The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992

The Failed Promise of Wartime Opportunity for
Mexicans in the Texas Oil Industry
EMILIO ZAMORA*
M EXICANS CAME OUT OF THE DEPRESSION FACING AN UNPRECEDENTED
opportunity to improve their traditional position as low-wage la-
bor and to alter the generational effects of prior occupational discrimi-
nation. The wartime rhetoric of democracy, public policy measures
that prohibited discrimination by defense industries, government em-
ployers and labor unions, and, above all, dramatic job growth in high-
wage firms led Mexicans to believe that their time had indeed arrived.
The occupational gains made during the war may have raised their
hopes further. Obstacles continued, however, to deny Mexican workers
equal employment opportunities. Most of them remained working for
low-wage employers, and those that secured jobs in high-wage firms as-
sumed the least-skilled and lower-paying ones.'
This study examines wartime discrimination as an obstacle to Mexi-
can workers in the oil refining industry of the Texas Gulf Coast, a re-
gion bounded by Texas City, Houston, and Beaumont. Oil refineries
normally denied Mexicans equal occupational, wage, and upgrading
*Emillo Zamora is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of
Houston, University Park He is currently preparing a book-length manuscript on the Mexican
worker and the Fair Employment Practice Committee in Texas. His more recent study on
Mexican workers from T'exas during the early igoos will be published by Texas A&M Univer-
sity Press in the fall of 1992.
'Carlos Castafieda, "Statement on Discrimination Against Mexicans in Employment," in Al-
onso S. Perales, Are We Good Neighbors (San Antonio Artes Grahcas, 1948), 59-63; Carlos Cas-
tafieda, Testimony, U.S. Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor
Hearings, 79th Cong., Ist Sess, Mar. 12-14, 1945 (Washington, D.C Government Printing
Office, 1945), 131-135 (Y4.Ed8/3:Em7/3), Pauline R. Kibbe, Latin Americans in Texas (Albu-
querque: University of New Mexico Press, 1946), 157-166. Readings on Mexicans during the
war include. Mario Garcia, "Americans All: The Mexican American Generation and the Poll-
tics of Wartime Los Angeles, 1941- 1945," Social Sczence Quarterly, LXV (June, 1984), 279-289;
Raul Morin, Among the Valzant, Mexican-Amercans in WW II and Korea (Los Angeles. Borden
Pubhshing Co., 1966); Gerald Nash, "Spanish-Speaking Americans in Wartime," in Gerald D
Nash, The American West Transformed The Impact of the Second World Was (Bloomington. Indiana
University Press, 1985), 107-127, and Robin F. Scott, "Wartime Labor Problems and Mexican-
Americans in the War," in Manuel P. Servin (ed ), An Awakened Minority, The Mexican-Amercans
(Beverley Hills: Glencoe Press, 1974), 134-142 The term Mexican refers to both Mexican na-
tionals and U S.-born Mexicans for two reasons. Incomplete nativity and citizenship data made
it impossible in most cases to make such a distinction. Also, the use of the term Mexican seems
appropriate since they shared the experiences of occupational, wage, and upgrading
discrimination

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 95, July 1991 - April, 1992. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117153/. Accessed May 3, 2015.