“That year I got 160 acres of land” (Tafolla)

In the same year, the war broke out between the United States and the Confederate States, and when the army was set to march out of the state of Texas, Sergeant McDonald deserted, came to where I was, and sold the cows. […] That year I got 160 acres of land, which was the amount the state of Texas was granting to every citizen who was a head of household. I built a ranch on a particular branch of Privilege Creek which is called Bear Creek. I lived there for some time with my brothers-in-law, who’d come to live with us there in Bandera County. J.P. Rodríguez had established a ranch on the main branch of Privilege Creek approximately two miles from mine.

Santiago Tafolla, A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Confederate. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press. Edited by Carmen Tafolla and Laura Tafolla. Translated by Fidel L. Tafolla. 63.

Land: Tafolla qualifies for headright land 1861.

“Mama, is Mexican Jim sure enough White?” (Tafolla)

When the townspeople heard that there was a Mexican boy in town, they came to see me out of curiosity and everyone was talking about “the Mexican boy.” Dr. F.T. Matthews was a fine Christian gentleman and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. He taught a Sunday school class and was a real gentleman in every sense of the word. Some of the people who came to see me expressed surprise and would say, “He is nearly White” [sic. in original] while others would say, “He’s as White as anybody.” The doctor would reply to them, “Of course, he is White.” Since there [24] was still slavery at the time, the Whites would not associate at all with the Blacks and considered it a degradation to even sympathize with the Negroes. I remember that Mrs. Matthews’ daughter asked her mother one day, “Mama, is Mexican Jim sure enough White?” and her mother answered, “Daughter, James’ blood is as free from Negro blood as yours is.”

Santiago Tafolla, A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Confederate. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press. Edited by Carmen Tafolla and Laura Tafolla. Translated by Fidel L. Tafolla. 23ff.

Context: Tafolla is still young, looking for odd jobs in Columbus and Talbotton, Georgia.

“I saw a Negro man who was a quadroon. He looked like a Mexican, so I spoke to him in Spanish.” (Tafolla)

Finally, I arrived at a barbershop where I saw a Negro man who was a quadroon [negro cuarterón]. He looked like a Mexican, so I spoke to him in Spanish, but he didn’t understand me. However, he took me by the hand to a house where there was a Mexican woman. He told her to ask me if I wanted to live with him, and that he would teach me the barber trade. I explained to the Mexican lady how it was that I had come to St. Louis. She asked the Negro to leave me there, and said she would see that I got to the place where I belonged. And then she advised me not to associate with Negroes and sent me to the hotel with an American boy. Mr. Matthews was very worried and had been looking for me.

Santiago Tafolla, A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Confederate. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press. Edited by Carmen Tafolla and Laura Tafolla. Translated by Fidel L. Tafolla. 17.

Context: Tafolla is a young orphan, recently ran away from a bad foster home in New Mexico. Now traveling with an Anglo caravan into St. Louis.

Sistema de Castas and the Casta Paintings

Las Castas – Spanish Racial Classifications

Wikipedia:Casta: “A casta (Spanish: [ˈkasta], Portuguese: [ˈkastɐ, ˈkaʃtɐ]) was a hierarchical system of race classification created by Spanish elites (españoles) in Hispanic America during the eighteenth century. The sistema de castas or the sociedad de castas was used in 17th and 18th centuries in Spanish America and Spanish Philippines to describe as a whole and socially rank the mixed-race people who were born during the post-Conquest period. The process of mixing ancestries in the union of people of different races was known as mestizaje. A parallel system of categorization based on the degree of acculturation to Hispanic culture, which distinguished between gente de razón (Hispanics, literally, “people of reason”) and gente sin razón (non-acculturated natives), concurrently existed and supported the idea of the racial classification system.”



De negra é india sale lobo.



De mestizo é india sale Coiote



“this race of men who, as the legitimate proprietors of this land, lost it together with their lives and their hopes” (Navarro)

Mexican independence, germinated in the blood of these martyrs, was finally declared in September 1821.

But what ingratitude! Not one single murmur ever crossed the mountains of Anahuac [Mexico City] to console the broken remnant of those brave patriots. Such is the end for heroes! Perhaps their renown would be more complete if they were to receive the miserable compensation due from their fellow men. To complete the picture of misfortune, the few descendants who survive in San Antonio are disappearing, murdered in full view of a people [un pueblo] who boast of their justice and excellence.

Consolación Leal, heroine of those days, died a few months ago, killed by a Spaniard, and Antonio Delgado was riddled by bullets from the rifle of an American bastard.

May Divine Providence use these historical commentaries to stir generous hearts to treat with more respect this race of men [esa raza de hombres] who, as the legitimate proprietors of this land, lost it together with their lives and their hopes, to follow in the footsteps of those very ones who now enjoy the land in the midst of peace and plenty.

Jose Antonio Navarro, “Commentaries of Historical Interest,” in Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: Jose Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857. Edited and translated by David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina. Austin, Tex.: State House Press. 76.

“Americans in speaking of them constantly distinguish themselves as white folks.” (Olmsted)

Most adult Mexicans are voters by the organic law; but few take measures to make use of the right. … They are regarded by slaveholders with great contempt and suspicion, for their intimacy with slaves, and their competition with plantation labor.

Americans, in speaking of them, constantly distinguish themselves as “white folks.” I once heard a new comer informing another American, that he had seen a Mexican with a revolver. [164] “I shouldn’t think they ought to be allowed to carry fire-arms. It might be dangerous.” “It would be difficult to prevent it,” the other replied; “Oh, they think themselves just as good as white men.”

Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas; or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier. New York: Dix, Edwards & Co, 1857. 163-164.

[context: long section devoted to “The Mexicans in Texas.” Most seemingly based on travel through Bexar (?)]

“They are white people, just as white as the Mexicans themselves, and just as much right to be free” (Olmsted, 1860)

… He spoke very angrily, and was excited. Perhaps he was indirectly addressing me, as a northern man, on the general subject of fugitive slaves. I said that it was necessary to have special treaty stipulations about such matters. The Mexicans lost their peons — bounden servants; they ran away to our side but the United States government never took any measures to restore them, nor did the Mexicans ask it. “But,” he answered, in a tone of indignation, “those are not niggers, are they? They are white people, just as white as the Mexicans themselves, and just as much right to be free.”

Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey in the Back Country. New York: Mason Brothers, 1860. 173.

[mid-1850s convo, 1860 publication, dialectical context: staying at a plantation in “The Interior Cotton Districts,” already speaking about fugitive black slaves across the U.S.-Mexico line and why slave-catchers cannot go there to capture them]


Conflicting Evidence on Intermarriage and Selective Enforcement (Neil Foley, Charles Frank Robinson, F. Flores v. The State)

From Neil Foley, “Partly Colored or Other White: Mexican Americans and Their Problem with the Color Line,” in Beyond Black and White. 127, 142

Although many Mexicans had lived in Texas long before Stephen Austin established the first Anglo settlement in 1822, Anglos still regarded Mexicans as alien culturally, linguistically, religiously, and racially. Their status as racially in-between, as partly colored, hybrid people of mixed Indian, Spanish, and African ancestry, made them suspect in the eyes of whites, who feared that Mexicans could breach the color line by marrying both blacks and whites. Although laws existed against race mixing for whites and blacks, no such laws prevented the mixing of Mexicans with both blacks and whites.5

5. Peggy Pascoe, “Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of ‘Race’ in Twentieth-Century America,” Journal of American History 83 (June, 1996): 44-69. Mexicans, who were legally “white,”were rarely prosecuted for marrying blacks. For the only case in Texas of a Mexican brought to trial for marrying a black, see F. Flores v. The State, 60 Tex. Crim. 25 (1910); 129 S. W. 1111. I am indebted to Julie Dowling for bringing this case to my attention. See her paper, “Mexican Americans and the Modern Performance of Whiteness: LULAC and the Construction of the White Mexican,” presented at the American Sociological Association annual conference, Anaheim, Calif., August, 2001.

From F. Flores v. The State (1910), in The Texas Criminal Reports Volume 60.

The evidence shows that appellant was a Mexican, or of Spanish extraction. There is no evidence in the record that he had any negro blood in his veins, and his testimony, as far as it goes, excludes the idea that such was the case. The testimony of the woman appellant married, Ellen Dukes, goes to show that she had negro blood in her veins, but within what degree is not shown. She is variously described by the witnesses, and some of them go sufficiently far to say that she looks like a negro. These witnesses state that her physical makeup, and especially the fact that her face and hair, indicate that she was a negro. She testified that she was born and raised in San Antonio and was 31 years of age; that her mother’s name was Refugio Gonzales; that her father’s name was Garmo Dukes; that her mother was Mexican while her father had some negro blood, but she did not know how much negro blood or how much Mexican blood; but that he did have some negro blood in him; that her father’s color was very bright, a great deal brighter in color than herself; that his hair was not kinky or nappy like the ordinary negro–not as much so as was her hair–that it was straighter. Those witnesses who testified to the fact that the woman appellant married was of negro extraction were not aware of how near she was to purity of negro blood; they did not know whether she was within the specified degrees mentioned in article 347 of the Penal Code or not.

From Charles Frank Robinson II, Dangerous Liasons: Sex and Love in the Segregated South

[88] Other interracial couples remained relatively inconspicuous by hiding under the cover of color closeness. Individuals who could cloak their African ancestry could often marry across the color line without alerting state authorities. Even if the state discovered that one of the parties in the relationship had some racial mixture, the state would then have the very difficult task of proving that the individual in question had sufficient black ancestry. Such was the case in Flores v. State (1910). On June 9, 1909, F. Flores and Ellen Dukes married in Angelina County, Texas. Within months after their ceremony, state authorities arrested the couple and charged them with violating the state’s anti-miscegenation law. The state contended that Flores was of Mexican descent, thereby making him [89] a white person for purpose of the statute. Yet Dukes had both Mexican and African origins. In the Angelina County district court trial, Dukes never denied having African ancestry. However, she testified that she did not know how much African ancestry she possessed. According to Dukes, “her mother was Mexican while her father [Garmo Dukes] had some negro blood.”[1]

The state presented Ellen Dukes’s physical appearance as evidence of her guilt. She apparently had rather dark skin and somehwat “kinky hair.” The state also produced witnesses who gave testimony that they believed Dukes to be “a Negro.” These same witnesses further told of conversations that they had had with Flores in which he confirmed to them that he was “a Mexican and had no Negro blood in him.”[2]

The state convicted Flores and Dukes. The couple appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Although the court acknowledged that Dukes had black blood, the court held that the state had failed to prove the degree of it. Dukes did not know when questioned. Neither did any of the state witnesses. According to the high court, the Texas anti-miscegenation law obligated the state to show “that one of the parties had sufficient blood to prohibit the marriage.” Since there was a “reasonable doubt” about Dukes’s percentage of African mixture, the court reversed the lower court verdict.[36]

[92] The case of Marre v. Marre (1914) was another instance when color closeness protected the marital interests of a person involved in an interracial relationship. In 1911, Louis Marre sued for an annulment of his three-year marriage to Agnes E. Nash Marre. Louis claimed not only that he had married Agnes under “duress” but that Agnes was a person of color. A St. Louis Circuit Court found in Louis’s favor, and Agnes appealed. Upon reviewing the case, the Missouri high court could find [93] nothing to substantiate Louis’s claims. The court saw no duress. Although Agnes’s sixty-year-old mother had insisted that Louis marry her daughter, who was pregnant at the time, and allegedly threatened him with bodily harm if he failed to do so, the court did not consider this duress. According to the court, “Mere apprehension of physical or possible physical injury, is not sufficient” to constitute duress.[45]

With regard to the charge of Agnes’s African ancestry, the Missouri Supreme court did not believe that the evidence substantiated the conviction. Agnes and her mother unequivocally denied having any black heritage. They acknowledged that they had a few black friends but argued that their apparently tanned appearance was a result of the Mexican origin of one of their immediate ancestors. Agnes also used the fact of her two sisters having married white men as further evidence of her legal whiteness.[46]

[34] [35]


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. [36] Flores v. State, 129 S.W. 1111 (1910).
  4. [45] Marre v. Marre, 168 S.W. 636 (1914).
  5. [46] Marre v. Marre, 168 S.W. 636 (1914).
  6. [34]Flores v. State, 129 S.W. 1111 (1910). Also see Marriage Licenses, Angelina County, 641.
  7. [35]Flores v. State, 129 S.W. 1111 (1910).

Partial Index To Race Laws and Race Language in Republic of Texas Laws

Ninth Congress laws [1845]: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth91047/

Witness in Court: “Sec. 26. All negroes, mulattoes, Indians, and all other persons of mixed blood, descended from negro or Indian ancestors, to the third generation inclusive, though one ancestor of each generation may have been a white person, shall be incapable in law to be witnesses in any case whatsoever, except for and against each other.” [Dec. 22, 1836]

Slave Trade as Piracy: “Sec. 1. … That if any person or persons shall introduce any African negro or negroes, contrary to the true intent and meaning of the ninth section of the general provisions of the constitution, declaring the introduction of African negroes into this republic, to be piracy, except such as are from the United States of America, and had been held as slaves therein, be considered guilty of piracy; and upon conviction thereof, before any court having cognizance of the same, shall suffer death, without the benefit of clergy.

Sec. 2. … That if any person or persons shall introduce into the republic of Texas, any Africans or any slave or slaves, from the United States of America, except such slave or slaves as were previously introduced and held in slavery in that republic, in conformity with the laws of that government, shall be deemed guilty of piracy, and upon conviction therefore, before any court having cognizance of the same, shall suffer death.” [Dec. 21, 1836.]

Militia, Republic of Texas: “every able-bodied male citizen of this republic, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of seventeen years, and under the age of fifty years, (except as hereinafter excepted,) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the captain or commanding officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizens shall reside….


Republic of Texas Session Laws [does not include Ninth Congress]: https://texashistory.unt.edu/explore/collections/RTXSL/

Texas History Collection: https://texashistory.unt.edu/explore/collections/THC/




postal service, “no other than a free white European, Anglo-American or Mexican”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45353/m1/61/?q=European

Convention Resolution: “all free white males and Mexicans opposed to a Central Government”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45353/m1/77/?q=white

marriage, “any person of European blood or their descendants,” “Africans, or the descendants of Africans”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45356/m1/234/?q=European

militia, “every free white able-bodied male inhabitant, over sixteen and under fifty years of age”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45353/m1/28/?q=white

“Mexican trader”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45348/m1/50/?q=Mexican

“free white male inhabitant, who shall have attained the age of twenty-one years” [Galveston]: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45348/m1/88/?q=white

“one dollar for every free white passenger”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45348/m1/92/?q=white

headright lands: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45351/m1/35/?q=white https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45355/m1/72/?q=white

Crimes and misdeameanors committed by slaves and free persons of color / “free white female,” “free white person,” etc.: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45355/m1/43/?q=white https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45355/m1/44/?q=white


Treaty between “the white and red men of Texas” (“Comanche, Keechie, Waco, Caddo, Ana-da-kah, Ionie, Delaware, Shawnee, Cherokee, Lipan [Apache], and Tah-wah-karro tribes of Indians”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth91047/m1/145/?q=white

“Poll Tax … on every white male of this Republic, between twenty-one and fifty years of age”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth91047/m1/95/?q=white

“to prevent the assembling of colored persons”: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth91047/m1/75/?q=colored


Constitution of the Republic of Texas 1836

[SENATE DISTRICTS: “free population (free negroes and Indians excepted).]

ARTICLE I. [The Legislative Branch]

Section 7. The senators shall be chosen by districts, as nearly equal in free population (free negros and Indians excepted) as practicable….

[ORGANIZATION OF COUNTIES: “free male inhabitants.”]

ARTICLE IV. [The Judicial Branch]

Sec. 11. The republic shall be divided into convenient counties, but no new county shall be established unless it be done on the petition of one hundred free male inhabitants of the territory sought to be laid off and established…

[SUFFRAGE: “Every citizen of the republic” (?! no “male?”)]

ARTICLE VI. [Presidential Qualifications, Powers, and the Franchise]

Sec. 11. Every citizen of the republic who has attained the age of twenty-one years and shall have resided six months within the district or county where the election is held, shall be entitled to vote for members of the general congress.

[OFFICE HOLDING: “Every male citizen who is by this constitution a citizen”]


Sec. 3. Every male citizen who is by this constitution a citizen and shall be otherwise qualified shall be entitled to hold any office or place of honor, trust, or profit under the republic, anything in this constitution to the contrary notwithstanding.



Sec. 6. All free white persons who shall emigrate to this republic, and who shall, after a residence of six months, make oath before some competent authority that he intends to reside permanently in the same, and shall swear to support this constitution, and that he will bear true allegiance to the republic of Texas, shall be entitled to all the privileges of citizenship.

[LOYALTY AND TREASON: “All persons who shall … [evade] a participation in the present struggle”]

Sec. 8. All persons who shall leave the country for the purpose of evading a participation in the present struggle, or shall refuse to participate in it, or shall give aid or assistance to the present enemy, shall forfeit all rights of citizenship, and such lands as they may hold in the republic.

[SLAVERY AND COLOR: “All persons of color who were slaves for life” / “No free person of African descent, either in whole or in part” / “of Africans or negroes”]

Sec. 9. All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude […]

No free person of African descent, either in whole or in part, shall be permitted to reside permanently in the republic without the consent of congress; and the importation or admission of Africans or negroes into this republic, excepting from the United States of America, is forever prohibited, and declared to be piracy.

[ORIGINAL CITIZENSHIP & HEADRIGHT. “All persons (Africans, the descendents of Africans, and Indians excepted … residing in Texas on the day…” / “No alien”]

Sec. 10. All persons Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians excepted) who were residing in Texas on the day of the declaration of independence shall be considered citizens of the republic, and entitled to all the privileges of such.

[…] No alien shall hold land in Texas except by titles emanating directly from the government of this republic.



1st. All men, when they form a social compact, have equal rights, and no men or set of men are entitled to exclusive public privileges or emoulments from the community.

[FAIR TRIAL: “No freeman”]

6th. […] And no freeman shall be holden to answer for any criminal charge but on presentment or indictment by a grand jury, except in the land and naval forces […]

[DUE PROCESS: “No citizen”]

7th. No citizen shall be deprived of privileges, outlawed, exiled, or in any manner disenfranchised, except by due course of the law of the land.


9th. No person, for the same offence, shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or limbs. And the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate.


13th. No person’s particular services shall be demanded, nor property taken or applied to public uses, unless by the consent of himself or his representative, without just compensation being made therefor according to law.

[RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS: “Every citizen”]

14th. Every citizen shall have the right to keep and bear arms in defence of himself and the republic.