Proposal for a museum
Apply concepts and insights from the anthropological study of im/migration to preparing an exhibition proposal for a museum exhibit on im/migration to the San Fernando Valley/Los Angeles for The Museum of the San Fernando Valley. The exhibition should address the history and contributions of new comers to the San Fernando Valley/Los Angeles.
The Contributions of Immigrants in San Fernando Valley
The general topic of this exhibition revolves around the contributions of immigrants in the San Fernando Valley. In the U.S., natives have always had a tendency of rejecting immigrants. There is a belief that immigrants are criminals, and that they will agree to offer services in return for low payment. Hence, they create stiff competition for the natives. Although natives tend to reject immigrants, it is clear that they contribute positively to the development of their regions. Through the availability of cheap labor, business is able to run smoothly, meaning that many will afford more taxes. In addition, immigrants tend to present with unique skills, which are not possessed by most natives. Hence, new activities can be ventured in the regions of settlement to boost the economy. Most of the changes experienced in San Fernando Valley would not have been possible without the influence of the immigrants. Hence, the goal of this exhibition is to show the audience some of the positive contributions of immigrants in the San Fernando Valley in history.
Agricultural Impacts of Mexican immigrants in San Fernando Valley
In the early decades, San Fernando Valley remained a largely rural area. During these periods, the region was displayed as a predominantly white area. However, it is evident that its population featured extensive human diversity. Even though other cultures were not acknowledged, an irony is presented since the whiteness of the region’s aerial view would not have been possible without the Japanese and the Mexican American labor (Barraclough 50). The current analysis seeks to prove this fact by considering factors such as racism and discrimination of immigrants which may have contributed to the lack of acknowledgment of the Mexican Americans in the making up of the San Fernando Valley history.
In the San Fernando Valley, these Asian Americans and Mexican Americans were the driving force of the region’s economic growth. In 1960, the majority of the San Fernando Valley features the whites (Barraclough 50). However, the minority population was still responsible for the agricultural economy that was thriving at the time in history. This is because the Whites would simply hire them for their cheap labor and high skill levels. Southern California’s agricultural economy was largely dependent on labor-intensive products such as olives, citrus, and the vineyards (Barraclough 54). These are what triggered the re-shaping of the landscape. The region had experienced a labor void after the Chinese Exclusion Act had been passed in 1882. Hence, as the Japanese and the Mexican Americans migrated, the Valley served as the minority district where the small scale farmers provided them with employment.
By the end of the 1920s, various real estate interests had started pushing for the gentleman farmer idea which they felt was a critical factor for the growth of local economies. The leaders of Los Angeles believed that they had been successful in creating a new type of city that fell between rural and urban areas, leading to the concept of rural urbanism. Since such small scale farmers were perceived to be the most independent individuals, who cannot be coerced by the industry and other exploitative businesses, many embraced it in the Valley (Barraclough 54). It led to the development of the decentralized small plot divisions that are visible in the artifact. It would eventually lead to future suburbanization and was also aimed at stopping labor organization and integration.
Thus, it is evident that the Mexican Americans played a role in triggering the development of the San Fernando Valley. Without their contribution and presence, the Valley would have developed at a much slower rate. However, the rising number of immigrants meant that jobs were created since many saw an opportunity from the presence of cheap labor. In addition, immigrants did not have the support needed to unionize in order to fight for better pay. Thus, the leaders of the region decided to use the situation as an opportunity to try and stop unionization which they felt gave the workers more power over their employers. Hence, many decided to become small scale farmers so they could enjoy the benefit of cheap labor with more returns.
The artifact that was researched for this exhibition features the image of the San Fernando Valley in 1929 (“Farms dot the landscape of the San Fernando Valley.”). It is a simple black and white aerial view image of the valley, showing the various plot divisions where many appear to be white in color. It is owned by the Los Angeles Public Library and can be retrieved from the Security Pacific National Bank Collection. This image is mostly used to represent the change experienced in San Fernando Valley, which was driven by the labor from the Mexican Americans. Given the small sizes of the plots, it is evident that the Gentleman farmer idea had spread significantly throughout the Valley. Even though the immigrant laborers are not openly acknowledged for their efforts, it is clear that the small-scale farmer would not have managed to maintain the farm single headedly. That is because the products being focused on were labor intensive, and required enough people to ensure that losses were avoided. They were still discriminated against it, but many managed to compete and become flourished farmers. This was amazing, considering the presence of many discriminative laws that prohibited immigrants from owning property.
This piece of artifact could have been used in history by various organizations to show the change that was brought about by immigrants who are being discriminated against. The immigrants are active contributors to this development, as well as the resulting agricultural economic growth of the region. There are many other similar artifacts that showcase immigrant workers in the San Fernando Valley. Some feature families as they actively work to collect produce for sale. Judging by their appearance, they are not whites who have been taking credit for the development of the area. On the contrary, they are Mexican Americans who came to seek refuge in the region. This artifact helps in better understanding the story of Mexican American immigrants and their rejection. It shows their contributions to the economy and the changes to the landscape that resulted from their input. Therefore, it works to show the positive contribution of immigrants to the development of the San Fernando Valley, contrary to the arguments presented by Whites in history.
In history, Mexican American immigrants were discriminated against and even rejected by the natives. Even though they had moved to the U.S. in search of greener pastures and a fresh start, they were perceived as criminals and individuals who would snatch the opportunities meant for the natives (Grigorieff, Roth & Ubfal 1120). That is because they offered cheap laborr and would present with new skills that the farm owners needed. Hence, they would be the preferred manpower when it comes to hiring farmhands and laborers. However, despite all these benefits, the immigrants were still discriminated against and stereotyped. The Mexican Americans were constantly believed to be criminals and drug lords. They were perceived to be incapable of competing with the Whites since they did not have the same educational background. However, the analysis of San Fernando Valley proves that the immigrants had sufficient skills to boost the economy of the region. Even though barriers existed to prevent their development, the immigrants still worked hard and became established individuals (Grigorieff, Roth & Ubfal 1124). Therefore the analysis conducted on the migration of Mexican Americans to San Fernando Valley relates to other class readings that also consider the contributions of immigrants that have not been properly acknowledged. Today, the same perspective is still held towards immigrants, and is often based on beliefs and stereotypes.
The contribution of immigrants to the U.S. economy is quite evident considering the example of Mexican Americans in San Fernando Valley. If these immigrants were not present, the region would not have gained the fame it got in history for its white plots. The natives needed the skill and labor of the immigrants to maintain their products and promote their yield. Unfortunately, no credit was given to the immigrants who were behind the economic growth experienced. The artifact that has been used as the base of this discussion shows that immigrants can also lead to positive contributions to a given country. Hence, they should also be given the acknowledgment they deserve since without them, the economic growth would not have been experienced at such a drastic rate in history.
“Farms dot the landscape of the San Fernando Valley.” Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library, (1929).
Grigorieff, Alexis, Roth, Christopher & Ubfal, Diego. “Does Information Change Attitudes Toward Immigrants?” Demography, 2020.
Barraclough, Laura. “Making the San Fernando Valley: Rural Landscapes, Urban Development, and White Privilege.” Atlanta: University of Georgia, 2011.