For centuries in both Mexico and the United States, racism has organized society and regulated the work and aspirations of Europeans, Africans, Native peoples, and their mixed descendants. Though inhabiting segregated spaces, Mexican American communities expanded by the 1960s, stretching from the Yakima Valley of Washington to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and into the Midwest, particularly Chicago. The people living in these towns and cities represented a mix of multigenerational U.S. citizens, new residents, and temporary Mexican workers. While their experiences varied, all these communities were shaped by a legacy of discrimination in school, housing, and employment. Economic exploitation, in the form of race-based wages and substandard working conditions, particularly in fields, mines, and factories, were their daily realities. Despite the participation of Mexican American soldiers in all major U.S. conflicts since the Civil War, and the contribution of Mexican workers to the American agricultural and mining economy (and the vast economy of the West generally), the citizenship and human rights of their communities were contested and continue to be today. This lithograph, titled Goodbye Wetback, was designed by artist B. Barrios and printed by Lynton Kistler in 1951 in Los Angeles. It depicts a rural Mexican family confronting, with a mix of fear and stoicism, the racist encounter implied in the title. Kistler printed the work of many artists, some of whom specifically depicted Latino, Native American, and East Asian subjects. Over 2,700 of his prints are housed in the Graphic Arts Collection of the National Museum of American History.
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