“[T]he Texas Attorney General first ruled that all births among this minority group should be recorded as ‘black’ but later changed this to ‘brown'” (Martínez, Border Boom Town)

If the northern frontier communities needed special commercial concessions to stimulate economic recovery, they also desperately required relief [89] from social problems caused by the exodus of Mexicans and Chicanos from the United States. As the economy worsened north of the boundary, foreigners received blame for unemployment and came under attack for allegedly draining public funds through welfare services. In El Paso, these factors compounded the perennial impoverished condition under which many Chicanos had lived for generations.[37] Here officials made an attempt to remove from the relief rolls families in which either parent was of Mexican birth. This plan, unsuccessful in El Paso but implemented in other places, disregarded the family members who held U.S. citizenship. All persons of Mexican descent, whether native-born, legal immigrants, naturalized citizens, or commuters and illegals, were frequently labeled as foreigners.[38] This situation became more confused due to the deliberate racial designation of these people as nonwhites in Texas. Encouraged by the classification of this group as members of the Mexican race by the U.S. Bureau of the Census in 1930,[39] the Texas Attorney General first ruled that all births among this minority group should be recorded as black but later changed this to brown. Strong protests from the Chicano community finally led to a classification of white for persons of Mexican origin by 1934.[40]

The view that persons of Mexican heritage represented not only foreigners but nonwhites led to a general belief that these people should be sent back to their homeland. Thus originated the infamous voluntary and forced return of massive numbers of people across the international boundary. Between 1929 and 1935 about half a million persons of Mexican background from all over the United States returned to Mexico as repatriados (repatriates) and deportados (deportees).[41]

Oscar J. Martínez, Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978., 88-89.

The manuscript by Cleofas Calleros cited in footnotes 38 and 40 is listed in the Bibliography (Unpublished Sources, p. 209) as:

Calleros, Cleofas. The Mexican Expatriation, 1929-1939: An Unsuccessful Attempt to Solve a Social and Economic Problem. Ms. in my possession.

  1. [37]Occupationally, only slight progress had been made by Chicanos up to 1940, as Appendix Table 6 shows. Housing remained the worst problem. In 1925 the El Paso City Planning Commission referred to Chihuahuita as an eyesore, unhealthful and a disgrace to the city (cited in A Short History of South El Paso [El Paso Department of Planning], p. 23). Newspaper accounts in the 1920’s and 1930’s frequently detailed the congested and unsanitary life style in the Mexican quarter. EC on December 24, 1934, p. 4, reported that in the most crowded section of Chihuahuita 799 people lived in 100 apartments, an average of 7.9 persons per each two-room apartment. The city engineer called local slums the worst in the country in 1935. (EPHP, June 18, 1935, p. 1).
  2. [38]Cleofas Calleros, The Mexican Expatriation, 1929-1939: An Unsuccessful Attempt to Solve a Social and Economic Problem (manuscript), pp. 2, 6.
  3. [39]Included in the U.S. Census Mexican classification were all persons born in Mexico or having parents born in Mexico who are not definitely white, Negro, Indian, or Japanese. This designation, premised on the assumption that Mexicans constituted a race, was criticized for its inexactness. (Carey McWilliams, North From Mexico, p. 54.)
  4. [40]Calleros, The Mexican Expatriation, p. 2.
  5. [41]Hoffman, Unwanted Mexican Americans, p. 126 and Appendix D. See also Mercedes Carreras de Velasco, Los mexicanos que devolvió la crisis, 1929-1932.

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