Searching for a Reflection

Historian David Gutierrez’s provocative study of Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants, Walls and Mirrors, could not have come at a more timely moment. As the role of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, again comes under scrutiny, Gutierrez provides us with a well-researched investigation of the issues surrounding immigration, but from a different perspective than most.

Walls and Mirrors is a look at the debate from within the Mexican-American community. What are the historic links between immigration, civil rights, and ethnicity? How have Mexican-American organizations and activists strategized politically vis-á-vis immigration and citizenship during this century? How have Mexican Americans perceived themselves, their role in U.S. society, and their relationship to both long-term Mexican residents and los recien llegados, the recent immigrants? In Walls and Mirrors, Gutierrez explores the often shifting contours of this intriguing yet largely neglected subject through his chronologically organized study of Mexican-American activists and organizations in Texas and California.

As Gutierrez writes in his introduction, Mexicans and Mexican Americans have always been aware of the differences between them, yet few studies have focused on the nature of this relationship and the forces that have shaped it. Like the larger society, scholars have often treated Mexican Americans and Mexican immigrants as if they were all the same, ignoring that the relationship between the two groups has been fraught with ambivalence and contradiction. Gutierrez’s long-needed study sets out to examine both the “differences that divided and the commonalities that bound the two groups together—the walls and mirrors.”

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1996
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