Major Problems in Mexican American History by Zaragosa Vargas
Length: 1901 words (5.4 double-spaced pages)
Vendidos or the sold out ones by Luis Valdez is an enlightening film about the Mexican struggle for survival in the United States. It is thought provoking and challenges the viewer to question some of the history and values that American education has engrained into our lifestyle. Although, the film is only about twenty-five minutes long, it is packed with symbolism and information about the Mexican history in the US. In particular, the film explores the Mexican identity issue.
The film opens with Amano Sancho who invites us to look at his shop when Ms. Jiminez walks into the door looking for the perfect Mexican model to take to a governor’s dinner. Sancho is excited to see a Chicana in his store but when he pronounces her name in Spanish she is quick to correct him. Ms. Jiminez she responds in an English accent. This scene has a lot of meaning because we gather that she was assimilated to the Anglo culture. She does not want to associate with her Mexican roots. She insists on being a proper American representative, but she is looking for a Mexican model during her lunch break. She presents Sancho with some stipulations he must be a Mexican she states, "But this one is too dark. I’m looking for a beige one." This is yet another indicator of the detachment Ms. Jimenez has from her culture. I believe she wants a light Mexican so that he can he can be versatile and mix in with the crowds.
In Major Problems in Mexican American History by Zaragosa Vargas, we learn that Mexicans struggled to be considered American citizens. Even with the seizure of their lands and the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo Mexicans were still mistreated and abused simply because of the color of their skin. Mexicans learned that it was in their best interest to try to adapt to a new environment. As a result many tried to marry Spanish men or marry men of a higher social-economic status. There is a belief that white means money, so if you can’t marry a well-off man than you must lighten the race. Ms. Jimenez in Los Vendidos, was a light woman herself and made the transition into the white world a lot easier than one of her darker ancestors perhaps. When Sancho states that she likes a little milk in her coffee he is not only referring to the lightening of the race, but he also talks about her admiration of the American culture.
Ms. Jiminez has plays an ironic role because she is a faithful American servant. She perfectly fits the stereotype of a complacent Mexican. But Zaragosa tells us that her type (Ms. Jiminez) are brain washed or acculturated so that they could be easier to control and mold into the perfect puppets. In the eyes of most Americans she would still be regarded as the "bad" Mexican woman. The woman who has no morals and no values and could never be a true lady like the Spanish women were. Ms. Jimenez is also still another brown face. She is light but, she will never be white. She is a commodity that can be bought and sold as quickly as the models in Sancho’s store. She may think that she is part of the American culture, but in the truth about her ancestry is alive in the country, in the Mexicans surrounding her, as well as in the eyes of the Americans she works for. History has a tendency of repeating itself and Ms. Jimenez could find herself in the shoes of some that were the last to be hired, but the first to be fired. In the eyes of the Americans she is still just another Mexican.
She continues around the tore looking for all the American values embodied within a Mexican or two. She is looking for a hard worker saying that the first Mexican in traditional clothing was lazy looking. She wants an obedient, economical Mexican model, and most importantly, one that maintains law and order. The most important quality is that he must be easy to control and manipulate. She rejects the models one by one as she says that the Pachuco, the city low-rider because although he is bi-lingual, he also uses foul language which is too inappropriate for her. Sancho replies that he learned it in her schools, but she doesn’t care where he learned it. In her mind the fact still remained that he was a savage.
The Pachuco just like the Vato Loco and the Zoot Suiter were products of the American society and the struggles that they had to endure as second class citizens of the United States. Yet, they were also rejected because she stated that the city didn’t need any more Mexican thieves in the streets. The Zoot Suiter was a perfectly well dressed young man model who was characterized as the push over. Sancho says that you can beat him and he will hurt, you can cut him and he’ll bleed, you can kill him and he will die. He continues saying that the police ordered a dozen Zoot Suiters so that their Rookies could practice shooting at them. Sancho offered Ms. Jimenez an opportunity to kick the Zoot Suiter and she repeatedly kicks him and pushes him. She likes the feeling of power perhaps that she felt at humiliating this model. But Sancho tells her not to ruin the merchandise as she confesses to derive joy from beating this man he responds that she is not the only one. This gives the audience a clue about the hardships that the Zoot Suiters endured.
The Zoot Suiters were a group of young men who didn’t feel like they belonged in the main stream. During the Vietnam War they decided to distinguish themselves from the mainstream. Their flamboyant style of dress set them apart from all the others and it gave them a sense of identity. They wanted to be noticed and they were also protesting the war. They knew that a large number of Chicanos were dying in the war. They didn’t have money or social status but they recognized the Mexican war veterans were not acknowledged and were still being treated like second class citizens. This form of protest was noticed among the poor and was a treat to the Americans who feared an insurrection of unhappy Mexicans. The Zoot Suiters were beaten and jailed for no apparent reasons, but Vendidos distorts one fact. The Mexicans never stood idly by and let the Americans abuse them. There were many rebellions led by Corky Gonzalez, Reyes Tijerina, las Goras Blancas etc. Americans would have liked the Mexicans to endure all the mistreatment that occurred in their own land. The people struggled to get their identity and keep the pride that was looked down upon for so long.
Finally, the Romantic traditional Mexican lover was rejected because he was not a polished man; she was looking for a sophisticated type of man. He was too loud and most moreover, he was not made in America. This comment is extremely important in Mexican History because it allows us to examine the issue of citizenship in America. Americans seized Mexico and they were driven from their homes and sent to live in impoverished conditions. The land was then considered American soil although Mexicans had toiled the land for ages. Through the Guadeloupe Hidalgo Treaty and Article VIII, we discover that Mexicans can choose citizenship in either country. The reality is not so clear and fair, Americans never intended to give Mexicans the right to live in their lands as an equal American. Ms. Jiminez expresses their sentiments exactly when she says that they are savages. Eric also saying that Mexicans were stupid and that they should go to American schools and think American, American, American. The fact is that Mexicans were only granted citizenship when they abandoned their sense of Mexican heritage and identity. Otherwise, you were categorized as a lazy, stupid, and savage Mexican who had a lot to learn before he could actually become American.
Eric was the chosen model he was a light color with a sophisticated demeanor. He was also an obedient and charming young man who had completely abandoned his sense of self. He gets onto the podium to the right of the college liberal activist as the camera pans over to the donkey on the wall behind him. Eric commences a well-rehearsed speech spilling as many stereotypes about his people as he could. We later discover that Eric was an actor pretending to be a model and did not mean anything that he said. He simply knew what Ms. Jiminez wanted to hear. She wanted a model that was easy to manipulate and that, "only ate Mexican food on the holidays." He was everything that she wanted, "a Mexican with an all American steel frame." Eric’s price tag was $15,000 and Ms. Jiminez said that she would not pay that must money for a mere Mexican. Sancho expressed his dismay saying, that "this is a Mexican American, you wan that word you pay for it lady." This statement continues to support the idea that although Ms. Jiminez like Eric who was American built model, were always going to be Mexican. They could never be accepted as real Americans.
Ms. Jiminez claims that it is always important to show a colored face in the crowd and Sancho tells her that she should know. This phenomenon occurs today as diversity is apparently a great concern, but in reality is only a cover up. As long as there is a face of color in the crowd, Americans feel that their responsibility has been lifted. There is more to this issue than just a colored face. Behind every colored face there is a heritage, a culture, and a race of people united by pride of origin.
Eric hesitantly departed with Ms. Jiminez but it was done for the good of "la causa". It is important that they keep a "Raza Unida" in trying times. As the actors break out of character and look at the map they discover how vast the Mexican expansion has become. Mexicans all over the world, even in a cold place like Maine." They think that we are machines, they think that we are puppets says one of the actor. The inventor responds, "God help us all to be human."
This stuck out in my mind because I think that throughout American history Mexicans were abused. They were treated like machines at work and like savage animals that needed to be tamed. In order to be civilized they must learn English and abandon their own culture. They were not treated like equal human beings. But the Mexican people would not tolerate such injustices and they did challenge the establishment and their laws. Vargas tells us about the various rebellions that took place and often times religious symbols were used to encourage and drive the people towards a common goal. We would never know about these courageous performances that changed history through our history books because these things are never taught. However there are many resources available that help us become enlightened about the Latin American history. But as the African proverb says, "Until lions write books, history will always glorify the hunter."