Back to top

The Politics of Patronage

The Politics of Patronage
Lawyers, Philanthropy, and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

The first book about the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the influential work it has done for the Latina/o community, and the issues stemming from its dependence on large philanthropic organizations.

July 2021
Not yet published
Add to cart

Available for pre-order.
This book will be available in July 2021.
Subscribe to be notified of availability.
184 pages | 6 x 9 | 9 b&w photos |

Founded in 1968, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is the Latino equivalent to the NAACP: a source of legal defense for the Latina/o community in cases centered on education, state immigration laws, redistricting, employment discrimination, and immigrant rights. Unlike the NAACP, however, MALDEF was founded by Mexican American activists in conjunction with the larger philanthropic structure of the Ford Foundation—a relationship that has opened it up to controversy and criticism.

In the first book to examine this little-known but highly influential organization, Benjamin Márquez explores MALDEF’s history and shows how it has thrived and served as a voice for the Latina/o community throughout its six decades of operation. But he also looks closely at large-scale investments of the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and others, considering how their ties to MALDEF have influenced Mexican American and Latinx politics. Its story crafted from copious research into MALDEF and its benefactors, this book brings to light the influence of outside funding on the articulation of minority identities and the problems that come with creating change through institutional means.

  • Chapter One: Cause Lawyers, Foundations, and Social Movements
  • Chapter Two: A Legal Defense Fund for Mexican Americans
  • Chapter Three: The Chicano Movement
  • Chapter Four: Building a Better Organization
  • Chapter Five: The Docket
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • Index

Benjamin Márquez is a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His books include Democratizing Texas Politics: Race, Identity, and Mexican American Empowerment, 1945–2002 and Constructing Identities in Mexican American Political Organizations: Choosing Issues, Taking Sides.


“Progressive support for undocumented Americans…is only recent. Not only were unions slow to come around, powerful philanthropic foundations resisted attempts by organizers to defend the undocumented. This story is played out in excruciating detail in [The Politics of Patronage].”

“The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2018, so it is a timely development to have a detailed historical narrative on its founding, including its good (many major legal victories), bad (some questionable policy decisions), and ugly dimensions (some dreadful board behavior). Fortunately, there have been many more important court victories and examples of significant advocacy than there have been stumbles. As in his earlier work, an authoritative history of LULAC, Benjamin Márquez has a riveting tale to tell about the most successful national Latino organization. He also makes it clear that MALDEF lawyers are focused on suing bad hombres for another fifty years and more.”
Michael A. Olivas, University of Houston and MALDEF board member, author of Perchance to DREAM: A Legal and Political History of the DREAM Act and DACA


Available for KindleAvailable on Google Play
Available on Kobo
Available for Nook
Available on the Apple Store

This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library: