Impact of Mexican Culture on America; American Mexican


Part 1. Personally I love the influence and fabric of all cultures that have created the United States of America. I Love American Mexican culture; I love the food, the music, the language, the history and their diverse background.

The history of the United States is incomplete without the inclusion of the story of Mexican Americans. Mexican Americans are often called the forgotten people because of their lack if inclusion in history books. “When they are included, they are often portrayed in either a negative light or as a caricature or stereotype, which only adds to the lack of understanding about Mexican Americans. Mexican Americans represent a very large and important part of our society and they are not newcomers.” (Dr. T. Pérez)

Even when they are grouped together with other “Hispanics,” they make up the largest number. “Most of them live in the Southwest for historical reasons, many have been there for centuries, even before the Anglo-Americans, some migrated during the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and others are still making their way into the United States because of the availability of work that is not present in their country. They go by many names depending upon their region or their politics: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Chicanos, Californios, Tejanos, and Manitos are but a few of the names, but they are basically the same people with a common language or culture that binds them.” (Dr. T. Pérez)

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In 1994, there were 26.4 million Hispanic Americans living in the Continental United States: 64 percent Mexican Americans, almost 11 percent Puerto Ricans, over 13 percent were from Central and South America and the Caribbean, almost 5 percent were Cuban Americans, 7 percent classified as “other.” An additional 3.7 million were Puerto Ricans living on the island of Puerto Rico, bringing the nation’s total Hispanic American population to over 30 million. Although Hispanic Americans live in every part of the United States, they are more heavily concentrated in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Puerto Rico, and Texas. Mexican Americans. Today, while the majority of Mexican Americans live in urban areas, significant numbers comprise the three agricultural migrant streams that flow from the south to the north across the country, often twice annually.

Historically, Mexican Americans have been both an urban and rural population. Since the 1600s, Mexicans were the first Americans to establish homesteads in the territories that became Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. Since before the turn of the century, Mexican Americans literally built the great southwestern cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, Albuquerque, Dallas, and San Antonio. Also, in the 1800’s, Mexican American workers participated significantly in the massive industrial expansion in the midwest, from Kansas to Michigan, by building the railroad systems and steel mills. Few Mexican American families, however, received formal education. As Mexican Americans began to attend public schools in significant numbers, starting early in the 20th Century, students faced discrimination due to language, socio-economic, and cultural barriers.

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The History of the Vaquero

Rooted in necessity and shaped by the land, the Mexican cowboy tradition influenced the origin of cowboys.


After the Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519, ranches were established and stocked with cattle and horses imported from Spain. Landowners mounted native Indians on well-trained horses and taught them to handle cattle. By the early 1700s, cattle ranching had spread north into what is now Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico and south to Argentina. The native cowboys were called vaqueros(from the Spanish word for cow) and developed roping skills, using braided rawhide reatas (the root word for lariat). Starting in 1769, a chain of 21 Franciscan missions eventually stretched from San Diego to San Francisco, marking the beginning of California’s livestock industry.

Mid–1700s to 1820s

Livestock production flourished in California and the Southwest, but few markets existed for end products such as meat, hides, and tallow (for making candles). By the mid-1700s, long trains of pack mules would transport these products to Mexico City and return with supplies. American ships began servicing California ports in the early 1800s and traded for the same materials. For the first time, ranchers had local markets for their animals. Huge roundups were held to collect cattle, and the hard-riding vaqueros controlled the chaos. Known for expert horsemanship and roping skills, vaqueros were said to only dismount for a chance to dance with pretty girls.

Early and mid-1800s

Ranching ceased to be a strictly Hispanic profession as more Americans poured into once Mexican-held lands (especially after the Mexican/American War, 1846–48). The Anglo newcomers adapted to the vaquero style, and many settlers intermarried with the old Spanish ranching families. The 1849 gold rush brought even more people to California, which increased the demand for beef. Californios rode ponies that had been trained in a hackamore, swung a big loop with their hand-braided rawhide reatas, and took a wrap called a dally (from the Spanish dar la vuelta, to take a turn) around high saddle horns for leverage when roping cattle.

Late 1800s

As the livestock industry expanded, these horsemen found work in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii, taking their equipment and livestock-handling techniques with them. Cowboys in Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada remained strongly Hispanic (“buckaroo” comes from vaquero), including the use of a center-fire rigged saddle, in which rigging is situated below the centerpoint of the saddle; a long reata; and silver-mounted spade bits. Trail-driving Texans adopted many of their techniques from Mexican vaqueros, carrying their methods with them north through the Plains states and leading to a subculture of single, itinerant men who worked at ranches.

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Hispanic Roots

One out of every three cowboys in the late 1800s was the Mexican vaquero, says Kendall Nelson, a photographer from Idaho whose recent book, Gathering Remnants: A Tribute to the Working Cowboy, showcases the few remaining cowboys of the West. Nelson is currently working on a documentary of the same title, capping an eight-year documentation of the last cowboys.

The story of Nelson’s photos and Costner’s Open Range really begins in the Southwest, two decades before the pilgrims landed in 1620 on Plymouth Rock, when adventurous criollos (Spanish-born Americans) and mestizos (mixed Spanish and Indian settlers) pushed past the Rio Grande River to take advantage of land grants in the kingdom of New Mexico, which included most of the western states.

All of the skills, traditions, and ways of working with cattle are very much rooted in the Mexican vaquero,” Nelson told National Geographic News. “If you are a cowboy in the U.S. today, you have developed what you know from the vaquero.

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