Sal si Puedes

In East San Jose—known simply as East Side—a small group of Latino laborers banded together in the early 1950s to confront the problems of urban sprawl and urban policy discrimination. The Mayfair District was a key site of Latino activism focused on halting racial discrimination, calling for greater participation in electoral politics, labor rights, and a critique of San Jose's growth policies.

No place better represented frustrations in Mayfair than Sal Si Puedes. Originally a neighborhood populated predominantly by Puerto Rican farm laborers, Latinos living in Sal Si Puedes moved to the neighborhood in greater numbers the 1940s to work in the orchards, packing houses, and on construction crews building San Jose’s suburban future. 22 In the early 1950s, agriculture remained a steadily profitable industry. By the mid-1950s, the county boasted the highest levels of agricultural profits before agricultural industries began their steady decline towards the end of the decade. "Agriculture and industry are synonymous words in the Santa Clara Valley," the San Jose Mercury could boast in 1955. Food processing employed a third of the county’s manufacturing workforce.[1] The presence of San Jose's agricultural industry attracted many migrants seeking job opportunities.

East Side reflected the spatial influences of industrialization in the Bay Area. High tech industries tended to cluster west and south in San Jose, staying close to the highways that channeled traffic and freight north and south. Zoning decisions by city and county government likewise determined the spatial layout of industrialization. Few of the Bay Area’s new high-tech industries located themselves in the eastern parts of San Jose. East Side tended to be the site of homes rather than industry, a feature made more prominent through the city’s decision to zone for low-density residential and federally-subsidized housing that clustered heavily in East Side. The density of housing caused severe traffic congestion on roads inadequate to carry the thousands of commuters traveling to their north county jobs.[2] The pattern and policies of the Bay Area’s postwar development introduced uneven environmental effects to barrio neighborhoods. Space, race, class, and environmental politics became tangled in East Side, expressed through Latino activists in the South Bay.

[1]: "Agriculture," San Jose Mercury, January 15, 1956.

[2]: "East Siders form alliance to increase political clout," San Jose Mercury, March 22, 1978; Cavin, “Borders of Citizenship,” 293–294.


"Housing for Freeway Displace-ees"

"Housing for Freeway Displace-ees"

Source: Folder 19, Box 5, Fred Ross Papers M0812, Stanford University Special Collections and Archives | Creator: San Jose Mercury View File Details Page

Map of the Mayfair district

Map of the Mayfair district

A map of the Mayfair District in San Jose. Sal Si Puedes is located in the upper-right corner of the map. | Source: Margaret Clark, Health in the Mexican-American Culture: A Community Study (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1959). View File Details Page

Access Information:

Location is approximate. Interstate 680 cut through the neighborhood in the 1970s.

Cite this Page:

Jason Heppler, “Sal si Puedes,” Silicon Valley Historical, accessed November 14, 2018,

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