The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985 Page: 331
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sertations, however, nothing has been accessible to the student who
might be curious as to the history of this phenomenon. Jos6 Amaro
Hernandez's study is a pioneering attempt to survey the main outlines
of the history of Mexican-American self-help organizations.
The thesis of this work is that before the 1940s the main character-
istic of the mutual-aid movement was that it provided a means for
fighting against economic and social injustices. The mutualistas pro-
vided a means of survival and security. With the advent of govern-
ment-sponsored "safety net" programs in the 1930s the mutualistas,
whose major function had been to provide low-cost insurance, loans,
and some economic security, began to lose their instrumental purpose.
The Chicano political movement of the 196os and the real political
gains of the Latino population in the 197os and early 198os undercut
the political mission of the mutualistas. Hernandez finds that con-
temporary Mexican-American mutual aid societies have lost their
ability to attract native-born members and are declining in their
Hernandez presents a historical discussion of the rise of mutualism
in New Mexico, Arizona, California, the Midwest, and Texas. In
Eagle Pass, Texas, for example, during the early years of this century
a secret society, El Guante Negro, inspired greater generosity toward
the poor by leaving a black glove with ominous implications on the
doorsteps of wealthy citizens. The vast majority of mutualistas, how-
ever, were much less radical. LULAC (League of United Latin Ameri-
can Citizens) was frankly assimilationist in purpose, seeking the total
Americanization of the Chicano community. Indeed, most mutualistas
of the 1920os and 193os believed in American education, electoral poli-
tics, and civil rights activism.
One chapter discusses the principles and ideals that played a part in
the development of Mexican-American mutual aid societies: self-
reliance, the value of hard work, freedom and autonomy, cooperation,
generosity, individualism, and Mexican patriotism. By and large,
mutualistas have rejected radical politics for traditional middle-class
Perhaps the most interesting chapter in the book deals with Her-
nandez's sociological case study of one mutualista in southern Cali-
fornia, La Sociedad Progresista Mexicana. He became a member of
this mutual aid society and engaged in participant observation to
gather information. He distributed questionnaires to various chapters
and this generated unexpected controversy. He found that most mem-
bers of this mutualista were nonpolitical and satisfied with their status
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 88, July 1984 - April, 1985, periodical, 1984/1985; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101210/m1/379/: accessed January 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.