano scholarship, away from the "us versus
them" model of the 196os and 1970s. Subsequently, of course, there
has emerged new, more complex research that has built upon the nec-
essary and important foundation that was built in the Chicano era.
Many of these works have drawn from a materialist perspective; con-
vincingly so, but I would argue that there are other directions for explo-
ration. As gratifying as economically driven analyses and exciting stories
of open resistance are, just as important, but for different reasons, are
the stories of those who chose other methods of struggle. Methods of
analysis such as a consensus interpretation can be helpful as long as
one understands that this explanation is not driven by the triumph of
an Anglo middle class that was imposing its vision on those below.
Instead, it was a consensus that centered on a set of values not by any
means incongruent with the values and culture of the Mexican
American community. Nor was it an all-or-nothing game. At no point
did the individuals in this study believe that it was necessary to com-
pletely surrender their mexicanidad. Rather, they sought equality and
,8 Good Neighbor Commission, Texas: Friend and Neighbor (Austin: Von Boekman-Jones Press,
1961), 4; George C. Kiser and Martha Woody Kiser, Mexican Workers zn the United States. Histoncal
and Polztzcal Perspectives (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1979), 88; Montejano,
Anglos and Mexicans zn the Makng of Texas, 268; DeLe6n, San Angelenos, 52.

2002

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 106, July 2002 - April, 2003. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101223/. Accessed August 1, 2014.