nightrose83 (nightrose83) wrote in little_details,

Questions About Mexican-American Surnames and Family Experiences

Hey guys,

I have a Mexican-American MC and am trying to determine aspects of her family background (such as when/under what circumstances her family first came to America). I was thinking anywhere between the early half of the 20th century up to right before WW2 when the Bracero program was established, but had some questions and wanted to make sure the background I was thinking of using was historically accurate/mostly plausible. I also had a question about shortening last names.

Initially, I wanted to have MC's great-grandparents born somewhere in the early 1920s and her grandparents born in the early to mid 1940s. I'm open to changing that to make the information more historically accurate where needed. Wikipedia states the Bracero program lasted from 1942-1964 and that some people were fortunate to work for people who helped sponsor them and their families, so I was positing that MC's family were some of the more fortunate ones in that regard. MC's father would be born in America in the 60s and grow up here, while MC herself was born in the early 90s. I had some questions regarding specifics of that background choice as well as the history behind it:

1. I read about Mexican-Americans being forbidden in schools from speaking Spanish throughout the 40s-50s (little fuzzy on the timeline there, exact years would be appreciated!), often facing penalties for using Spanish words, and also needing to learn English outside the home to teach parents who were monolingual. If MC's grandparents were brought to the US with their parents in the early 50s and were going to school during that time period in either Texas or California, would it be accurate to say they probably also experienced this?

2. I also read about several deportation movements during different time periods in which Mexicans/Mexican-Americans were forcibly deported, often without due process. Some were also American citizens through birth and had to return to America later after finding out the truth about their backgrounds if they were too young to remember having lived in America. If my MC's family lived in either California/Texas in the 50s while things like this were happening, what could they have done to avoid being deported?

3. I read about how last names work in Mexican and other Latino cultures from here:, which leads me to the question, if someone had to shorter their surname for whatever the reason, would they go by the first part of the surname, the second part, or it would depend on familial/individual preferences?

If anyone has websites/anecdotes with more information/corrections to anything I've written, I'd be very grateful!

Research: Bracero Archive, Wikipedia, Google with search terms 'Mexican-American discrimination/avoiding deportation', and 'history of Mexican-American immigration in the US.', Mexican surnames, shortening Mexican surnames in America
Tags: 1940-1949, 1950-1959, 1960-1969, mexico: history, usa: california, usa: history (misc), usa: texas, ~names

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