This story was about Mexican men who came to AZ to work in the mines. Before the Mexicans arrived to AZ they were promised great jobs and wages but none of that occurred. They weren’t considered human beings to the Americans; the Mexicans were used for hard labor. In Clifton Morenci Arizona mining copper made them one of the richest mining districts in the U. S… Thousands of Mexican workers came to the United States because they were promised a better life. Among the first to arrive was David Valasquez he was a courageous man that left Mexico with nothing but his bags and false word from the United States.
Along with David, most of the miners came from the Northern Mexican states of Sonora and Chiwawa. These miners have been mining for generations and were brought to Clifton Morencia where the population grew from 200 to 10,000. Copper was was a big necessity in Az. It was used for telephone lines, telegraph sevices, and power plants. The working conditions for the Mexican workers were beyond horrible. They used candles for light and spent 12 hours a day underground. They worked 4,000 feet below the surface and in a maze that tunnels 100 miles long.
The work areas were cramped, the air was thin and the temperature was 104 degrees which is extremely hot! The Mexican workers were accustomed to these harsh conditions when it came to mining, but they weren’t prepared for the way they were going to be treated all because they were Mexican. Mexicans were assigned the worst and most dangerous jobs in the mines. Anglo timberlands were paid four dollars while the Mexican timberlands were paid two dollars a day. Anglo muckers were paid one dollar and fifty cents while the Mexican muckers were paid seventy cent a day.
As you can see the Americans bought them for their skills and treated them badly. Miners bought their food as dry goods at the Phelps Dodge merchant store. They were only allowed to buy a dozen of eggs and one pound of coffee, which in my opinion was not enough to take care of neither one self nor their family. They had a recreation facility that was off limits to Mexicans and also no Mexican was supposed to exchange words with and Anglo. Mexicans were forced to live on steep hills and their houses were made of scrap wood. June 3, 1903 for the first time, 1000 Mexican workers went on strike for better pay and living conditions.
The results of this strike resulted in no negotiation with the mining company. After the strike there was a major flood which flooded the city. Fifty people were killed instantly and a lot of the homes were destroyed. Soon after the flood was over the Mexicans went on strike again. This time U. S sent federal troops to disarm the strikers and placed the community under marshall law. During this strike, ten strike leaders were arrested and they spent three years in prison. Within two week of the strike ending everyone was back at work and the wage system was still in place.
Mexican returned to work but this time things were getting worst as far as working conditions. Silicosis, which is a lung condition, started taking a toll on the miners. One out of every three miners caught this disease. This disease was so bad that every time you cough; little pieces of your lungs would come out. A lot of Mexicans died from this disease and when so the dead bodies were taken to a burial place which the Americans called the “Catholic cemetery”. They called it that because they thought all Mexicans were catholic. By 1915 a new union entered Arizona called I. W. W..
In June they demanded higher wages for the Mexican workers but Walter Douglas who was running the show at the time didn’t support that at all. In fact after that proposal 1200 prisoners were loaded on the paddle cars at the El Paso and Southwestern railroads. Mexicans were packed 50 to a cart and was hauled 200 miles to Columbus Mexico where the Mexicans were left without food and water and they were not to return to Bixby. 1931 was the beginning of the depression and the unions never returned. Mines were closed, eight million Mexicans were out of work, and Mexicans became the scapegoat across the southwest.
In the mid 1930’s they were recovering from the depression, mining was back in action and Mexicans were still the lowest paid workers. So, what did the United States do? They decided to recruit Mexicans to become soldiers; they wanted them to fight in the war. After 50 years of fighting for equal rights the Mexicans prayers were answered. They started to get benefits, pensions, and hospitalization. Mexicans were able to move up the ladder. Their constant fighting and never giving up paid off. This story taught me to always fight for what I believe in and believe in myself that I can make a difference if I just believe.