The Good Neighbor Comes Home: The State, Mexicans and Mexican Americans, and Regional Consciousness in the US Southwest during World War II
“The Good Neighbor Comes Home: The State, Mexicans and Mexican Americans, and Regional Consciousness during World War II” is a study of how US foreign policy and World War II reshaped the relationship between local, state, and federal agencies and institutions and the Mexican and Mexican American population in the US Southwest. This study relies on archival research and materials from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington, DC, to argue that this change in the relationship between the federal government and the Mexican and Mexican American population led to the emergence of a regional consciousness defined by the problems communities in California, New Mexico, and Texas shared in common across the US Southwest.
The federal government first became interested in the well being of the Mexican and Mexican American population in the US Southwest because of its desire to maintain friendly relations with Latin America during the war emergency. The Good Neighbor Policy was the US foreign policy of non-intervention that promoted a sense of inter-Americanism based on a common American and democratic heritage in the western hemisphere. Both the Good Neighbor Policy and World War II provoked a collective response from local Mexican American leaders and sympathetic allies in the US Southwest: these figures turned inter-American and democratic wartime rhetoric to good account by insisting the federal government include a domestic program in its national diplomacy and security agendas to meet the population’s long-neglected needs. The federal government responded by creating the Spanish Speaking Minority Project within the domestic division of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, the federal agency tasked with promoting the Good Neighbor Policy. An informal network of Mexican American leaders, federal bureaucrats, professionals, university administrators, and social scientists worked to bring federal funds into the US Southwest by defining a set of region-wide issues shared by the Mexican and Mexican American population, which contributed to the emergence of a regional consciousness, or an awareness of the problems held in common among Mexican and Mexican American communities in the US Southwest. “The Good Neighbor Comes Home” illustrates how the federal bureaucratic interest in the population emerged, how this interest both departed and continued from the federal government’s earlier interaction with the population, and how non-federal actors in California, New Mexico, and Texas relied upon and reinforced the population’s regional consciousness as they sought to improve Mexican and Mexican American conditions in the US Southwest.