TIMELINE: 1900-1939

1900 Gregorio Cortéz, a Tejano, kills a deputy who attempts to arrest him unjustly and flees for his

Ballad of Gregorio Cortez

life. Cortéz is eventually captured, tried by an all Anglo jury and sentenced to prison. He is eventually pardoned in 1913. His exploits are recorded in the border ballad El Corrido de Gregorio Cortéz.

1901 Two activist brothers, Ricardo and Jesús Flores Magón, are arrested and sentenced to a year in Mexico’s infamous Belén prison for publication of Regeneración (Regeneration), a newspaper critical of the regime of Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz.


Ricardo & Enrique Flores Magon

1903 The Platt Amendment to the Cuban Constitution, ending five years of U.S. occupation of Cuba, gives the U.S. the right to interfere in Cuban affairs if it feels U.S. interests are endangered and provides for the establishment of a U.S. naval base at Guantánamo.

1904 Ricardo Flores Magón flees Mexico and resumes publication of the political newspaper Regeneración in San Antonio, Texas. Magón, and his brother Enrique, are affiliated with the Partido Liberál Mexicano an outlawed political party in Mexico seeking to depose Mexican dictator Porfirio Díaz. After several assassination attempts on Magón by agents of the Díaz government, Ricardo and Enrique relocate to Los Angeles where they begin to raise an army against the Díaz tyranny. (SEE BIO: Ricardo Flores Magón)

1908 Twenty-one year old Ignacio Lozano arrives in San Antonio with his family fleeing the Mexican Revolution. He begins publication of La Prensa, a Spanish language weekly newspaper. The demand is so great, however, that by 1914 the paper begins daily publication. Later, Lozano will later expand his publishing empire with La Opinion, a Los Angeles Spanish language daily newspaper.

1910 Sara Estela Ramirez, an outspoken poet and social activist, publishes Aurora, one of the first Latina feminist journals in the United States.


Francisco Madero

November 20, 1910 After campaigning against the fourth re-election of Mexican President Porfirio Díaz, Francisco Madero, an outspoken critic of the Díaz dictatorship, is arrested by the Díaz regime but escapes to the United States. Madero declares the results of the Mexican election as fraudulent and calls for a nationwide uprising against the Díaz regime. This marks the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Within months, Generals Pancho Villa and Pascual Orozco in the north of Mexico and Emiliano Zapata in the Southern state of Morelos take up arms against the dictatorship.

January 29, 1911 An army raised in Los Angeles, California by Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón, and under the leadership of José María Leyba and Simón Berthold, successfully take the town of Mexicali, across the border of the United States. Within a few days, the federal forces of Porfirio Díaz in the towns of Tijuana and Ensenada also fall to Magon’s army whose flag bears

Magon's Army

the words “Land and Liberty.” Flores Magón declares, “The entire nation is a volcano on the verge of spouting forth the fire that burns in its bowels. Mexicans, arise to the call of war!” In June, 1911 Magón is arrested and convicted of breaking U.S. neutrality laws. He is sent to Leavenworth prison where he will die in 1922. (SEE DOCUMENT: Magón’s Letter to his attorney Harry Weinberger)

1913 Jovita Idár organizes La Cruz Blanca (The White Cross) to provide medical aid for those wounded during the Mexican Revolution.

October, 1914 Mexican troops detain U.S. Marines at the port of Tampico. President Victoriano Huerta, who has had Francisco Madero killed in a coup and now rules Mexico, apologises for the incident, but refuses to fly the American flag and give a 21-gun salute as demanded by the U.S. military. Hearing that a supply ship is en route to Vera Cruz with munitions for Huerta, President Woodrow Wilson orders U.S. naval forces to attack and occupy the town of Veracruz.


Victoriano Huerta

On April 21, the U.S. invades Vera Cruz killing more than 200 Mexican soldiers who die defending their country. In the aftermath of the U.S. occupation, Victoriano Huerta resigns as President of Mexico and flees to Europe. Elsewhere, more fighting between the competing armies of the Mexican Revolution continues.

February 20, 1915 Basilio Ramos, a supporter of Victoriano Huerta, is caught with “El Plan de San Diego,” a blueprint for the take-over of the American Southwest. The plan calls for an uprising of Mexicans and Black citizens, the killing of all Anglos over the age of 16, and the partitioning of the Southwest into separate territories governed by Mexicans and African Americans. In retaliation, the Texas Rangers conduct raids on Mexicans along the border. (SEE DOCUMENTS: The Plan De San Diego)


General Pancho Villa

March 9, 1916 Mexican General Pancho Villa, with a force of 485 men, raids the border town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing 14 Americans. In retaliation, the United States sends an expeditionary force of 12,000 men under General John “Blackjack” Pershing to capture Villa. After ten months in Mexico, General Pershing is unsuccessful in finding Villa. The inability of Pershing to find Villa is later celebrated in the Mexican corrido (ballad) “Nuestro Mexico Feberero 23.”

1916 Strikes by Cuban sugar mill workers provokes the United States to invade Cuba citing the provisions of the Platte Amendment.

1917 With many Americans away at war, Mexican Americans move away from the Southwest to the Midwest and East Coast northern cities to work in war-related factory jobs.

January, 1917 Hundreds of Mexican workers block traffic on the bridge between Juarez and El Paso to protest the quarantine policy of the immigration service to forcibly bath and disinfect women who crossed into El Paso to work cleaning the homes of Americans.

1917 The Jones Act of 1917 is passed by Congress. The act provides that Puerto Ricans be granted full U.S. citizenship. The act makes possible the drafting of Puerto Rican men into the United States military during World War One.


Ricardo Flores Magon

1918 Following the failure of his army in Baja California, Ricardo Flores Magón is arrested by United States authorities for violating a newly passed Espionage Act. Because of his continued criticism of the Mexican government, he is convicted of interfering with the U.S. war effort and is sentenced to a 21-year prison sentence. On November 21, 1919 Magón is found dead in his cell at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas. Many historians believe he was strangled by a sadistic prison guard known as “John Bull.” (SEE BIO: Ricardo Flores Magón)

1921 El Orden Hijos de América (Order of the Sons of America) a Mexican American civil rights organization created to fight discrimination and advance education, is formed in San Antonio, Texas. Later it will merge with the Knights of America to form the League of United Latin American Citizens.

1922 In Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party is founded, a political party calling for the independence of Puerto Rico from the United States.

1924 Entry stations are established along the porous border between the United States and Mexico by the Immigration Act of 1924. Although no quotas exist for Mexicans, as they do for other immigrant groups, Mexicans for the first time must acquire visas to enter the United States.

1924 Daniel Venegas, a satirist, founds the newspaper El Malcriado (The Brat) in Los Angeles, California. The paper’s articles comment on the spectrum of Mexican American life in Los Angeles. In 1928 his novel, Las Aventuras de Don Chipotle o Cuando Los Pericos Mamen (Don Chipotle’s Adventures or When Parrots Breast-feed) narrates the whimsical journey of a Mexican farmer to the U.S., a land where one can glean “gold dust off the streets.”


La Opinion

September 16, 1926 La Opinion, owned by Ignacio Lozano who also publishes the San Antonio paper, La Prensa, begins publishing in Los Angeles. Aimed at Spanish speaking Mexican immigrants, over time, it will become the longest publishing Spanish language newspaper in the United States.

By 1930 it has a circulation of 25,000 copies.1926 In Texas, Lydia Mendoza performs with her family group, El Cuarteto Carta Blanca, and then on her own. She begins touring the Southwest and soon become the first female star of Mexican American music.

1926 After establishing himself as leading man in films like The Prisoner of Zenda, Ramón Novarro ( Ramón Samaniegos) stars in the motion picture Ben Hur. The silent film classic transforms Novarro into one of the first Latino movie superstars.

1927 The Confederación de Uniones Obreras Mexicanas (CUOM), a union dedicated to improving work conditions and salaries for Mexican workers is established in California. In the next few years it will play a pivotal role in organizing worker’s in California’s agricultural industry.

1927 Mexican playwright Adalberto Elia González adapts Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona, into the play Los Amores de Ramona, which premieres in Los Angeles and become an instant hit.


1930s farm workers

1928 La Union de Trabajadores del Valle Imperial (The Union of Imperial Valley Workers) calls an unsuccessful strike against cantaloupe growers in California’s Imperial Valley. This will be one of many strikes by Mexican field workers in California during the 1930s.

May 18, 1929 The League of United Latin American Citizens is created when representatives from three previous Mexican American organizations–the Knights of America, The Order of the Sons of America and The League of Latin American Citizens– meet in San Antonio, Texas to merge their efforts to promote education and advance the civil rights of Mexican Americans in the United States. At the “Constitutional Convention” of LULAC, the motto of the new organization is adopted: “All for one, One for all.”

1929 U.S. Immigration authorities attempt to curb the large number of immigrants entering the U.S. from Mexico by enforcing a literacy test required of immigrants in 1917 and demanding that workers have proof of a job waiting for them in the United States.

1929 Leo Carrillo, a direct descent of a land-owning Californio family, stars in the motion picture Mister Antonio. He will establish a career for himself as a much in demand character actor in films and television and will become widely known for his characterization of “Pancho” in the 1950s television series The Cisco Kidd.

1930 With a massive economic depression in the United States, local authorities in Southwest cities begin to deport Spanish surnamed people to Mexico as part of a “repatriation” program. It is estimated that in the years between 1930 and 1935 more than 500,000 people will be deported, many of them American citizens of Mexican descent for whom Mexico is a foreign country.


Pedro Albizu Campos

1930 Pedro Albizu Campos is elected President of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.

1931 The League of United Latin American Citizens files a lawsuit, Salvatierra v. Del Rio School District, the first class-action lawsuit against so called “Mexican schools,” a widespread phenomenon in Texas in which Mexican students were segregated from Anglo students with inferior resources and facilities. LULAC loses the suit on appeal, the court finding that the segregation was for instructional purposes only. It will not be until 1948 that public school segregation of Mexican children in Texas will be outlawed.

1931 Mexican muralist Diego Rivera paints The Making of a Fresco, his first mural in the United States at the San Francisco Art Institute.


America Tropical mural

1932 Mexican muralist Davíd Alfaro Siquieros arrives in Los Angeles invited by the Chounard Institute of Art to conduct a series of seminars on mural painting. While in Los Angeles he is commissioned to paint a mural on a beer garden wall in Olvera Street on the theme of tropical America. Siqueiros paints the fresco mural América Tropical for F.K. Fernentz who promptly whitewashes the mural for its political content showing a crucified Indian on a double cross with the eagle of the U.S. dollar on top of the cross. Siqueiros is deported, but not before he finishes two other controversial murals in Los Angeles. (SEE EVENTS: América Tropical)

1932 George Lopez of New Mexico begins a life long career as a santero (maker of saints) depicting saints of the Catholic religion and popularizing a traditional folk art.

October 10, 1933 Two men are killed during the Pixley farm labor strike, one of more than 140 strikes by farm workers, many of them Mexican, during the period 1930 and 1939.

October 12, 1933 Ukranian born labor organizer Rose Pesotta leads a strike by Mexican American garment workers in Los Angeles; she uses bilingual radio station to reach out to Mexican American women and the ranks of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) grows. As a ploy to get publicity, she dresses garment workers in the fancy dresses they assemble and parades them in front of fashionable hotels with picket signs calling for just wages. The ILGWU strike ends successfully.

1933 La Confederación de Unions de Campesinos y Obreros (The Confederation of Farm Workers Unions) conducts a successful strike in the berry fields of El Monte, California.

1933 Ignacio Lozano begins publication of El Espectador, in the San Gabriel Valley of California. As with San Antonio’s La Prensa and Los Angeles’ La Opinion, the newspaper reports on issues important to the Mexican community and is an outspoken defender of the rights of the Mexican community.

1934 Lydia Mendoza’s torch song, Mal Hombre, becomes a nationwide hit on Mexican radio stations.

1934 La Liga Pro-Defensa Escolár (The School Improvement League) is established in San Antonio, Texas by Eleuterio Escobar who documents unequal spending and facilities between the schools attended by Mexican American children and those attended by Anglo children. His efforts to get the San Antonio school board to upgrade Mexican America facilities are unsuccessful.

1934 During the regime of Cuban President Ramón Grau, the United States signs “The Treaty of Relations,” and agrees to abandon the provisions of the Platt Amendment but retains the naval base at Guantánamo.

1935 John Steinbeck’s novel Tortilla Flats, which features Mexican American characters of the California’s Salinas valley, is published.

1935 Rita Cansino, an American born actress of Spanish descent, makes her movie debut in the film Under the Pampas Moon. She will become a Hollywood superstar under her changed name, Rita Hayworth.

1935 With the death of New Mexico Senator Branson Cutting, the Governor of New Mexico appoints Democrat Dionisio “Dennis” Chávez to the post. The next year, Dennis Chavez runs for the office and is elected to the U.S. Senate where he will serve until his death in1962. A life-long advocate of civil rights, his early years in Congress are noted for his defense of Mexican American and Native American rights. Throughout his career he will be so committed to the issues of the Puerto Rican people that, despite the fact that he is from New Mexico, he will be known in Congress as “Puerto Rico’s Senator.”

1935 Narcisco Martinez, considered to be the father of “conjunto” music, begins a career that will popularize the accordion as a vital instrument in Tex-Mex music.

1936 Emma Tenayuca, an outspoken labor organizer known as “La Pasionaria,”(the Passionate One) successfully organizes Mexican American women in San Antonio to strike for better wages in the pecan shelling industry. At its height, more than 10,000 women are on strike. (SEE BIO: Emma Tenayuca)

1936 Luisa Moreno, an outspoken Guatemalan immigrant turned labor organizer, joins John L. Lewis when he breaks away from the American Federation of Labor to form the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).


Labro Organizer Bert Corona

1937 Bert Corona attends the University of Southern California on a basketball scholarship but soon realizes that his real interest is in labor organizing. He joins the CIO and begins a lifetime of labor organizing efforts.

1937 In Ponce, Puerto Rico, the police open fire on a crowd of hundreds of Puerto Rican Nationalists calling for a Puerto Rico free of United States control. Nineteen people are killed and more than one hundred injured in what becomes known as the “Ponce Massacre.”

Dec. 4, 1938 Having traveled throughout the United States visiting Mexican, Cuban and Puerto Rican communities and forming chapters in anticipation of a national Congress of Spanish Speaking people, Luisa Moreno convenes the first national meeting of El Congreso Del Pueblo de Habla Espanola (The Spanish-Speaking People’s Congress). The gathering is held in Los Angeles and representatives from throughout the United States attend. Under the leadership of another woman labor activist, Josefina Fierro de Bright, the organization seeks to improve the civil rights of Mexican Americans and encourages a unified labor movement as a means to fight discrimination and poverty.

August 31, 1939 Workers at the California Sanitary Canning Company stage a walk-out demanding recognition of their union, Local 75 of the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA) and are successful in securing a union contract with an increase in wages.

1939 Mexican American muralists Edward Chávez and José Aceves paint classic murals of early pioneer life in the Southwest in Post Offices and other governmental buildings in Texas, Nebraska and Colorado.

1939 Andrés Rabago Pérez, who was born in the Boyle Heights section of East Los Angeles, graduates from high school and is hired by the Gus Arnheim band as drummer and singer. Within a short time he will change his name to Andy Russell and will become one of the leading pop singers for Capital Records during the 40s and 50s, popularizing the song Bésame Mucho to millions.