Photo: Raymond Rodriguez
The chronicler of the mass deportation of over 1 million Mexican and Mexican-Americans during the Great Depression and author of “Decade of Betrayal” has died at 87.
Thanks to Raymond Rodriguez many now know an ugly chapter in U.S. history that was often forgotten and over looked until his groundbreaking book in 1995. Even before he wrote the book he chronicled through oral history and research the mass rounds up of Mexicans, Mexican-American citizens and lawful immigrants in states with heavy Latino populations, as a way to help the U.S. out of the Great Depression.
Many government officials thought the deportations would free up jobs for Americans. The event that endured for a decade is now referred to as the ‘Mexican Repatriation’ though many of the deportations occurred without due process. The government logic here was get rid of the Mexicans since they are here illegally, taking jobs and all on welfare. What most did not realize until pointed by Rodriguez is that many of those Mexicans deported (close to 60%) were in fact U.S. citizens.
The book, co-authored by Francisco Balderrama, sparked hearings on the matter unfortunately to late to benefit the nearly one million displaced individuals and broken families. A plea for restitution also arose from the publishing of Rodriguez’ book but not much has come of that. Formal apologies were issued one as recently as last year from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for their role in the roundups. In 2006 the federal government apologized for the repatriations.
Rodriguez, a former college administrator and newspaper columnist, felt the greatest tragedy of the forced deportations was that no one knew about them. In spite of happening approximately 10-years before the internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans the round up of Mexicans from their homes, place of employment and even local dance halls was never chronicled.
Rodriguez’ parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1918 as tenant farmers and were one of the many family affected by the round ups. He was quoted as saying “Not knowing is the greatest tragedy of all. We know about the Holocaust. We know about the Japanese camps in World War II, but we don’t know about the Mexicans.”