Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Oxford University Press


Contemporary Latinas and Latinos constitute a growing political influence in American politics. Moreover, in 2000 Latinas/Latinos reached a demographic milestone, surpassing African Americans in becoming the largest ethnic minority group in the United States (see Ennis, et al. 2011 and Grieco and Cassidy 2001 under General Overviews). However, despite important political gains made over the past thirty-five years, Latinas and Latinos continue to experience significant structural and resource barriers to their political incorporation, resulting in enduring forms of marginalization for the population. Latinas specifically inherit a long history of political activism dating back to early resistance against US expansion both in Mexico and the Caribbean and encompassing traditional forms of political behavior including voting and holding elective office. However, because their participation has been concentrated in nontraditional and nonelectoral activities, accounts of their leadership and contributions are frequently overlooked if not diminished. This article provides an overview of Latina political participation beginning in the late 19th century, highlighting literature on the two largest populations of Latinas in the United States: Mexican American and Puerto Rican women. Whether organizing immigrant activists in response to restrictive legislation proposed in Congress, providing feminist critiques of leaders in the Chicano movement, or mobilizing voter turnout in key elections, Latinas have always engaged in politics, and their history of participation is central not only to our understanding of racial, ethnic, and gender politics specifically, but American politics generally.

Chapter of

Oxford Bibliographies in Latino Studies

Part of

Oxford Bibliographies


Ilan Stavans


This material was originally published in Oxford Bibliographies in Latino Studies edited by Ilan Stavans, and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press. For permission to reuse this material, please visit



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.