“spin-offs from racial attitudes developed and cultivated through repeated interaction with colored people on the western frontier were being bestowed upon another caste in a different setting”; “a race of ‘mongrels'” (de Leon)

De León positions Texas Mexicans as another people of color in the 19th century racial system, projected into coloredness through “spin-offs from racial attitudes developed and cultivated through repeated interaction with colored peoples on the western frontier,” and keyed to Anglo interpretation of mestizaje as forming a “mongrel” or “degraded” racial status. Emory, qtd. here, on “practical amalgamation of races of different color” and unions between the “cleaner race” or the “white” and “his darker partner.” In p. 112 n. 18 we have de León’s take on the 1845 constitutional convention debate (via Crisp), the first place I heard tell of it.

Manifestly, spin-offs from racial attitudes developed and cultivated through repeated interaction with colored peoples on the western frontier were being bestowed upon another caste in a different setting. As Olmsted reported in his notes on Texas society of the 1850s, Mexicans were regarded as “degenerate and degraded Spaniards” or, perhaps, “improved and Christianized Indians.” Generally, their tastes and social instincts were like those of Africans. “There are thousands in respectable social positions [in Mexico] whose color and physiognomy would subject them, in Texas, to be sold by the sheriff as negro-estrays who cannot be allowed at large without detriment to the commonwealth,” he concluded.[18]

In view of the Southern presumption that individuals with any noticeable trace of African blood were blacks and given the contempt whites had for Indian “half-breeds,” it is not surprising that “niggers,” “redskins,” and “greasers” intimately intermingled in the Anglo-Texan mind. Moreover, whites considered racial mixing a violation of austere moralistic codes. According to Joseph Eve, U.S. chargé d’affaires to the Republic, the Texans regarded Mexicans as a race of “mongrels” composed of Spanish, Indian, and African blood.[19] To Francis S. Latham, traveling in Texas in 1842, Mexicanos were nothing more than “the mongrel and illicit descendants of an Indian, Mexican and Spanish, pencilled with a growing feintline of the Anglo Saxon ancestry.”[20] Such feelings about “mongrels” stemmed from the extensive lore American culture had developed concerning [17] the undesirability and supposed peril of miscegenation, especially between whites and blacks. Certainly, the mixed-blood nature of Tejanos concerned Anglo-Americans because of their cultural aversion to interracial passion, a subject upon which whites expressed themselves adeptly, albeit with no scientific basis. According to white beliefs, Mexicans resembled the degenerates from whom they descended. Although they inherited both the faults and the good qualities of their ancestors, unfortunately, the darker traits predominated, so that Mexicans by nature were superstitious, cowardly, treacherous, idle, avaricious, and inveterate gamblers. William H. Emory, surveying the boundary between the United States and Mexico, related this idea in an incidental remark included as part of his report, finished during the Franklin Pierce administration. Attributing the decline and fall of Spanish domination in Texas and the borderlands to a “baneful” cohabitation between whites and Indians, he continued:

Where practical amaglamation of races of different color is carried [out] to any extent, it is from the absence of the women of the cleaner race. The white makes his alliance with his darker partner for no other purpose than to satisfy a law of nature, or to acquire property, and when that is accomplished all affection ceases. Faithless to his vows, he passes from object to object with no other impulse than the gratification arising from novelty, ending at last in emasculation and disease, leaving no progeny at all, or if any, a very inferior and syphilitic race. Such are the favors extended to the white man by the lower and darker colored races, that this must always be the course of events, and the process of absorption can never work any beneficial change. One of the inevitable results of intermarrying between races of different color is infidelity. The offspring have a constant tendency to go back to one or the other of the original stock; that in a large family of children, where the parents are of mixed race but yet the same color, the children will be of every color, from dusky cinnamon to chalky white. This phenomenon, so easily explained without involving the fidelity of either party, nevertheless produces suspicion followed by unhappiness, and ending in open adultery.[21]

This sort of pseudoscience dictated the status of mixed-blood Tejanos in a white state.

Arnoldo de León, They Called Them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes toward Mexicans in Texas, 1821-1900. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983., 17-18.

 

  1. [18]Olmsted, Journey Through Texas, p. 454.  In 1845, serious debate dealing with the Mexicans’ color arose at the state constitutional convention. Some of the delegates protested that limiting citizenship and franchise to free “white” males might exclude Tejanos (Crisp, “Anglo-Texan Attitudes toward the Mexican,” pp. 413-416). For another example in which whites questioned Mexicans’ right to citizenship because of their color, see Texas State Gazette, April 21, 1855, p. 4.
  2. [19]Joseph Eve, “A Letter Book of Joseph Eve, United States Chargé d’Affaires to Texas,” ed. Joseph Nance, Southwestern Historical Quarterly 43 (October 1939): 218, (April 1940), 494, 506, 510.
  3. [20]Francis S. Latham, Travels in Texas, 1840, or the Emigrant’s Guide to the New Republic, p. 227; Roemer, Texas, p. 11; [Wright and Wright?], Recollections of Western Texas, p. 32; McIntyre, Federals on the Frontier, p. 254. Miscegenation produced curious side effects in Mexicans, according to popular lore. According to border resident Jane Cazneau, “the stoic Mexican, true to his Indian nature, endures suffering himself in silent, passive fortitude, and has no tenderness or sympathy for suffering or anything else” (Eagle Pass: Or, Life on the Border, p. 68; see also pp. 53, 70), while the German Ferdinand Roemer believed the Mexicans had somehow inherited the same inclination and skill for stealing horses as their Indian ancestors (Texas, p. 150).
  4. [21]House Exec. Doc. No. 135, 34th Cong., 1st Sess. (Ser. 861), I: 68-70. For a similar discourse on ethnology, see Vielé, “Following the Drum,” p. 158.

“The contemptuous word greaser…” (de León)

From Arnoldo de León, on the history and possible significations of the anti-Mexican racial slur “greaser” / grisero.

The contemptuous word greaser which whites used to identify Mexicans may well have applied to Indians as well, since the Indians’ olive color was thought to be a result of their practice of anointing their skins with oils and greases.[10] John C. Reid, passing through Texas as a prospective settler in the 1850s, sought to ascertain the origin of the application of the word upon finding that male Mexicans from Texas to the Pacific coast were called “greasers” and the females “greaser women.” He failed to find a satisfactory explanation, learning only that it had something to do with the similarity between the Mexicans’ color and that of grease. Another transient, commenting upon the vocabulary used in the El Paso region, supported this explanation: “A ‘greaser’ was a Mexican–originating in the filthy, greasy appearance of the natives.”[11]

Arnoldo de León, They Called Them Greasers: Anglo Attitudes toward Mexicans in Texas, 1821-1900. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983., 16.

 

  1. [10]Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black: American Attitudes toward the Negro, p. 241.
  2. [11]John D. Reid, Reid’s Tramp: Or, A Journal of the Incidents of Ten Months’ Travel …, p. 38; Albert D. Richardson, Beyond the Mississippi: From the Great River to the Great Ocean … 1857-1867, p. 239. There are, of course, several explanations of the origin of the word greaser. See Lloyd Lewis, Captain Sam Grant, p. 142; Américo Paredes, “On ‘Gringo,’ ‘Greaser,’ and Other Neighborly Names,” in Singers and Storytellers, ed. Mody C. Boatright et al., pp. 285-290; Cecil Robinson, Mexico and the Hispanic Southwest in American Literature, pp. 38-39; Daily Cosmopolitan (Brownsville, Texas), July 23, 1884, p. 3. Whatever the origins, the word was used commonly in reference to Mexicans.

“an analysis of the persons with mixed Spanish-Anglo surnames shows that this group, taken as a component part of the Tejano population, declined in the years between 1850 and 1900” (de León and Stewart)

1850-1900: Intermarriage – decline in “persons with mixed Spanish-Anglo surnames” as an index of decline in intermarriages or “blending into white society” generally:

Indeed, other evidence suggests that the urban Tejanos resisted adopting an Anglo American way of life with equal or greater intensity than their compatriots in the countryside….

First, an analysis of the persons with mixed Spanish-Anglo surnames shows that this group, taken as a component part of the Tejano population, declined in the years between 1850 and 1900. The presence of persons with mixed surnames is indicative of a propensity toward structural assimilation since such surnames would result from a variety of Tejano behaviors aimed at blending into the white society. Such behaviors may have ranged from intermarriages or interethnic sexual relations to simply modifying one’s name to better fit the Anglo mold. What statistics show is that the extent of such assimilating behavior decreased. In 1850, for example, for every 100 persons in urban environments with Spanish surnames, there were 14 with mixed Spanish-Anglo surnames. By 1900, this number had dropped to just 3, and in rural areas the trend was the same.[15] Thus, to the extent [89] that mixed names resulted from conduct aimed at merging into white society, then resistance to such behavior increased both in cities and in rural settings during the nineteenth century.

Arnoldo de León and Kenneth L. Stewart, Tejanos and the Numbers Game: A Socio-Historical Interpretation from the Federal Censuses, 1850-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989), 88-89.

  1. [15]There were 11 persons with mixed Spanish-Anglo surnames for every 100 Spanish surnames in rural areas in 1850. By 1900, the number of mixed surnames dropped to 1 per 100 Spanish surnames. Admittedly, other factors such as the leveling out of the sex ratio among Anglos between 1850 and 1900 may have influenced this decline in the number of mixed surnames. Nonetheless, we take it also to be an indication of the increased degree of resistance to assimilation on the part of the Mexicans of Texas.

“Residential segregation, therefore, did not occur in a single pattern in the cities of south, central, and west Texas during the nineteenth century” (de León and Stewart)

1900: residential segregation numbers for San Antonio, Brownsville, Corpus, El Paso, Laredo.

Table 5.8 reports the indices of segregation for five cities [87] in 1900.[14] The index of segregation is expressed as the percentage of Tejanos or Anglos that would have to residentially relocate from one of the city’s wards to another if both Tejanos and Anglos were represented in each ward in proportion to their presence in the total citywide population. Generally, a small index of segregation indicates residential diffusion of an ethnic group across the wards of a city, while a larger index results when an ethnic population is disproportionately clustered into only some of the wards.

Table 5.8
Indices of Segregation for Five South, Central, and West Texas Cities, 1900
City Tejanos Anglos
Brownsville 3.33% 20.06%
Corpus Christi 26.58% 34.39%
El Paso 25.64% 22.10%
Laredo 5.16% 34.38%
San Antonio 42.82% 10.59%

Overall, the indices in Table 5.8 demonstrate three different patterns of residential segregation among Tejanos and Anglos in the cities of south, central, and west Texas. The first is illustrated by the southern-most cities–Brownsville and Laredo–where the majority of the population were Tejanos. In these cities, the low index of segregation for Tejanos shows that Mexican Americans were quite generally distributed across the city wards, while the higher index for Anglos indicates more residential clustering. In San Antonio, where whites were a majority of the city’s population, the opposite patterns developed where Anglos were more generally distributed across the city and Tejanos clustered into a few wards. The third situation is illustrated by Corpus Christi and El Paso, cities where neither Tejanos nor Anglo Americans dominated the citywide population. In these [88] cities, the indices of segregation were relatively large for both groups, indicating that each group was residentially clustered into separate areas.

Residential segregation, therefore, did not occur in a single pattern in the cities of south, central, and west Texas during the nineteenth century….

Arnoldo de León and Kenneth L. Stewart, Tejanos and the Numbers Game: A Socio-Historical Interpretation from the Federal Censuses, 1850-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989), 86-88.

  1. [14]For detailed discussion of the index of segregation, see Otis Dudley Duncan and Beverly Duncan, “Residential Distribution and Occupational Stratification,”American Journal of Sociology, 60 (1955), 493-503. Also see, Karl E. Taeuber and Alma F. Taeuber, Negroes in Cities: Residential Segregation and Neighborhood Change (Chicago: Atheneum, 1965), pp. 195-245.

“These alternatives collapsed, however, in the following fifty years as obreros, both in the city and the countryside, came to be concentrated into general laboring positions.” (de Leon and Stewart)

Collapse of avenues for advancement, concentration into general labor pool. / TNG, 77.

As labor markets developed in south, central, and west Texas cities and rural areas, considerable disparities of employment opportunity for the region’s two major ethnic groups evolved. For Mexican Americans, the labor systems in both rural and urban areas at mid-century offered clear alternatives for pursuing a living and striving towards betterment. These alternatives collapsed, however, in the following fifty years as obreros, both in the city and the countryside, came to be concentrated into general laboring positions. In the same period, Anglos found that opportunities in the rural areas narrowed in the agricultural market while the cities presented a range of alternative choices for them in trade, transportation, and manufacturing. Given the inequalities of occupational opportunity that developed, it is little wonder that larger percentages of whites chose city life compared to the Mexican Americans. Indeed, the reason why fewer Tejanos were attracted to the budding urban centers, and the reason why those who went were more frequently non-natives, was because cities held out less promise to Mexican American workers. The legendary image of bustling new cities ripe with opportunity is, to be [78] sure, an overrated figment of North American remembrances of history. But in the nineteenth century, the myth came nearer the truth for whites than for the Mexicans of Texas.

Arnoldo de León and Kenneth L. Stewart, Tejanos and the Numbers Game: A Socio-Historical Interpretation from the Federal Censuses, 1850-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989), 77-78.

“Significantly, a part of this increase in laborers was due to the entry of females into the labor pool.” (de Leon and Stewart)

1860s-1900: Mexican women increasingly drawn into labor pool, especially single women & minors / TNG p. 44

Perhaps the most important effect of declining occupational standing among Mexican Americans in the nineteenth century is related to the already mentioned fact that increasing numbers of Tejanos were drawn into the labor force as economic change progressed. Significantly, a part of this increase in laborers was due to the entry of females into the labor pool. Indeed, analysis of the composition of Mexican American workers shows that approximately 8.8 percent were females in 1850, and that this proportion climbed to 12.1 percent by 1900. Between 1850 and 1900, the total Tejano laboring population increased thirty-fold, while the female segment multiplied forty-three times. Though women never made up more than a minority of the laboring population, they were its fastest growing segment.

One aspect of Mexican American life directly affected by [45] the increased presence of women in the labor force was the family. In 1850, according to computer estimates, some 5.2 percent of Tejano households were at least partly supported by working women, and this percentage grew to 19.6 percent by 1900. The household status of working women changed. Between 1850 and 1900, the percentage of working women who were heads or children of households increased from 34.8 percent to 63.6 percent. At the same time, the number of working women who were spouses in the household declined from 52.2 percent to 11.9 percent.

Statistics such as these, of course, do not speak to attitudes and perceptions about women in the work place, or to subtle changes in family patterns centered around their involvement in work. Mario T. García, along with other historians, has held that Mexican women in their cultural upbringing were not encouraged to seek gainful employment.[10] Thus, it is certain that economic conditions leading to an escalation of female activity in wage labor markets pressed against the value orientations of the Tejano community and brought women to forsake their cultural beliefs in order to support the domestic budget. The fact that it was female household heads and children, rather than Mexican American spouses, who were drawn into the labor force most rapidly lends further credence to the thesis that it was impoverishment instead of preference that stimulated the change of work patterns.

Arnoldo de León and Kenneth L. Stewart, Tejanos and the Numbers Game: A Socio-Historical Interpretation from the Federal Censuses, 1850-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989), 44-45.

  1. [10]Mario T. García, Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880-1920 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), p. 200.

“What the evolutionary process of economic change did was to force the bulk of Tejanos into making their way as jornaleros: day laborers and other journeyman workers” (de Leon and Stewart)

1850s-1860s: de-specialization of Mexican labor -> jornaleros. Carting, Farming, Crafts -> Day labor. [Labor Compression]

On the eve of the swift Anglo in-migration into south, central, and west Texas beginning at mid-century, Mexicans held their own in terms of economic standing. In the state’s incipient economy of the 1850s, Tejanos had a share of positions in trade, transportation, and agriculture, as well as manufacturing and mechanical enterprises (see Table 3.2). As the economy developed further, however, Anglos monopolized the better positions in those sectors. Mexicanos lost their grip on them, and over time were channeled [34] and heavily concentrated into the marginal “unspecialized” labors.[2]

In 1850, for example, Tejanos dominated the freighting industry with negligible competition from Anglos (see Table 3.2). According to Frederick Law Olmsted, a perceptive observer who toured the state in the mid-1850s, Mexicans seemed to have had no other occupation than carting goods, as the entire transportation of clothes, foods, cotton, and the like between Indianola and the Matagorda Bay area appeared to have been a thoroughly Mexican concern.[3] Obviously, Tejanos earned their living in other ways, but Olmsted was not far off in his guess, for according to the census, 50 percent of Mexican American workers pursued this line of work in central Texas, the region from which Olmsted drew his generalization. By 1860, however, Tejanos still dominated the business, but they rapidly were being displaced and thrown into the pool of “unspecialized” general laborers.

A similar shift in the economic standing of Tejanos occurred in farming and ranching. In the first census, enumerators counted about one-third of Tejano obreros as farmers, but the percentage declined by one-half by 1860 and a downward spiral followed thereafter. The percentage of Anglos in the same enterprise increased sharply before the Civil War and remained a stable line of work for them in the postwar years as more than one-fourth of white workers were listed as “farmers” in 1870 and afterward. Similarly, “stockraising” ranked as one of the most reliable occupations engaging the labor of Anglos.[4]

The changes accompanying the economy’s growth also dislodged Tejanos from certain craft occupations. At mid-century, Mexicans did well as shoemakers and tailors, but they could no longer rely on these pursuits after 1860. The same applied to carpenters and blacksmiths. Moreover, Tejanos were not able to penetrate the white-collar jobs that opened up to Anglos. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, and military [35] personnel (up until the settlement of the frontier) were familiar figures in the Anglo work force, but these types were barely represented among Mexican American workers. In the mercantile trades, Tejanos also found slight chance for employment as less than 1 percent made their living as merchants or clerks. Anglos, on the other hand, consistently turned to these endeavors as promising avenues for advancement.

What the evolutionary process of economic change did was to force the bulk of Tejanos into making their way as jornaleros: day laborers and other journeyman workers. Many others were tied to menial service jobs such as laundering, cooking, and general servant work. In the ranching areas, where Anglos came to dominate the land, Tejanos relied on old ranching skills and found employment as ranch hands with little hope of betterment, and as the railroad spread across the state in the 1880s, Anglos monopolized the skilled tasks (for example, engineers and foremen), while Mexicans were relegated to laying track and performing other less desirable duties.

Arnoldo de León and Kenneth L. Stewart, Tejanos and the Numbers Game: A Socio-Historical Interpretation from the Federal Censuses, 1850-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989), 33-35.

  1. [2]Anglos did not experience a comparable level of labor concentration into the marginal occupations. By 1900 only 19 percent of Anglo workers were situated in “unspecialized” jobs that appeared in the census records compared to the 54.5 percent of Tejano workers shown in Table 3.2. Specialized agricultural pursuits absorbed the largest plurality of Anglo workers (32.3 percent), and trade and transportation specialties occupied another 20.2 percent of the white labor force.
  2. [3]Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas (New York: Burt Franklin, 1969), p. 160.
  3. [4]Misinterpretation on the part of the census takers regarding the proper terms for different agrarian tasks may have overestimated the number of Tejanos counted as “farmers” and “ranchers,” especially after 1860. Therefore, the shift of Mexicans from farm and ranch ownership to hired labor likely was more pronounced than the statistics indicate.

“Dual wage systems and unequal occupational stratification were the direct outgrowths of these beliefs” (de León and Stewart)

1800s: Labor segregation, “Mexican work” and wage discrimination.

The Tejanos of the nineteenth century held a subordinate position within the state’s economy. Several factors contributed to this condition, with the most obvious one being the disparaging attitude of Anglos who stereotyped Mexicans as suitable for a certain range of low-level occupations. From the viewpoint of white society, “Mexican work” involved the restriction of Tejano laborers to sundry types of servant work plus grubbing and cotton picking in farm lands. Anglo lore even held that the Creator had meant the Mexican for certain ranch tasks, particularly sheepherding. Dual wage systems and unequal occupational stratification were the direct outgrowths of these beliefs.[1]

Arnoldo de León and Kenneth L. Stewart, Tejanos and the Numbers Game: A Socio-Historical Interpretation from the Federal Censuses, 1850-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1989), 31.

  1. [1]Mario Berrera, Race and Class in the Southwest: A Theory of Racial Inequality (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), pp. 43-45.

“Fiestas patrias celebrations … [and] various kinds of entertainment nurtured ‘mexico de afuera'” (De Leon)

From “Corridors North, 1900-1930.”

Habitually, the immigrants also used Mexico as a compass for proper behavior. Journalists advised parents, for example, to teach children the ways of propriety, to make sure that they abide by United States law, and to instill in them racial pride. Cultural and recreative clubs emphasized the need for the preservation of Mexico’s good name, as well as its customs and traditions. Fiestas patrias celebrations, which went back to [74] the 1820s in Texas, became yearly rituals for the display of allegiance.[32] Various kinds of entertainment nurtured “méxico de afuera” (Mexico in the United States). Theatrical presentations were provided by companies relocated to Texas because of the Mexican Revolution, and the music popular in northern Mexico (such as the accordion-led ensemble called the conjunto) was diffused by the newcomers throughout the state.[33] The Immigrant Generation proclaimed the concept of “Mexican” proudly and patriotically upheld the honor of the homeland.

Conversely, many of the recent immigrants held denigrating views towards the United States and even Mexican Americans, who, despite their efforts to Americanize, were still treated as second-class citizens by white society. Recent immigrants singled out the women, criticizing them for mimicking American customs and fashions. The newcomers referred derisively to Tejanos who adopted American habits as pochos.[34]

Arnoldo de Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas, 73-74.

  1. [32]De León, Ethnicity in the Sunbelt, pp. 33-34, 37, 38; Lowrey, “Night School in Little Mexico,” p. 39.
  2. [33]Nick Kanellos, “Two Centuries of Hispanic Theatre in the Southwest,” Revista Chicano-Riqueña, XI (Spring 1983), 23-25, 35; Nick Kanellos, A History of Hispanic Theatre in the United States (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990), pp. 180-181, 198, 199-200; Manuel Peña, The Texas Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working Class Music (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), pp. 29, 35-36, 38.
  3. [34]Manuel Gamio, Mexican Immigration to the United States (New York: Arno Press, 1969), p. 129.

“In the 1920s courts refused to hear cases involving Mexican Americans attempting to sue whites.” (De Leon)

While the earlier generation of Tejanos had established societies and associations to protect members of the community from injustices, in the 1920s, a new generation of activists founded organizations designed to afford Tejanos a greater integration into national life. Such was the intent of the Orden Hijos de America (Order of Sons of America), founded in San Antonio in October 1921. Compared to precursor groups, the OSA consisted of members born in the United States, extolled loyalty to America, and sought citizen rights through institutional channels. Soon, Sons of America chapters appeared in South Texas from Corpus Christi to Brownsville to Pearsall, fighting for educational [93]  equality, the desegregation of public places, the right to serve on juries, and the right to bring suit against a white person (in the 1920s courts refused to hear cases involving Mexican Americans attempting to sue whites).[44]

Arnoldo de Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas, 93-94.

 

  1. [44]Christian, “Joining the American Mainstream,” p. 589, 590, Hernández, Mutual Aid for Survival, p. 73.