Cowboys and Cattlemen

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The Representation and Separation Between Two Classes of People: Managers and Workers

Adam Diaz

Matt Luckettt

GEM24CW- 5

The United States as a nation is ever changing. The U.S. population is growing every year, and the different types of ethnicities continue to flood into the country searching for the “American Dream.” However, how many people actually see this dream become a reality? The answer to that is incredibly disheartening and was even harder to obtain in the earlier years of America’s history. Unless you were a white male in the late 1800s to 1900s, the American Dream was exactly that: a dream. This failed ideal can be explored through the inequality expressed in that of race, gender, and class throughout American history, specifically during the time of cowboys and cattlemen.  Additionally, such injustices can be portrayed in today’s fast food industry with the struggles of the employer to employee. Comparing and contrasting cowboys with cattlemen and managers with employees will demonstrate how such issues come into affect.  

In order to express the inequality faced within the workforce between cowboys and cattlemen, the background of their field of work, who did the work, and their differences need to be taken into account. When the Conquistadors came to the Americas in the 16th century they brought their cattle and cattle-raising techniques with them. Huge land grants by the Spanish government that was part of the hacienda system, allowed large numbers of animals to roam freely over vast areas (Wikipedia)[1]. Numerous traditions developed that often related to the original location in Spain. For example, the Vaquero tradition of Northern Mexico was more organic, developed to adapt to the characteristics of the region from Spanish sources by cultural interaction between the Spanish elites and the native and mestizo peoples (Wikipedia). As settlers from the United States moved west, they brought cattle breeds from the east coast and Europe and adapted their management to the drier lands of the west by borrowing key elements of the Spanish vaquero culture (Wikipedia). From 1865-1900, raising cattle was the most prominent job position in the western United States. The Homestead Act of 1862 attracted more settlers to come west and set up farms. This is because the Homestead Act gave someone the ability to own farmland for no cost at all; however, the only requirement needed was proof that the land had improved during the time of ownership. Therefore, it was very easy to obtain land, but improving it was the biggest challenge. Ranching is a difficult task of raising grazing livestock such as cattle for meat. The owners of these lands known as cattlemen had to invest time in farming and raising crops such as hay and grains for feeding their animals to produce a profit. The cattle would go from the ranch to the trail, to the slaughterhouse, and eventually be distributed throughout America. But who are the people behind the scenes that raise and break the cattle or horses, and who does all the work on the ranch? Cowboys.

Cowboys were the workers on the ranch who helped maintain it. Cowboys strived toward becoming ‘men’ and they viewed the title of being a ‘man’ based upon the masculinity shown. Cowboys demonstrated their masculinity in terms of their skills on the job, their control over their working conditions, and their ability to make independent decisions. Even in their time of leisure, they still would do things to prove their masculinity such as gamble, drink, fight, and indulge in sexual pleasures with prostitutes. In the book, Cowboys and Cattlemen by Jacqueline Moore, she explains how Anglo cowboys recognized skill regardless of color, which provided exceptional men other than whites a chance to gain respect (Moore)[2]. However, a majority of the hard work was left to the Mexican or black cowboys....
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