Arnoldo de Leon, They Called Them Greasers, Ch. 3 “An Indolent People.”

[Lisboa, Terca-feira, 28 junho 2016.]

* Arnoldo de León, They Called Them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes Towards Mexicans in Texas, 1821-1900.

Ch. 3, “An Indolent People.”

(Here as elsewhere in American attitudes towards ‘alien’ racialized immigrant workers, over and over again we see attacks on Tejano/as for subsisting on little food and ramshackle housing–violation of rights of property and free enterprise for the poor, and disrespect for the livelihood and subsistence of the poor, allegedly in the name of thrift and enterprise (?!) but actually in the defense of bourgeois habit — cf. Scratching By.)

Discrimination against the Latin-American has been most evident in three ways

Open conflicts between Latin-Americans and the Anglo-Saxons who settled in Texas during the nineteenth century made for strained relationships early in the history of the state. As time went on, the “Anglo” group became dominant; by far the great majority of the Latin-Americans never gained a firm foothold on the socio-economic ladder of Texas life. By the 1920’s, the Latin group was clearly relegated to a [2] position comparable almost to that of the Negro population of the state.

Discrimination against the Latin-American has been most evident in three ways. First, they have not enjoyed equality of status in such public places as theatres, hotels, restaurants, or barber shops. Secondly, they have for the most part been forced to accept the lowest paid jobs in the Texas economy; few are in key business positions or in the professional class. Thirdly, by far the great majority of Latin-American children drop out of school after the fourth grade, and until 1943 those who did attend were generally segregated from “Anglo” students.

From Everett Ross Clinchy, Jr. , Equality of Opportunity for Latin-Americans in Texas: A study of the economic, social, and educational discrimination against Latin-Americans in Texas, and of the efforts of the state government on their behalf. Dissertation, Columbia University. 1954. Reprint edition 1974 by Arno Press, Inc. First and second page of Abstract.


Declining Social Acceptance of Anglo-Mexican intermarriage in 1850s Texas

From Martha Menchaca, “The Anti-Miscegenation History of the American Southwest, 1837 to 1970: Transforming Racial Ideology into Law,” Cultural Dynamics 20, no. 3 (2008), 287.

As the Mexicans’ social status declined so did intermarriage. Mexican women were no longer sought after as marriage partners by Anglo American men, a practice that had been common in San Antonio and Laredo, two cities with a majority Mexican population. In 1855, Texan land investor John Donelson Coffee noted in a letter to his cousin that Mexicans were no longer accepted in Anglo American social circles (Boom, 1966: 283). According to Donelson, in San Antonio Anglo Americans socialized with four or five Mexican families and only considered the single women of these families acceptable marriage partners. These women were described as light complexioned, unlike the rest of the Mexican women who Donelson derogatorily called “greaser” and characterized them to be dark like mulattas (Boom, 1966: 283). Corroborating Donelson’s observations are the marriage records from San Antonio. By the late 1840s, only a handful of Mexican women married Anglo American men and, in 1850, out of 60 Anglo American marriages only 4 involved Mexican brides, a pattern that continued into the 1860s (Bean and Bradshaw, 1970: 394; Dysart, 1976: 369).

Anglo-Mexican Class Structure in San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley

From David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986, pp. 34-36.

Although the American presence generally represented a new class in an old Mexican society, it did not completely transform the traditional authority structure. On the contrary, the American merchants and lawyers merely affixed themselves atop the Mexican hierarchy. In some cases they intermarried and became an extension of the old elite. For individual families of the Mexican elite, intermarriage was a convenient way of containing the effects of Anglo military victory on their status, authority, and class position. For the ambitious Anglo [35] merchant and soldier with little capital, it was an easy way of acquiring land. The social basis for postwar governance, in other words, rested on the class character of the Mexican settlements.

These settlements were essentially a three-tiered society composed of landed elite, small land owners (rancheros) and peones. San Antonio in the 1830s, for example, was a highly structured class society. At the top were the prominent landed families, who lived in spacious flat-roofed stone houses; below them were the rancheros, who spent the greater part of their days working their cattle and horses and whose small adobe homes usually consisted of one sparsely furnished room; and at the bottom tier of the class order were the laborers, or jornaleros, who lived in jacales, which were nothing more than mud houses with thatched roofs.[34] A prominent contemporary of the period, José María Rodríguez, described the “great distinction between the east and west side of the [San Antonio] river” in the following manner: “The west side of the river was supposed to be the residence of the first families here, and the descendants of the Indians and Spanish soldiers settled on the east side of the river. . . . Most of the Canary Islanders who lived on this [west] side took great pride in preventing any marriage with mixed races and when one did mix he lost his caste with the rest.”[35] Although frontier conditions made this caste system somewhat fluid, and families could in generations pass from one caste to another, the lines themselves were quickly drawn. Moreover, they were distinctions that the American pioneers were quick to recognize and accept. Ample evidence points to an early accommodation between old and new elites. Although initially outside this Spanish-Mexican structure, the Anglo-Saxon pioneers were accepted–depending on their class, of course–as equals by the “Spanish” elite.[36] By 1842, however, only six years after independence, the peaceful accommodation that had characterized Mexican-Anglo relations collapsed. The loss of land, the flight of the Mexican elite, and the Mexican War a few years later quickly eroded the influence of Mexicans.

In spite of this, San Antonio after the Civil War still had appearances, according to one resident, of a village “typical of Mexico then.” The “early Americans” had become acclimated, had intermarried in many instances, “and in turn kept up many of the customs of this quaint old Spanish town.” The town of about ten or twelve thousand inhabitants had a mingling of American, German, and French colonists with a large Mexican population. In the plaza could be heard “a babble of voices from three or four languages” but “almost everyone spoke Spanish and most of the business was conducted in this common language.” The resident observer concluded [36] that “the political border was at the Rio Grande, but Military Plaza was the commercial and social border between the countries.”[37]

The Rio Grande settlements south and west of San Antonio differed little in their social structure. . . .


  1. [34] Caroline Remy, “Hispanic-Mexican San Antonio: 1836-1861,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 71, no. 4 (April 1968): 567.
  2. [35] Rodríguez, Memoirs of Early Texas, p. 37.
  3. [36] Chabot, With the Makers; Remy, “Hispanic-Mexican San Antonio,”pp. 566-567; William Bollaert, William Bollaert’s Texas, ed. W. Eugene Hollon and Ruth Lapham Butler.
  4. [37] William J. Knox, The Economic Status of the Mexican Immigrant in San Antonio, Texas, pp. 3-5.


sometimes being subjected by Anglo governments to forms of disenfranchisement and segregation parallel to those inflicted on African-American populations, sometimes being integrated by law or custom into “white” society, sometimes being divided among “white” and “colored” subgroups along lines of socioeconomic class or degree of cultural assimilation, and sometimes being .

sometimes by adopting assimilationist strategies of identifying themselves emphatically as Caucasians, and at other times by adopting integrationist strategies….

My project will study the roots and development of the racial classification of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the social and legal environment of Anglo-American settlement of Texas.

My project will study the roots and development of the racial classification of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the social and legal environment of Anglo-American settlement of Texas.

The white Southerners who came to Texas brought with them large numbers of enslaved African Americans, and the slave society and plantation culture of the American South

Texas, ruled as a colonial dependency by Spain and then as a frontier province by Mexico until 1836, began to be heavily settled by Anglo-American whites and by enslaved African Americans in the 1820s. The bulk of the U.S. born population immigrated to Texas from the Deep South states of Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana and from frontier regions of Kentucky and Tennessee, and the white Southerners who came to Texas brought with them large numbers of enslaved African Americans, and the slave society and the plantation culture of the American South.

Immigration Politics are Racial Politics

Within immigrant communities and especially among undocumented youth, mass protest movements based on walk-outs, civil disobedience and protests against U.S. policies of detention and deportation have often linked their criticism of U.S. immigration policy with broad concerns about racial justice, drawing links between restrictive or punitive immigration policies, nativist attitudes towards immigrants, and questions of racial justice or ethnic prejudice directed against Latinx people and culture, often drawing direct parallels between their activism and the black struggle against segregation in the American South.

Immigrant rights movements often link their political campaigns with broad questions of racial justice and fights against prejudice, stigma or marginalization directed against Latinx communities, and rhetorically link their struggle with the tradition of both black and Chicanx civil rights movements within the American South and Southwest. Anti-immigration politics, while also citing concerns about national security or law and order, nevertheless tends to focus heavily on the immigration of ethnically-identified outgroups (such as Mexicans or Muslims), and on questions of enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border specifically; some writers, such as Samuel Huntington, […] unquestionably driven in part by questions about the demographic effects of immigration to the United States, and especially Latinx immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border (Thompson).

Between and Within Political Parties

More broadly over the last decade, political fights over immigration policy and enforcement, border security, deportation and detention practices, English-only legal or educational policies, and broader social cultural questions about the assimilation, integration or exclusion of undocumented immigrants and immigrant populations within American communities, have boiled over not only into polarizing contests between Democratic and Republican candidates, but also to ground-shaking conflicts within both political parties.