A mutual aid society, or mutualista, the Sociedad Progresista was established by Mexican immigrants to assist its members in times of financial need and of illness. The organization has also played an important role in the social life of the community and in maintaining community connections to Mexican culture. It still perpetuates Mexican culture and celebrations in the United States and is present as a local community or regional organization, especially in California.
In 1918, Mexican immigrants living in California formed the Sociedad Progresista Mexicana for the purpose of helping its members in time of need and to provide a means for organizing social events and festivals traditional to Mexico. Community solidarity and Mexican culture were important concerns of the organization. The immigrants had brought a sense of community from Mexico, where mutualistas were a part of the tradition of the towns and regions. The Sociedad Progresista Mexicana was modeled on the Mexican mutualistas.
Like other mutual aid societies, the society has been funded by dues or whatever amounts its members can afford to pay. Membership is limited to men, but the organization assists members’ entire families. The assistance it has provided has included limited health insurance, funeral expenses, and expenses associated with births and weddings.
The society has also played an active role in planning traditional Mexican holiday celebrations and festivals. As a mutualista, it has discouraged assimilation and worked to maintain a strong sense of Mexican heritage among its members. Through the early years of the twenty-first century, it has continued to organize and support Mexican cultural events, especially annual Cinco de Mayo celebrations.
Rodríguez, Havidán, Rogelio Sáenz, and Cecilia Menjivar. Latinas/os in the United States: Changing the Face of America. New York: Springer, 2008. Tatum, Charles M. Chicano Popular Culture: Que hable el pueblo. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2001.
Farm and migrant workers
Immigrant aid organizations
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Mexican deportations of 1931