1960s Civil Rights for Latinos
Throughout the 1960s, and the flourishing of the civil rights movement, 900,000 Latinos were facing unequal rights in the United States. Latinos, any people of Latin American descent, were encouraged to come to this country through the Immigration Act of 1965. Once the Latinos settled down, they realized there were many new obstacles to overcome in their new home. Some hardships include living below poverty line, struggling to find low-paying unskilled jobs, facing discrimination and fighting for education. The fight for social justice was a difficult and long journey. People who fought for the cause were called Chicanos, a shortened term of Mexicanos. Peurto Ricans christened themselves “Boriucan” and began a Boricua movement.
The 1960s was a time of tremendous change for Latinos everywhere. The 1960s began with the spotlight on Latinos because Cold War tensions were quickly heating up the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many Latin Americans fled Cuba to escape Castros regime. The Latin Americans who settled in America were extremely affected by discrimination because of the negative energy centered around their country. People who didn’t know any better showed hostility to all Cubans without concern to if they were communist or not. Rising problems caused reformers to begin taking action and trying to improve the lives of this minority group. Although the Civil Rights main focus was the equality of Blacks and Whites, Latin Americans were an additional group struggling to prove themselves in our great country.
Schools were particularly challenging for Latino students. Many teachers did not speak Spanish and most students dropped out before finishing high school because of frusturated attitudes or failing grades. In 1963, the Ford Foundation granted money to the first bilingual program in an elementary school. The school, Miami’s Coral Way, proved succesful and encouraged reform to Latino education.
Another aspect of life, work and labor, was introduced to a program of reform in 1965 in Delano, California. Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta founded the United Farm Worker union for all the working grape-pickers in the community. Their first successful boycott, The Grape Boycott, gave the Latino community a newfound power and purpose in the workforce. After just fifteen years of exsistence, the UWF had obtained workers contracts for 50,000 members.
In 1966, a huge leap was made for those Cuban refugees facing discrimination. During this year, Congress announced that any Latin American who had been living in the country for minimum of one year was permitted to apply for citizenship. This was a huge accomplishment for Cubans who felt that being recognized as American citizens would help eliminate hostility from other Americans.
1968 brought a revolutionary year in Latino education. At that time many Latin Americans were feeling discrimination within their school districts. High school students were being punished for little things such as going to the bathroom during lunch and speaking Spanish on school property. Additionally, most students were discouraged from going to college. The students of Los Angeles city school decided to protest and staged a walk-out. The walk-out was a great failure; 13 students were arrested. However, this paved the way for greater college attendance by Latino high school students in the years to come.
Later that year The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund was established. This was the first legal associated to openly protect civil rights of Latin Americans.