Gray, Laura

The Fighting Medinas, a group of 7 brothers who fought together in WWII

The Fighting Medinas, a group of 7 brothers who fought together in WWII

During World War II, minorities had a chance to improve their conditions by fighting for their country. One such group that chose to do this was Latin Americans.

Before the war started, a fair number of Latin Americans resided in the US; not a large amount, but enough to form their own kind of ‘cities’ amongst each other, away from hate of Anglo Americans. They had some difficulty with work due to racist tensions, but were otherwise thriving in America (1). This changed when World War II began. With all the men gone to war, there was a sharp downturn in the production of crops and goods, the same as with the previous war. To combat this, thousands of Latin Americans were brought in. Some worked outside in fields while others worked in factories; some even made their way to the warfront. Field workers were brought in through something call the Bracero Program; it allowed these citizens a temporary stay in American for as long as the war lasted (2). Those who worked in factories and such often collected in large cities for their jobs. Both Latin American men and women served, and, except for a Puerto Rican troop, were not segregated as African Americans were (3).

Tensions did worsen a bit with the tide of Latin Americans rolling in. These peoples were practically necessities for both farmwork and factory work, helping the dragging economy take a step in the right direction, yet certain groups were against them being in America. They were just workers to be used, and barely that. Although they were vital to the war efforts, a majority of Latin Americans were not treated well after the war. Many of the farmers were sent back to their home, with very little money(3). Soon enough, actions rose to stop mistreatment of Latin American citizens. The G.I. Bill was passed, giving all veterans proper access to financial assistance (2). Groups were started to fight for minority rights, especially when  “zoot suit” riots and other cases of unfair, racist attacks popped up (1). Although these efforts did not help all Latin Americans, it gave a cause for the impending civil rights movements.

In a more specific case, female Latin Americans especially excelled during the revolution. They took over many factory positions, and made up a major bulk of the workforce. The female army corps was filled with them, both as fighters and as translators for other foreign soldiers. Many took up jobs with the Red Cross as well, choosing to heal rather than fight (2). Although they often were not able to stay in leadership positions, it did help pave a path and a positive argument for women’s rights.

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