“Further, they sought to assert their contention that they were Caucasian, as LULACers did in 1936 when the U.S. Bureau of the Census ruled that Mexicans be identified as ‘non-white’.” Administrative classification, school segregation, and LULAC. (De Leon)

LULAC’s commitment was to improving the human condition for all within the Mexican community regardless of class, even nativity. Though the organization restricted membership to the native born, it did accept those who were naturalized (the organization argued that the foreign born had their defenders in the Mexican consul, but LULAC leaders worked closely with the consuls in cases involving Mexican nationals). Ideologically, LULAC sought to act upon old problems. LULACers still combated the entrenched racist sentiments holding that Mexicans were “unclean” and the Anglo contention that Mexican Americans were not white folks.[20] In response, the organization launched efforts to secure civil liberties and access to opportunity by trying to overturn segregation; in their view the practice stood out as the most personal reminder that Anglo Americans considered Mexican Americans second-class citizens.[21] Further, they fought to assert their contention that they were Caucasian, as LULACers did in 1936 when the U.S. Bureau of the Census ruled that Mexicans be identified as “non-whites.” Protest from LULAC councils across the state forced the Census Bureau to retract the categorization. Similar pressure exerted upon the Social Security Administration that same year forced the Social Security Board to accept the application of Mexican Americans as white.[22]

Similarly, the league worked doggedly to pry open more opportunities in education. It initially challenged school segregation in the case of Independent School District, et al. v. Salvatierra (1931) arguing for an end to the deliberate segregation of Mexican children in Del Rio. A Texas Court of Civil Appeals ruled that arbitrary segregation was unjust but sided with school officials who contended that the students’ retention of the Spanish language made segregation necessary.[23] Without funds to follow up on Salvatierra, LULAC pursued other tactics, such as going before school districts and conferring with administrators to argue for better teaching for Mexican-American children. To disseminate their faith in education, LULACers organized evening schools in barrios and conducted meetings that focused on the topic of U.S. citizenship. They also undertook fundraisers to subsidize the education of good student prospects who might become skilled workers, lawyers, doctors, and teachers.[24]

De Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas, 102.

  1. [20]De León, Ethnicity in the Sunbelt, pp. 81, 86, 87-89; Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, p. 232.
  2. [21]García, Rise of the Mexican American Middle Class, pp. 301-302; Guadalupe San Miguel, Jr., “Let All of Them Take Heed”: Mexican Americans and the Campaign for Educational Equality in Texas, 1910-1981 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987), p. 76.
  3. [22]Mario T. García, “Mexican Americans and the Politics of Citizenship,” New Mexico Historical Review, LIX (April, 1984), 188, 198-199, 200-201.
  4. [23]Everett Ross Clinchy, “Equality of Opportunity for Latin Americans in Texas” (Ph.D. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1954), pp. 188-189.
  5. [24]García, Rise of the Mexican American Middle Class, p. 272; San Miguel, “Let All of Them Take Heed,” p. 81; Márquez, LULAC, pp. 28-29.

“lawyers for Mexican Americans moved away from the old claim that Mexican Americans were white people” — Cisneros and Civil Rights Law (de Leon)

But newer middle-class organizations also surfaced out of el movimiento, among them the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), founded in 1968. Funded by government grants and private corporations, MALDEF–reflecting a posture between the old guard from the Mexican American Generation and the newer militancy–worked through the courts to protect Mexican-American rights. It assailed, for instance, practices that marred equal educational opportunities, such as discriminatory school funding or continued segregation. In so doing, it took several cases into the courts, among the most famous being Cisneros v. Corpus Christi Independent School District (1970).[13]

As school officials utilized the accepted Mexican-American classification of “white” as a subterfuge in school desegregation and continued the pattern of excluding Mexican Americans from Anglo schools, lawyers for Mexican Americans moved away from the old claim that Mexican Americans were white people. Attorneys adopted the position that Mexican Americans must be recognized as an “identifiable ethnic group.” This new categorization would circumvent the ploy used by Anglo-controlled school boards of using Tejanos (classified as white) to “integrate” certain schools. The Mexican-American community was gratified when in June 1970, a federal district judge ruled that Mexican Americans could be considered an identifiable ethnic minority and that the equal protection of the law guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment applied to them. Though the case was appealed, in 1973 the United States Supreme Court acknowledged the separate legal status of Mexican Americans. For MALDEF, the decision provided an important legal mechanism for its desegregation cases.[14]

Arnoldo de Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas, 129.

(footnotes to follow)

  1. [13]San Miguel, “Let All of Them Take Heed,” pp. 177-181; García, Chicanismo, p. 11.
  2. [14]San Miguel, “Let All of Them Take Heed,” pp. 177-181. Guadalupe San Miguel, Jr., “Mexican American Organizations and the Changing Politics of School Desegregation in Texas, 1945-1980,” Social Science Quarterly, 63 (December, 1982), 710.

Agricultural transformation: the cotton labor economy and the White Man’s Primary Association (de Leon)

For common folks, the cotton-based agricultural order produced newer labor situations. By the 1920s, the majority of Tejano farm workers made their living in one of two ways: as various types of sharecroppers, or, most commonly, as migrant seasonal workers on commercial farms.[5] Tejanos picked cotton in South and Central Texas (in 1910, for wages of 50 cents per hundred pounds; this increased to $1.00 after World War I)[6] but began heading “pal wes” (para el west, or to West Texas) where new farms lured them in unprecedented numbers. Tejanos traveling in family units were staying after the cotton-picking season and taking up residence in towns such as Sweetwater, Lamesa, Rotan, Tahoka, Littlefield, Muleshoe, Lubbock, and Plainview. In this early period, however, most remained migrants and returned to South or Central Texas.

The agricultural transformation of the age also affected Tejanos politically, especially in the rural communities of South Texas where the new Anglo farmers, through reform groups and alliances, sought to dislodge the old Tejano Democratic bosses. The recent arrivals worked specifically to deprive Mexicans of the vote, through the establishment of poll taxes (which many Tejanos could not afford) or the new practice adopted by the White Man’s Primary Association that required those wishing to vote in primary elections to go before a committee and declare, “I am a white person and a Democrat.” By the late 1910s, much of the Mexican-American population in the farm ocunties of South Texas had been disfranchised by whites-only primaries, threats of firings from their jobs or of bodily harm, and various methods that might include not informing Tejanos about scheduled elections. Exception again must be made of the ranch counties in the region, where Mexican officeholders remained active in politics.[7]

Arnoldo de Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas, 82.


  1. [5]David Montejano, Race, Labor, Repression, and Capitalist Agriculture: Notes From South Texas, 1920-1930 (Berkeley: Institute for the Study of Social Change, 1977), pp. 11, 12; Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, p. 173.
  2. [6]Nelson Cisneros, “La Clase Trabajadora,” pp. 241, 244.
  3. [7]Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, pp. 129-130, 143, 148, 253; Evan Anders, Boss Rule in South Texas: The Progressive Era (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982), pp. 90-91.

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.

“The debate turned on both economic and racial convictions” (De Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas)

The debate turned on both economic and racial convictions. The antirestrictionists advanced the economic argument that U.S. agriculture [69] could not survive if government interrupted immigration. Growers maintained that immigrants worked hard and did not demand the high wages wanted by Anglos. Antirestrictionists also tried to assure those fearing social ruination that the “Mexican Problem” was manageable. They conceded that Mexicans were a degenerate people and posed some moral and political dangers to the country, but that Mexicans were, all in all, docile and law-abiding, and insisted that their presence could be controlled by restricting their employment opportunities to the fields, where they would not jeopardize the fabric of white society.[10]

Small-scale farmers and Anglo field hands, conversely, challenged the notion of free admittance into the country, for immigrants were willing to work for less, keeping American cotton pickers from making “honest” wages. Labor unions also sought to arrest easy entry into the country, fearing that Mexican immigrants might, once across the border, reject farm work and seek employment in industrial capacities. A cast of politicians, educators, concerned citizens, and racists further argued that racially backward Mexicans disrupted the American way of life and caused disease, crime, and other problems.[11]

By the end of the 1920s, the restrictionists triumphed over the antirestrictionists as the United States government directed consuls to exercise greater controls in granting passports to Mexicans. Though the number of entrance visas granted to Mexicans fell after 1929, by then the depression had begun to hamper immigration northward from Mexico.[12]

Arnoldo de Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas: A Brief History, 2nd ed. Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1993/1999. 68-69.

  1. [10]Ibid. [Montejano], pp. 183, 188.
  2. [11]Ibid., pp. 183, 189, 179, 190; Neil Foley, The White Scourge […] pp. 52-55
  3. [12]Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, pp. 182, 190; Corwin, Immigrants–and Immigrants, p. 146.

“Mixed Bloods” (De Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas)

[p. 17 previous also has some discussion of fluidity of categories based on money and prestige]

Mixed Bloods. […] While the news of Indian attacks in the province continued to discourage immigration from New Spain’s interior, demographic expansion still resulted principally from in-migration.[36]

Most Tejano pioneers during the colonial era were the product of mestizaje, or miscegenation among the native Indian populations, European Spaniards, and African slaves. By the seventeenth century, much of New Spain’s people were termed mestizos, a label applied to the product of unions between Spanish males and Indian women. Though this element composed the majority population in Texas, various other racial categories existed, including Christianized Indians, mulattoes, and Spaniards. All participated in further racial amalgamation in the province.[37]

Census taken in the 1780s actually enumerate more Spaniards than any other classification, but such figures distort actual ancestry. Demographers know that the term “Spanish” did not necessarily identify European, white-skinned Spaniards; instead it represented a social categorization. In fact, racial makeup could be upgraded on the frontier, as one’s racial constitution did not bar upward mobility. Realistically, the term “Spaniard” identified those worthy of a certain status because of accumulated wealth, family connections, military standing, or even distinguished service to the community. European Spaniards, therefore, included but a few government or church appointees. The rest of those labeled Spaniards by census enumerators were undoubtedly mixed-bloods who “passed” as Spaniards. As noted, the Canary Islanders of San Antonio themselves intermixed with the New Spain-born population, so within two generations following their arrival, no “islander” could claim undiluted blood.[38]

Arnoldo de Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas: A Brief History, 2nd ed. Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson Inc., 1993/1999. 18.

  1. [36]Jones, Los Paisanos, p. 60; Poyo, “Immigrants and Integration in Eighteenth-Century Bexar,” pp. 85-86; Cruz, Let There Be Towns, p. 129.
  2. [37]de la Teja, San Antonio de Bexar, pp. 25-26; Gerald F. Poyo, “The Canary Islands Immigrants of San Antonio: From Ethnic Exclusivity to Community in Eighteenth-Century Bexar,” in Poyo and Hinojosa, Tejano Origins in Eighteenth Century San Antonio, p. 47; de la Teja, “Forgotten Founders,” in ibid., pp. 32-33; Poyo, “Immigrants and Integration in Late Eighteenth Century Bexar,” in ibid., pp. 96-97; Gilberto M. Hinojosa and Anne E. Fox, “Indians and Their Culture in San Fernando de Bexar,” in ibid., pp. 106-107; and Alicia V. Tjarks, “Comparative Demographic Analysis of Texas, 1777-1793,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly LXXVII (January 1974), 322-338.
  3. [38]Tjarks, “Comparative Demographic Analaysis,” p. 294; de la Teja, San Antonio de Bexar, pp. 24-26, 28-29; Poyo, “Immigrants and Integration in Late Eighteenth-Century Bexar,” pp. 86-87.

Arnoldo de León, They Called Them Greasers, closing chapters.

[Lisboa, 30 junho 2016]

Arnoldo de León, They Called Them Greasers, closing chapters.

Violence as core factor shaping Anglo/Tejano relation — lynch law, rinches, and communal riots

Identification of Tejanos as appropriate targets through Leyendas Negras; organized reiterated use of violence

Arnoldo de Leon, They Called Them Greasers, Ch. 4, “Defective Morality”

[Lisboa, 29. junho 2016]

  • Arnoldo de León, They Called Them Greasers, Ch. 4, “Defective Morality.”

Images of Mexicans as dissolute, not self-controlled; occasional exceptions (usually only partial) for “dark-haired señoritas” vs. Mexican men; gaming, dancing, unabashed nudity, sexual license or impropriety. Similarities and differences from portrayal of black men and women.

=> In general this book needs conscious effort to address tensions within dominant view and tease out separate strands of Anglo views, either within one sector or across different sectors. (Is e.g. (a) the view of non-Texan travel writers and local colorists significantly different from that of Anglo-Texans? (b) Or do Anglo-Texans adopt a view typical of American whites more broadly? DeLeón clearly wants to lean on (b) but this claim needs stating, exposing for testing and any necessary qualification.

=> In view of diverging strands the discussion of views and practices on interracial sex and mixed marriage is one of the better explorations so far in the book. — Because it tacitly and sometimes explicitly draws this out. (“Shit’s complicated!”?) — DeLeón starts some good discussion explicitly of:

  • Mexicans as ‘intermediate’ positionally in a system of color between white and {black, red}. Prev. discussion of how racial spectrum and class — isleña and criollo vs. mestizo vs. indio, etc. cut through and structure mobility within intermediate area, acceptability of “señoritas” as sexual, romantic, or marriage partners
  • Stratifying vs. flattening — there is some tacit exploration which I wish were more explicit, sustained, systematic of how intermediate position often unstable position and hence tensions in view often come from pulling in opposite directions from flattening views of Mexicanidad, “greasers,” etc. vs. stratifying views of a spectrum of Mexicanidades, some whiter than others, some more respectable o más sucia que otras, more alluring or less, more marriagable or less (this latter two NOT identical or unidimensional AT ALL, due to gender stuff &c.)
  • Divergence lacking somewhat in exploring this instability — needs but doesn’t have much discussion of regional differences within Texas (is Bexareño or Brownsville view on mixed marriage &c. noticeably different from more culturally Deep South regions like Piney Woods, Brazoria or Gulf Coast? What about Plains / Panhandle? What about Hill Country / Europa”ische Tex.? Do these diverge or converge or run parallel over time? Do we know?)
  • Mexican man-Anglo woman mixed marriages. — These are mentioned in only the briefest footnote passage (n. 48, último frase). But these obviously need an almost entirely different framework of discussion from A-man/M-woman relationships — DeLeón has been hablando all this time sobre la fantasía de la señorita de ojos negros &c. and the Anglo male gaze. Are M-man/A-woman marriages
    • more/less common?
    • more/less approved?
    • differently framed in terms of desire, agency, mutuality, morality?
    • What?

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.)