Recent mexican immigrants to Boyle Heights, in the eastside of Los Angeles, join a long list of newcomers that have populated that community since the late nineteenth century. The longer history of Boyle Heights speaks to an active cultural citizenship which has incorporated newcomers into a localized definition of “American identity” which emphasizes diversity of community and defense of local traditions on unionism and solidarity across race and ethnicity. This presentation by University of Southern California professor George J. Sanchez, moderated by John Tutino, examined the challenges to incorporate recent undocumented Latino immigrants into this localized identity, which has often included directly taking on the growing anti-immigrant movement. However, organizations such as Mothers of East L.A. and Homeboy Industries have continued this radical inclusivity, blending activism from the Chicano Movement with more transnational approaches in organizing traditions that have emphasized the power of local identity and community empowerment.
This event was hosted by the Georgetown College Americas Forum and co-sponsored by the Georgetown Americas Institute.
George J. Sánchez is professor of American Studies & Ethnicity and History at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles (1993) and the newly published Boyle Heights: How A Los Angeles Neighborhood Became the Future of American Democracy (2021). Sánchez received the inaugural Equity Award from the American Historical Association in 2011 for excellence in recruiting and retaining underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into the historical profession, and recently served as president of the Organization of American Historians. He was born in Boyle Heights to two immigrant parents from Mexico and is a first-generation college student, receiving his B.A. from Harvard College in 1981 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1989.
John Tutino (moderator) is professor of history and international affairs and director of the Georgetown College Americas Forum at Georgetown University. He studies the long-term history of Mexican communities in the context of global capitalism. His work includes The Mexican Heartland: How Communities Made Capitalism, a Nation, and World History, 1500- 2000 (2018) and two edited volumes on Mexico and Mexicans in the Making of the United States (2012) and New World Cities: Challenges of Urbanization and Globalization in the Americas (2019).