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Latino/a Mobility in California History

Genevieve Carpio, Javier Cienfuegos, Ivonne Gonzalez, Karen Lazcano, Katherine Lee Berry, Joshua Mandell, Christofer Rodelo, Alfonso Toro, Authors
Final Assessment, page 6 of 7

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Huelga/Welga: A Final Assessment by Christofer A. Rodelo

Over the course of the class’s inquiry into California history, there has been a recurring theme in the various narratives we discuss: the relational experiences of Latina/os and Asians (Molina 2006, Mitchell 1996).  The relationship between these two ethno-racial groups is evident in multiple cultural, social, and political realms. Still, the interpretation of the two communities as existing in tandem merits more critical analysis; uniform is hardly the correct label for historical depictions of Asians and Latina/os. This project looks at how the two groups are portrayed in one of the most widely-known events in American minority-group historiography: the United Farm Workers’ Delano grape strikes of the late 1960s. Crucial to this research is  a question of representation: how are Mexican and Filipino workers situated together in various forms of media, and what kind of ethno-racial relationship do these artifacts demonstrate? All together, this project functions as one of place-making for these two groups, and bring to a broader audience the realities of their collaborations as an addition to the growing recognition of relational histories

With regard to the theme of mobility, the project looks at these media representations as an example of mobility in the historical imagination. Mobility here is defined as the circulation of the Mexican/Filipino relationship in popular understandings of the United Farm Workers. The presence, or lack thereof, of these two ethnic groups as dynamic, fully-fleshed entities is crucial to my investigation of a mobility dependent on varied media representations.

At a theoretical level, my project is engaged with ideas of multiculturalism, and in particular, the response of cultural critics to the banal ethnic community ideals in the multiculturalism of the America neoliberal period (May 1998, 3). In looking at the UFW strikes of the 1960s, I hope to demonstrate the extent to which we can imagine the Mexican and Filipino collaborations during the movement as a radical precursor to later iterations of multiculturalism. While there were collaborations between Mexicans and Filipinos in labor strikes of the 1920s and 1930s, the ubiquity of the Delano strikes in the historical imagination makes it an apt focus point for this project (Mitchell 130-140). The objects I’ve curated demonstrate a proto-multiculturalism not built on idealized ideas of racial harmony, but instead on the realities of everyday struggle and the precariousness of identity politics. 

You can find a brochure from the exhibit below. In creating this brochure, I make clear the deliberate curation of this exhibit as a tool of nuancing normative understandings of the United Farm Workers. It works as a possible aid to the recirculation of ideas of the UFW-- ones focused on the relational histories of Mexicans and Filipinos-- crucial to this work. In completing this assessment, I hope that it and the rest of the exhibit functions as a radical re-imagining of the Delano strikes, and give proper credence to the solidarities forged by Mexicans and Filipinos to achieve a better quality of life. 

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