the mexican american generation,
music, and los angeles
[Like jazz], History is also everybody talking at once, multiple rhythms being
played simultaneously. The events and people we write about did not occur
in isolation but in dialogue with a myriad of other people and events.
—Elsa Barkley Brown, ‘‘Polyrhythms and Improvization’’
I don’t want to be put in a label, in a category. It’s the same with my
—Gil Bernal, interview by author
Mexican American Mojo documents the culture, consciousness, pride, and
prejudice of a generation of Mexican Americans who worked hard, served
their country, composed music, studied theory, wrote lyrics, and pushed
ahead. As an urban cultural history, it analyzes mixed-race neighborhoods,
dance spaces, and music scenes that challenged the attempted contain-
ment of Mexican Americans and African Americans in a segregated city
marked by racial discrimination. As a Chicano cultural history, it shows
how, from the Great Depression to the Vietnam War, Mexican Americans
created prototypically Chicano and Chicana cultural expressions, refusing
to remain marginalized as they both contributed to and struggled against
the larger society. Particularly in Southern California, they represented a
‘‘hep’’ wartime, and ‘‘cool’’ postwar counterculture with a street edge and
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