Mexican Workers and the Making of Arizona

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On any given day in Arizona, thousands of Mexican-descent workers labor to make living in urban and rural areas possible. The majority of such workers are largely invisible. Their work as caretakers of children and the elderly, dishwashers or cooks in restaurants, and hotel housekeeping staff, among other roles, remains in the shadows of an economy dependent on their labor.

Mexican Workers and the Making of Arizona centers on the production of an elastic supply of labor, revealing how this long-standing approach to the building of Arizona has obscured important power relations, including the state’s favorable treatment of corporations vis-à-vis workers. Building on recent scholarship about Chicanas/os and others, the volume insightfully describes how U.S. industries such as railroads, mining, and agriculture have fostered the recruitment of Mexican labor, thus ensuring the presence of a surplus labor pool that expands and contracts to accommodate production and profit goals.

The volume’s contributors delve into examples of migration and settlement in the Salt River Valley; the mobilization and immobilization of cotton workers in the 1920s; miners and their challenge to a dual-wage system in Miami, Arizona; Mexican American women workers in midcentury Phoenix; the 1980s Morenci copper miners’ strike and Chicana mobilization; Arizona’s industrial and agribusiness demands for Mexican contract labor; and the labor rights violations of construction workers today.

Mexican Workers and the Making of Arizona fills an important gap in our understanding of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in the Southwest by turning the scholarly gaze to Arizona, which has had a long-standing impact on national policy and politics.
“Mexican Workers and the Making of Arizona presents the paradoxical history where Mexicana and Mexicano workers are recruited and desired as laborers who contribute to the wealth and well-being of key sectors in Arizona’s economy, yet simultaneously are racialized as invaders who negatively impact society. The anthology features the work of women contributors and beautifully illustrates the stories of Mexicans’ resilience and resistance.”—Patricia Zavella, Professor Emerita, Latin American and Latino Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

“Framed by an important set of critiques, Mexican Workers and the Making of Arizona brings forward precisely what has not been incorporated into the state’s (or the nation’s) historical analyses of the role of Mexican labor in the construction of a major economy.”—Gilbert G. González, Professor Emeritus, University of California, Irvine

“This excellent book recognizes the workers’ critical role, dignity, and struggles for a better life.”—Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval, author of Starving for Justice: Hunger Strikes, Spectacular Speech, and the Struggle for Dignity

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