“From Texas Farms to the Americas, Alonso Perales and His International Call for Mexican Civil Rights”
When Alonso Perales, a co-founder of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), joined the Nicaraguan delegation at the founding meeting of the United Nations, he spoke out in support of human rights with references to discrimination against Mexican nationals and U.S.-born Mexicans. Raising the issue to a level diplomatic significance spoke to the favorable circumstance of improved relations between Mexico and the diplomatic understanding that the U.S.’s favored wartime partner in the Americas could intervene on behalf of its nationals and Mexican Americans who faced discrimination in the United States. LULAC leaders like Perales, however, had long been advocating for equal rights and consciously capitalized on the opportunity to bring hemispheric attention to racial thinking in the United States.
The LULAC leadership had publicly announced that they would speak on behalf of Mexican nationals—the majority of whom may have been agricultural laborers—and Mexican Americans. Although they proclaimed an ethnic strategy that would focus on the rights of U.S.-born Mexicans, they never wavered in their concern for the plight of the increasing numbers of Mexicans migrating into Texas during the early 1900s and they often carried their complaints to Mexican consular officials. When Mexican officials negotiated contractual protections for Mexican war workers in the United States—known as Braceros—and the Mexican Congress established an advocacy program for Mexican rights in the United States, LULAC Councils collaborated with Mexican officials in bringing complaints of discrimination before consular offices. Perales, on the other hand, led an effort intended to strengthen the language of equal rights for Mexicans during important hemispheric venues, including the San Francisco meeting of 1945.
Dr. Zamora will underscore the important role that Perales played in promoting the Mexican advocacy agenda and in helping make discrimination against Mexicans an unprecedented issue of diplomatic significance during World War II.