Mexicans and Mexican-Americans
Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mexican family on the road with car trouble, 1936; gelatin silver print; courtesy the Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley
The Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the period of civil war that followed displaced many rural Mexican communities. Jesus Moreno, who moved to Los Angeles in 1915, remarked, "We were running away from the rebellion. . . . We came to the United States to wait out the conclusion of the Revolution. We thought it would be over in a few months." But it lasted for years.
In the United States, World War I had sparked an economic boom. The U.S. defense industry became a source of employment and profit as it produced ammunition and supplies for sale to other allied world powers. With Americans able to find higher-paying jobs and other economic opportunities, the U.S. looked to Mexico for laborers willing to work on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, particularly in seasonal agricultural work.
One in Ten Mexicans Came to California
From 1900 to 1930, roughly 10 percent of Mexico's population immigrated into the United States. Most settled in southwestern states, including California, but not all of them stayed in the country permanently.
In California, the new Mexican workforce picked the crops and tended the fields that U.S. workers had abandoned for better-paying jobs. Mexican men also played an important role in building construction in the border states, while many Mexican women labored in garment factories and canneries. This workforce included recent arrivals as well as people of Mexican descent born in California. These U.S.-born Mexicans would later identify themselves as Mexican Americans to reflect their dual linguistic and cultural heritage.