In Latinos and the Liberal City, Eduardo Contreras offers a bold, textured, and inclusive interpretation of the nature of Latino politics. Using twentieth-century San Francisco as a case study, Contreras examines Latinos' involvement in unionization efforts, civil rights organizing, electoral politics, feminist and gay activism, and more.
2019 | 328 pages | Cloth $45.00
American History / Gay Studies/Lesbian Studies/Queer Studies
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Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Introduction. Latinos, Liberalism, Latinidad
Chapter 1. El Público Latino: Community Life in the Early Twentieth Century
Chapter 2. La Lucha Obrera: Mass Action and Inclusion in the Progressive Labor Movement
Chapter 3. "Big Jobs to Do": Economic Security, Electoral Politics, and Civil Rights Liberalism
Chapter 4. "Taking Latin Americans into Account": Civic Action, the State, and the Promotion of Latinidad
Chapter 5. "The Color of Citizen Participation": Community Control and the Contest over Great Society Liberalism
Chapter 6. "Oppressed by Our Latino Culture": Tradition and Liberation During the Sexual Revolution
Chapter 7. "We Must Unite with All Struggling People": Gentrification, Gay Rights, and Neighborhood Politics
Latinos, Liberalism, Latinidad
Richard Camplís, Pete Garcia, and their friends in San Francisco's Ship Scalers Union struck out on a radical course in October 1940: they refrained from endorsing Franklin D. Roosevelt's bid for a third term as president. The six-year-old organization represented men who cleaned and conditioned ships on city wharves, and many of its members were Latinos. Scalers' moxie, their immersion in waterfront activism, and New Deal labor legislation coalesced in the mid-1930s and contributed to the union's growth. In 1936, the scalers had joined the left-liberal coalition that kept Roosevelt in the White House; they now chose to withhold their support. Camplís and his colleagues had by no means turned away from the New Deal or lost admiration for the sitting president. Instead, they feared that some in the liberal establishment were retreating from the government agenda or selectively choosing which segments of the working class deserved federal protection. The men's ire in 1940 specifically stemmed from the managerial machinations at American President Lines, which had recently come under state control. Scalers found it appalling that "a Company which [was] over 90% government owned, and headed by an appointed representative of President Roosevelt, [sought] to violate the Wagner Act" by refusing to engage in collective bargaining and pursuing "court injunctions against [their] bona-fide picket lines." The decision to abstain from endorsing FDR became, at first glance, a means to protest and garner public attention. Below the surface, though, it conveyed at least two other political messages. Scalers made clear they were not blind, uncritical devotees of the Democratic Party. These unskilled, marginal, and nonwhite workers expected the same treatment—and rights—as their skilled, better-known, and white counterparts.
Thirty-eight years later, Rosario Anaya and Roberto Lemus stood before allied crowds, one at San Francisco State University and another at the city's Civic Center, and proclaimed the rights of all people to labor and exercise their vocations in workplaces free of harassment, irrespective of sexual identity. Sharing the stage with such political luminaries as Willie Brown and Harvey Milk, the two education professionals denounced the Briggs Initiative, a statewide proposition aiming to ban gay educators from public schools. Neither Anaya nor Lemus belonged to the Gay Latino Alliance or any other gay rights organizations. Anaya directed a language and vocational school serving Latino adults and sat on the city's school board. Lemus spoke for the Latin American Teachers Association, one of the groups sponsoring the human justice rally at the Civic Center. Alongside local and statewide teachers' unions, Lemus and his colleagues warned that the initiative would harm all educators. Its passage would legalize discrimination, punish school workers who discussed homosexuality in positive terms, and set a precedent for circumventing union rights. Anaya echoed many of Lemus's sentiments. She emphasized that "guaranteeing a healthy educational environment" could and should be done without reverting to prejudice. Going further, Anaya cast opposition to the measure as a matter of human rights. The state and its institutions had a responsibility to promote humanity and well-being, she implied, rather than impose moral codes built on bigotry and exclusion.
Occurring at the temporal poles of what historians have identified as the "New Deal order" and America's "liberal universe," these two vignettes illuminate unexplored, and perhaps surprising, layers of Latino political history. The scalers lived in the West's quintessential metropolis and formed part of an urban industrial workforce. Their triumphs and losses, decades of uninterrupted action, and connections to the city's progressive labor movement distinguished them from the rural proletariat of the mid-twentieth century. Yet with few exceptions, urban Latino laborers in California have escaped the purview of historians, who have overwhelmingly focused on, or are at least knowledgeable about, agricultural workers. The linkage between California farm labor and Latinos—specifically ethnic Mexicans—is strong. Scholars and history enthusiasts alike are sometimes astonished to learn that San Francisco's Latinos toiled in varied arenas except agricultural fields. From a different perspective, educational activism among Latinos has steadily captured attention. Historians have done well to address questions of segregation, curricular reform, and bilingual education. The participation of Lemus, Anaya, and their colleagues in the anti-Briggs Initiative campaign demonstrated how they—as educators and citizens—were not consumed only with issues immediately classified as Latino causes. Gay-identified Latinos of course grasped the proposition's stakes and organized against it. Their work and heterosexual Latinos' support exposed nuanced and flexible meditations on rights, morality, and coalition building, which historians have not yet analyzed. Together, these two sketches reveal Latino politics as more intricate and less predictable than we currently appreciate. Both stories make another thing clear: Latinos have preoccupied themselves with the workings, possibilities, and limitations of American liberalism for quite some time.
In the early twenty-first century, journalists, pundits, and social scientists regularly weigh in on the potency of Latinos' liberal orientations, their loyalty to the Democratic Party, and the significance of their electoral participation. The "Latino vote" has become a mantra in the media, and its invocation is particularly common during presidential election cycles. "Latinos are more likely than other Americans to say they're liberal," reported an online publication in 2012, relying on poll findings released by the Pew Research Center. Analysts at that think tank later compared data from 2012 and 2016 and found that party affiliation among Latino registered voters remained relatively unchanged. Approximately two-thirds of those surveyed, 70 percent and 64 percent, respectively, identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party. This identification or inclination did not necessarily translate into a wholesale embrace of Democratic policies or candidates, however, a fact acknowledged by researchers and commentators alike. How many Latinos would actually vote in the forthcoming election, Pew experts noted in October 2016, remained to be seen. Many months earlier, Roberto Suro, a public policy professor writing for the New York Times, had reproached Latinos' "lackadaisical approach to civic engagement" as evidenced by lower voter turnout than whites and African Americans. "Whatever happened to Latino political power?" Suro wondered. Brooding over an aspiration yet to be realized, he suggested that the influence that ultimately matters had to be displayed on the national stage.
These present-day discussions of Latinos in the political arena are informative and thought provoking. Presidential elections obviously have significant repercussions. A healthy and inclusive democracy demands that Latinos and all citizens be motivated and allowed to vote. Recent surveys and reflections on Latino political life should also inspire us to scrutinize the deeper historical production of political subjectivities and the process of civic participation. Determining why Latinos vote, or not, necessitates a probing of dispositions, conditions, institutions, and movements that have inspired or hindered electoral participation—past and present. That undertaking is best accomplished by considering local contexts and dynamics, which have tended to color the kinds of civic life people see as possible and their connections to regional and national polities. Attending to political potential at the national level, including its prospects and roadblocks, should transpire alongside analyses of how clout is—and has been—acquired, exerted, and lost locally. At the same time, it behooves us to approach Latino political action expansively, across a wide ideological spectrum, while uncovering its historical roots; the pursuit of power and representation, after all, has been carried out in manifold ways for specific goals and been dependent on historical exigencies.
Contemporary deliberations on Latinos as liberals or as liberal leaning raise a number of fundamental questions: How and why did this orientation take hold? What has this political inclination meant exactly and how has it unfolded over time? If current projections hold true, Latinos' political proclivities will prove critical for the future of liberal—or perhaps conservative—America. Such prognostications should not preclude investigations of Latinos' past roles in grappling with liberal worldviews and agendas—not as a theoretical enterprise per se but as political practice grounded in lived experience. Demographic forecasts, in fact, make historical inquiry more imperative. Ascertaining why Latinos gravitated to American liberalism, how they challenged and reformulated it, and what demands and concessions they have made along the way exposes the potency and malleability of this ideology in Latino life while illuminating its endurance.
A liberal city par excellence, San Francisco offers an optimal setting for a historical investigation of Latino political life. Its ethnoracial profile has belied the white-black binary since its founding, and the city has housed a motley Latino population since the Gold Rush era. By the early twentieth century, residents of Latin American ancestry traced their heritage to nations including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, and Peru. Politically, San Francisco's dynamic history of organizing, civic action, and dissent has marked it as a progressive metropolis. This legacy of activism has seminal roots in the Big Strike of 1934: a maritime work stoppage that morphed into a general strike and transformed the citizenry's relationship to the polity. The ramifications of this political saga proved particularly critical for workers, immigrants, and nonwhites. Though standing at the intersection of these social categories, Latinos' involvement in the 1934 uprising has rarely been considered. The significance of the Big Strike has itself become eclipsed by scholarly attention to, and popular fascination with, the 1960s counterculture and the city's sexual revolution. What many students, tourists, and the general public today identify as liberal about San Francisco (its celebration of cultural nonconformity and sexual diversity) owes much to the ascendancy of multiculturalism and the tempering of an older tenet of liberalism, what legal scholar Reuel Schiller calls "economic egalitarianism," dominant for some decades after the Big Strike. Notably, whether approached from the 1930s or the 1960s, Latinos remain relegated to the sidelines of San Francisco's political history. We are thus left with a portrait of a population residing in one of this country's most liberal metropolises yet insulated from, uninvolved in, and unconcerned with its political affairs.
Latinos and the Liberal City challenges this scholarly and popular perception by placing Latinos at the center of the story. Bounded by the labor upheavals of the 1930s and the cultural battles of the 1970s, it elucidates how and why Latinos became politically engaged and how their civic energies evolved and diversified over time. It attends to the workings of Latino political action in response to the quotidian conditions of their American lives—in contrast to a preoccupation with the affairs of the Latin American nations that shaped their historical and cultural identities. In some critical ways, the inquiry parallels recent scholarship in U.S. Latino/a history, especially historian Lorrin Thomas's analysis of Puerto Ricans' political identities and aspirations in twentieth-century New York City. It departs from the bulk of historical research on Latinos by unraveling how a heterogeneous population—of diverse national origins—emerged as political subjects and crystallized into a political community. Anthropologist Steven Gregory's treatment of community is particularly useful here. The concept is best conceived analytically, Gregory explains, as "a power-laden field of social relations whose meanings, structures, and frontiers are continually produced, contested, and reworked in relation to a complex range of sociopolitical attachments and antagonisms." To identify Latinos as a political community, then, demands a recognition that their efforts were not marked by invariability, absence of conflict, or uniformity of thought and approach. The array of political work covered in this study evinced just the opposite: change and adaptation, discord, and a multiplicity of interests, strategies, and philosophies.
At its core, this book excavates the ambitions and struggles that propelled Latinos to immerse themselves in public deliberations about power, rights, representation, and policymaking. Spanning five decades and ranging from formal interaction with the state to communal disputes involving sexuality, its thematic scope is broad. It brings together unionization efforts; civil rights organizing; electoral politics; mobilizations during the Great Society; and feminist, gay, and lesbian activism. Essentially an analysis of Latino political life, the account aligns with a scholarly tradition that historians Meg Jacobs and Julian Zelizer classify as sociocultural political history. This approach acknowledges the importance of non-elite groups and the grassroots in shaping government policy, electoral outcomes, social movements, and other facets of the polity and civic life. Latinos and other ordinary people in San Francisco did just that by participating in campaigns; initiatives; and debates concerning labor and civil rights, poverty and economic opportunity, urban renewal and gentrification, and gender relations, sex education, and homosexuality. In so doing, they embroiled themselves in the many "hard fought contests" that unfolded in the city.
This study makes clear that San Francisco's public sphere nurtured Latinos' political subjectivities and that their politicization contributed to the vibrancy of local political culture. It is at once a history of Latinos and the city itself—as a social terrain of political possibilities, experimentation, and strife. As much of the discussion in ensuing chapters will show, Latinos' ambitions and mobilizations regularly materialized in collaboration or friction with coworkers, neighbors, politicians, and other authorities. Latinos were neither disconnected from the public sphere nor from other San Franciscans.
The city's topography notwithstanding, San Francisco has exhibited and experienced its share of unique characteristics and developments. It certainly was not representative of other U.S. cities; it was not an anomalous place in urban America either. Historians Robert W. Cherny and William Issel have recently challenged us to interrogate exceptional and mythical narratives about San Francisco. Its actual history, asserts Issel, has been "complicated and closer to the American mainstream." The task taken up here is to consider how layers of distinctiveness interfaced with and fit within broader trends and the course of American political history—while assigning Latinos an active role in sustaining and challenging the liberal contours of this metropolis.
Latinos and the Liberal City advances this central argument: though Latino political life has long been marked by diversity and contestation, it consistently involved and reckoned with the ideological denominators of liberalism and latinidad. American liberalism as understood in the twentieth century refers to a philosophy broadly sustained by principles of activist government, social reform, freedom, and progress. Latinos evinced an ongoing engagement with liberalism from the Great Depression era to the late postwar period, one that generated multiple perspectives on state action, race, and culture. The contention here is not that all Latinos became liberals or identified as such. Rather, their political subjectivities in the twentieth-century city cannot be understood or extricated from attention to liberal ideas, policies, and undertakings. This engagement with liberalism contributed to the construction—and eventually the fissures—of latinidad, an ideology emphasizing unity, commonality, and affinity among Latinos. Largely nourished by the liberal promise of the early postwar years, latinidad met challenges in the late 1960s and 1970s—begot in part by the shortcomings of liberalism itself. Stumbling blocks did not mean the framework became irrelevant or disposable. In fact, some reformulations of latinidad proceeded alongside expanded understandings of liberalism—furthering the linkage between the two credos.
Liberalism as a political ideology has fundamentally influenced currents in U.S. politics, the state's functions, and conceptions of citizenship since the New Deal era. Scholars studying varied regions, epochs, and communities have been careful to tease out its multiple meanings, contradictions, and "protean character." As historian Gary Gerstle reminds us, "Liberalism in twentieth-century America has emerged as a variable, somewhat tractable, political philosophy." Its versatility exhibited itself in deliberations and policies involving government interference in economic affairs, the range of state-sponsored social welfare, ways to balance individual freedoms vis-à-vis group rights, and the course of social relations in a multicultural nation. Liberalism's capaciousness was not preordained, automatic, or undisputed, which makes it imperative to track the detours and contexts shaping its "shifting definitions."
Historical studies of American politics and Latino life have yet to comprehensively account for Latinos' preoccupations with liberalism. This book takes up this task while braiding the politicization of Latinos into the mainstream of American life. By moving from the 1930s onward and situating Latinos within the New Deal coalition, the analysis departs from assumptions that Latinos were latecomers to the liberal project or merely one community whose identity politics provoked the dissolution of that foundational electoral alliance in the 1960s. Applying liberalism as an interpretive thread makes it possible to map and comprehend the continuities, alterations, and disruptions in Latino political life; in effect, it serves as connective tissue across historical eras. This design offers a dynamic means to discern Latinos' diverse aspirations and priorities, their varied articulations of citizenship, and their evolving sense of rights.
In San Francisco, Latinos wrestled with at least four variants of liberalism. In the 1930s, they began a protracted investment with New Deal liberalism, which centered on the regulation of capitalism and the expansion and protection of labor rights. Labor unions transformed working-class Latinos into political actors as New Deal legislation emanated from Washington; the Ship Scalers Union and its counterparts would function as the most prominent sites of Latino activism and agency for at least two decades. Through multiple layers of political work, Latinos became connected to and supportive of a liberal vision of the state: an activist government that endorsed workers' rights, promoted economic security, and held the potential to advance equality and opportunity for all Americans.
As Latinos expanded drives for economic stability and fairness, they set out to outlaw racial discrimination. Historians generally agree that the New Deal state prioritized class-based questions over racial matters. Latinos and other nonwhite workers rarely made a neat distinction between economic and racial inequities; many envisioned and called for a governmental attack on racial injustice before politicians and policymakers did so. But civil rights liberalism, with its emphasis on racial equality and equal opportunity, would not become ascendant until the 1940s and 1950s. Local governments took the lead in translating this variant of liberalism into policy after World War II. They typically did so in response to grassroots advocacy and agitation.
In 1957, San Francisco became the first major city in California to pass a fair employment practices (FEP) ordinance. A local civil rights coalition had been pushing for it for more than a decade. Latinos formed part of that alliance and were regularly drawn into it by their unions. While conventional narratives of postwar civil rights efforts cast Latinos as building on African American activism and only embarking on campaigns for racial justice after the 1960s, Latinos and the Liberal City demonstrates otherwise. Latino San Franciscans had mobilized for civil rights alongside African Americans, Asian Americans, and white allies for some time. Any discussion of political piggybacking must consider how some Latinos living in the 1960s and after likely found inspiration in the activities of their ethnoracial predecessors, who had clung to the tenets of civil rights liberalism decades earlier.
Latinos' engagement with liberalism was neither monolithic nor static. Their course of political action exhibited manifold, evolving, and sometimes opposing visions for tackling the challenges in urban life. Some Latinos embraced liberalism, or least some of its strands. Others interrogated the ideology or rejected it altogether.
In the 1950s, as the labor movement experienced mounting obstacles, civic-minded Latinos—largely middle class and presenting themselves as patriotic and respectable—started to draft an ethnic-based agenda centered on greater access to social services, an enhancement of family life, and cultural assimilation. Exhibiting great faith in liberalism, they identified government authorities as partners in their work and soon lobbied for state aid, which they argued would boost Latinos' socioeconomic standing. Working-class residents gradually joined them at mid-century and especially in the 1960s, when they gravitated to Great Society liberalism—a variant stressing increased commitment to social welfare and governmental assistance to low-income and minority communities. As the War on Poverty got under way, the liberal state came to legitimize the existence of a Latino community—regularly referred to as the Spanish-speaking population—in need of governmental assistance akin to African Americans. Neither the promise nor the workings of liberalism went unchallenged. By the late 1960s, a younger generation of Latinos—radicalized by the antiwar and Third World liberation movements—chastised those who supported, or entangled themselves with, the American state. Latino radicals involved in various youth organizations believed the government itself was an apparatus of economic inequality and racial oppression. Resembling the trajectory of African Americans in such cities as Philadelphia, Latinos who expressed "optimism [in] mid-century American liberalism" now met a protest movement against it.
Communal disagreement over the merits and shortcomings of Great Society liberalism proceeded as Latinos confronted the cultural politics of gender, family, and sexuality. Living in a city where the sexual revolution occurred with great force led Latinos to multiple positions. Some affirmed a culturally conservative ethos or simply observed with fascination. Others promoted cultural liberalism or at least backed portions of a culturally liberal project from a distance. Those who sided with cultural conservatism emphasized traditional and fixed notions of male authority, female dependence, heterosexuality, and religious morality. Feminists, gay men, and lesbians upended this worldview. They politicized women's inequality, reproductive rights, sex education, and homosexuality and advocated cultural liberalism, a variant championing gender equity, sexual freedom, and respect for cultural difference. Drawing on liberal ideas of equality, freedom, and opportunity, their approaches underscored openness and flexibility regarding gender roles, sexual identity, and sexual autonomy. Adherents of traditional culture and morality often ignored or derided feminist aims and calls for sexual liberation. But they by no means represented all non-feminist identified or heterosexual Latinos.
A gamut of perspectives on gender and sexuality became most evident when "intimate matters" intersected with public policy. As an example, Latinos' long-standing support for civil rights liberalism could and did temper some culturally conservative outlooks. Latinos and the Liberal City at once shows that not all Latinos were culturally conservative and that those who were sometimes accommodated to a larger liberal project built on notions of equity, freedom, and nondiscrimination. By and large, a culturally liberal agenda did not propel Latinos to retreat from liberalism as a whole, even if they frowned upon some of its strands or proved unwilling to reconsider some contours of latinidad.
Latinidad as a political credo, like liberalism, demands some elaboration. Social scientists and cultural studies scholars have spent much time reflecting on the term's meaning, usefulness, and pitfalls. It has been variously defined as a pan-ethnic identity or consciousness, the sociohistorical process through which that identity is constructed, and its mobilization vis-à-vis social movements. Latinos and the Liberal City relies on all these scholarly treatments; it primarily approaches latinidad as an ideology: a set of ideas deployed for political purposes, in certain moments or epochs, and never quite settled or permanently actualized. Political scientist Cristina Beltrán explains that "the political logic of Latinidad" rests on underscoring Latino unity. Indeed, unity together with commonality and affinity have functioned as its most salient tenets. The unification of Latinos has been considered possible owing to shared cultural characteristics and deemed imperative because of their socioeconomic parallelism. Oft-cited elements of commonality include linguistic ties, religion, devotion to family, and geographic origins in Latin America. Latinos' affinity—their connection or resemblance—is and has been thought to develop from processes and experiences of racialization, cultural chauvinism, economic inequity, and political marginalization. Together, commonality and affinity theoretically present the building blocks for solidarity. Achieving that unity in practice—on the ground—has often proven difficult and ephemeral for myriad reasons, including Latinos' varying attachments to liberalism.
Historians have devoted little attention to latinidad. Their investigations of Latino life have typically focused on individual ethnic or national origin communities (e.g., Mexican Americans/Chicanos, Puerto Ricans). Part of the logic undergirding these scholarly approaches has been simple: few U.S. localities housed Latinos of multiple national origins until the late twentieth century. San Francisco, as Latinos and the Liberal City makes manifest, was one of them, making it possible to historicize the rationale, utility, and fragmentation of a pan-ethnic creed.
Latinidad was neither predestined nor imposed from outside Latinos' own social world. Vestiges of a proto-latinidad surfaced fleetingly in the third quarter of the nineteenth century; these did not crystallize into a political outlook in part because of population decline and expulsion from San Francisco. In the early twentieth-century city, Latinos once again encountered preliminary, albeit more sustained, invocations of latinidad. The Spanish-language press operated as the key institution engrossed in political education and community defense at this time. In the 1920s, journalists began to lay the foundations of latinidad by linking Latinos' cultural and historical ties with their material conditions and political interests locally. It was a nascent undertaking, and gained little traction in the 1930s and 1940s. Discussions and recognition of parallel lived experiences still occurred within the ranks of the labor movement, even though these did not orient Latinos to a pan-ethnic framework. Latinidad's import was by no means a foregone conclusion in 1945 or 1950. Yet some of its components—commonality and affinity—had circulated in varying degrees by the time the ideology acquired prominence at mid-century.
The political force of latinidad, starting in the early 1960s, depended on a confluence of factors. Population growth and continued diversification proved to be just one of them; after all, the city's Latinos had been ethnically heterogeneous for some time. Latinidad flourished at this particular moment as a result of postwar constraints on class-based analyses to explain social relations, decreased levels of unionization, an upswing in ethnic-based organizing, and the evolution of liberalism itself. At midcentury, burgeoning governmental attention to the plight of racial minorities encouraged Latinos' identification as a people with shared cultural characteristics and collective socioeconomic interests. Activists, community leaders, and politicians all turned to latinidad, which allowed them to represent—and attempt to mobilize—Latinos as one community, a political constituency, and an ethnic bloc.
Its gravity was not instantaneous, wholesale, or uncontested. The promotion of latinidad spawned discord by the late 1960s. Some activists and organizations questioned its logic and the usefulness of prioritizing Latinos' plight over that of other residents who faced similar life challenges. They therefore worked to deemphasize the specificity of Latino interests in favor of class-based agendas. Others sought to redefine some cultural contours of latinidad, especially those involving gender relations and sexual life. Feminists, gay men, and lesbians embraced the project of unity and claimed a place in the Latino community. Yet they insisted that Latino solidarity should not be predicated on male authority and heterosexuality. These activist cohorts offered but two alternatives to the architecture of latinidad and its interplay with liberalism. These two ideologies, as this book demonstrates, produced bonds and ruptures among Latinos as they deliberated on the parameters of state intervention, the primacy of ethnoracial alliance, and the cultural ties that bound them.
This book applies the term Latino in four ways. At a descriptive level, it serves as a broad, shorthand way to label and refer to residents of Latin American descent and Spanish-speaking heritage. The heterogeneity of San Francisco's Latino population demands a blanket term in a study of this size; it would be narratively taxing to spell out "Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans, Salvadorans, Chileans, and Peruvians," as one example, in every third or fourth sentence. This does not mean individual ethnic identities or national origins are inconsequential; their deployment and relevance are discussed whenever these proved meaningful. In our present day, Latino has acquired the sociopolitical currency and, to some extent, equivalency that labels like Spanish American, Latins, Latin American, or the Spanish Speaking had in earlier epochs. It is therefore used synonymously with terms that are now outmoded or employed less frequently.
Latino and its precursors did not operate simply as markers of ethnicity; they were also racial categories. Historian Mae M. Ngai has shown how Asian- and Mexican-origin peoples' ethnic and racial categorization became intertwined in the early twentieth century, in contrast to populations of European descent who experienced a decoupling of ethnicity from race. The terms Mexican and Chinese specifically, and Latin American and Asian more broadly, thus came to function as ethnoracial markers. Treating Latino as an ethnoracial category makes it possible to track Latinos' standing in the racial order and how that location molded their lived experiences and, in turn, their political activism. Lastly, this academic enterprise takes some cues from literary scholar Raúl Coronado who applies Latino in anticipation of its future use. His recent analysis of nineteenth-century Latino writing and print culture relies on the term to approach a literary and intellectual culture with a "non-national specificity." This orientation is useful for a study of political efforts and visions organized around lived experiences in San Francisco rather than national attachments, Latin American political projects, or longings for a homeland left behind.
Latinos is a linguistically gendered and imperfect way to classify a population composed of women, men, and individuals who may have identified otherwise. In recent years, scholars in Latino/a Studies, especially those in literary and cultural studies, have taken up such terms as Latino/a, Latin@, and Latinx to gesture toward gender inclusivity and fluidity. This book acknowledges the significance of gender in everyday life and political culture. Those sections addressing specific gendered experiences will differentiate between Latinas and Latino men.
The bulk of archival sources consulted for this work did not identify transgender or gender-variant persons; the limitations presented by the archives and the research method should by no means lead us to conclude that these individuals were nonexistent in Latino life.
The generic Latinos will be employed when discussing the population and community as a whole. Three reasons undergird this decision. While it might be ideal to use "Latinas, Latinos, and potentially gender-variant individuals" throughout this discussion, doing so in every other sentence would prove verbose and draining for the reader. Labels such as Latino/a, Latin@, or Latinx do not quite work for this historical project. In contrast to Latino, these recent terms and categories had no circulation during the period covered here. Above all, historical protagonists generally understood that gendered terms did not automatically mean exclusion or nonrecognition. Los latinoamericanos literally translates to Latin Americans, and most women assumed it included them. La colonia latinoamericana referred to the local Latin American community, which was not composed exclusively of women. And el público latino of the early twentieth century exhibited great diversity across multiple layers of social existence, including gender. That Latino public is the subject of the first chapter.