Ricos y Pobres in the 1920s, the Mexicanization of the Tejano elite (de León)

For the most part, those who came to Texas from Mexico descended from the class of poor folks. These economic refugees were the ones to cause the aforementioned dilemma of the 1920s: they worked cheaply and performed labor shunned by whites yet were seen as a social danger to the country because of their alleged illiteracy, propensity to commit crime and cause disease, and reluctance to acculturate.

An upper class of ricos (wealthy people) and a middle class of professionals also fled northward, hoping to stay in Texas temporarily until politics stabilized in Mexico. These included exiles whose ties to the Porfirian order made their stay precarious in Mexico; others were landowners trekking to Texas to escape the wrath of vindictive peasant armies. [72] In the 1920s, the political emigrés were followed by refugees escaping the turmoil in Mexico created by the anti-Catholic administration of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Though not as significant in number compared to the bulk of immigrants who descended from the lower class, the ricos could be influential due to their backgrounds as people of education and means. These families were to be found in the lower Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Laredo, El Paso, and Houston.

In Texas this corps of elites played significant roles in ethnic enclaves. They promoted a Mexican past through the distribution of Mexican books, magazines, musical records, and Spanish-language newspapers from Mexico City. They sponsored speaking engagements and theatrical performances and editorialized or extolled the virtues of la patria (Mexico, their native country). Meantime, they formed their own clubs and held exclusive cultural activities. They maintained a commitment to preserving Mexican nationalist sentiments within the community of immigrants.[24]

Arnoldo de León, Mexican Americans in Texas: A Brief History, Second Edition. Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, 1999. 71-72.

  1. [24]García, Rise of hte Mexican American Middle Class, pp. 240-241, 234, 103, 104; Richard A. García, “The Mexican American Mind: A Product of the 1930s,” in Mario T García, History, Culture and Society (Ypsilanti: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingue, 1983), pp. 76, 78.

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