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“Harvard historian Oscar Handlin famously wrote, once I thought to write a history of the immigrants in America…but, I discovered that the immigrants wereAmerican history”(as cited in Johnson, 2004, para. 1). Irish -Americans and Mexican- Americans have a long presence in the United States. The colonial era was the foundation of many of these immigrants leaving homelands and facing hardships to reestablish in the United States (National History Standards, n.d.). The quest for cultural, economic, and social assimilation for both Irish -Americans and Mexican-Americans was met with challenges in a society which showed concern regarding immigration (Johnson, 2004, para.2). The Irish-Americans were the first group of mass immigrants and paved the way for other immigrants to follow (Dolan, 2009) . Both Irish and Mexican Americans came for different reasons, had different experiences (Johnson, 2004), and have made significant contributions. Many similarities and differences exist among these cultures including social, political, and economic status.
First, Irish and Mexican Americans have similar social histories and share a great amount of spirit, an emotional boldness, a love for art, and a history of fighting for civilization The Irish and Mexican customs of Catholicism, colonialism, immigrant experiences, dance, and music are connections which both cultures continue to “discover and embrace” (Ridder, 1998, para.1).
In addition, social acceptance was equally important among both cultures upon arrival however, Irish and Mexican Americans were victimized and ill-treated (Schaefer, 2010, p.121). Power and “whiteness” determined rights and privileges in establishing social identity. “At different times and in different situations a particular group, Irish or Mexicans, might be considered “white,” particularly in relation to nonwhite groups such as blacks and Native Americans, and at other times the same group might be denied that designation” (as cited in Johnson, 2004, para.14). Whiteness is partially defined by cultural practice and is the standard which social identity is exclusive (Avila, n.d. para. 1).
In contrast the Irish Americans more easily assimilated because of a willingness to conform to western culture and beliefs and become “American” (Johnson, n.d. para. 1). Most were able to speak english, and the Irish culture was similar to western culture which may have contributed to the ease of “fitting in.” Assimilation is more difficult for Mexican Americans because of color, poor English, and a strong commitment to heritage (Johnson, n.d. para.4). Mexican Americans have more limitations and opportunities compared to Irish Americans. Although some assimilation has taken place it is slow and Mexican Americans suffer in poor living conditions, have less access to health care, and fall behind in education (Schaefer, 2010, pp.252-253). The Irish Americans have become an important part of the United States, and have overcame the status of “immigrant” whereas Mexican Americans continue to struggle for assimilation ( Schaefer, 2010, pp. 122-123).
Next, the Irish and Mexican share some of the same political aspects which include a majority of democrats which developed because of cultural attitudes and political idiologies (Pino, n.d.p.5). The Irish arrived during the birth of the anti-catholic, anti- immigrant movement which was widely supported among private individuals and politicians (Schaefer, 2010, p. 121). A huge part of Irish heritage was the catholic religion. This created violence, but the Irish remained faithful and the Roman Catholicism became one of Americas most powerful organizations (Rapple, n.d. para.20). Both the Irish and Mexican immigrants believed in taking a political stand due to oppression. Unlike the Mexicans the Irish realized influence and power could be obtained through politics (Rapple, n.d. para.37).Mexican Americans were convinced a political movement was needed to blend in mainstream society and provide assimilation (Pino, n.d. p.12). Both groups began to assist socio-political organizations fighting discrimination practices. However there was rarely local political activity among Irish Americans without participation among priests (Rapple, n.d. para. 34).
Finally, there are similarities among Irish and Mexican American economic factors. Most came with little or no money and limited skills (Richwine, 2009, para.1). Most of the Irish, came to America during the potato famine. In 1845, the potato crop was devastated by a fungus which was the main crop of Ireland, and much of western Europe including parts of the American coastal line. Starvation and death rates soared which provoked a massive amount of immigrants to arrive in the United States. Irish immigrants had to work hard, tedious jobs. Some worked on farms, and in mines while others worked building bridges, canals, and railroads. It was not uncommon for Irish and Mexican American women to work menial jobs as well. It was not until after the Civil war which enabled the Irish immigrants to obtain skilled occupations (Rapple, n.d. para.30).
On the other hand, most Mexicans which came to the United States or were remnants in America after the Mexican-American war were one of the most disadvantaged groups in America.(The economic progress of Mexican Americans, 2002, para.1).Mexican Americans are often used for cheap labor or illegal labor. There is a enormous unemployment rate among these individuals which promotes a poor work ethic. This culture which is overwhelmed with poverty which many believe has become a “way of life,” and continues to cripple this group of individuals (Schaefer, 2010, pp. 240-242). In addition, economic factors affect family structure. Second-generation children of both the Irish and Mexican American families have a tendency to obtain higher paying jobs (Richwine, 2009, para. 6).
Furthermore, the Irish- Americans began to assume leadership roles in labor unions and experience a working class identity (Schaefer, 2010, p. 122). Economically the Mexican Americans remain stagnant and mostly lower-class partly because of failure to assimilate. Unlike Irish Americans, Mexican Americans are considered a threat to the American economy because of stereotypes (Schaefer, 2010, p. 16). “Large ethno-cultural group's lagging behind the majority in education and income are significant. In strictly economic terms, perpetually poor immigrants and their descendants will be a major strain on social spending and infrastructure. Health care, public education, welfare payments, the criminal justice system, and programs for affordable housing will all require more tax dollars”(Richwine, 2004, para.20). Although more diversity exsist in the employment sector currently, Mexican-Americans still rank at the bottom of the wage scale. In retrospect, Irish- Americans maintain high earning occupations like medicine, law, and jobs in the political spotlight (Rapple, n.d. para. 36).
National History Standards. http://nchs.ucla.edu/standards
History 804 Professor Petrik
6 August 2004
American History Minor Field Statement
Immigration to the United States - 1790 to Present
Teaching Field Statement.http://historyarthistory.gmu.edu
Irish Americans, Mexican Americans share longstanding cultural links.(Originated from LATINO FOCUS IN THE U.S)
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service
| March 05, 1998. http://www.accessmylibrary.com.
The Power of Whiteness, Whiteness Studies and Latinos and Latinas, How the Jews Became White Folks. Eric Avila
http://donblake.com/wroe/resources. How Did You Get to Be Mexican? A White/Brown Man's Search for Identity
Kevin R. Johnson
Mexican American Politicshttp://cengagesites.com/academic/assets/sites/2596_Mexican American Politic The Congealing Pot Today's immigrants are different from waves past JASON RICHWINE.
Brendan A. Rapple. Irish Americans. http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Ha-La/Irish-Americans.html