“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.

“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.

“the mayor assured me that not only would they receive Mexican children gladly in the public schools, but that he would personally accompany the parents to enroll the children” (Tafolla)

But his encounters with local communities were not always pleasant. In the primarily Catholic communities in which he preached, Protestantism was seen as worse than even the Papally condemned Masonry. A community dispute in Corpus Christi over the validity of local schools and their openness to Mexican-American students proved to be a thinly veiled “civil war” between community Catholics and community Protestants. The following interchange, between Santiago and the editor of a newspaper in Corpus Christi, Texas, early in his preaching career, shows evidence of this friction.

An article in the Spanish-language newspaper El Horizonte expressed doubt as to whether the public “American” schools would accept Mexican-American children, “tiempo perdido a mandar a nuestros niños a las escuelas americanas.” So Santiago, newly arrived to town with three school-age children, goes to see the mayor “con algún temor de ser avergonzado,” and asks him if this is true.

But the mayor assured me that not only would they receive Mexican children gladly in the public schools, but that he would personally accompany the parents to enroll the children, which is what he did with me…

Any honorable man and good citizen should pledge their efforts for the education of our youth. For only in this manner will the government end up having good citizens. But I see in this article complaints against the administrators of our public school system….

[97] With that letter, (and with his vocal presence in the community) he drew the ire of the editorial staff, and a long duel of newspaper letters followed between Santiago and Santos López, where Santiago writes “Usted no ha olido la doctrina de Cristo pues pertenece al sistema esparío de la iglesia romana” and Santos López responds, “¿Dónde aprendioacute; a espresarse así, don Santiaguito? ¿Sería en alguna cantina de San Antonio?” He also accuses Santiago of preaching falsehoods, because “it is all based on absurdities, a natural fruit of Protestant reform.” The arguments descend from there to a mocking verse about a Tafolla who “confuses error with truth … ignorance with science … and vice with virtue.” Much of their dispute over educational systems appears to be mere preface for the deeper argument between them–the conflict between the two religious traditions. By, in effect, “integrating” their mexicano religious community, Santiago upset the status quo, and challenged traditional community power structures.

Carmen Tafolla, “Epilogue,” A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Confederate. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press. Edited by Carmen Tafolla and Laura Tafolla. 96-97 [91-106].

[ca. 1881? maybe a few years later?]

“The contention grew to the point where the americanos took up arms and said they would put an end to all the ‘greasers’ in their midst.” (Tafolla)

On the Texas side of the river, there was a captain named Brunington who belonged to our regiment and who had lived on the Rio Grande border for many years. He’d been captain of the Texas Rangers and knew the Mexicans well. He was in charge of a small patrol guarding the border on the Texas side. One day he came to our camp with ten men and delivered a Mexican prisoner to the guards, warning them to take twice as much caution with him or he would escape.

[…] [65] The corporal, getting impatient, just grabbed him by the arm and lifted him up. As he stood up, we discovered that he’d taken the chain off his feet and was just waiting for nighttime in order to escape. Upon standing, he looked down at his feet and said, “Look, it came loose.” This made everybody in the room die laughing, and shout and throw their hats up in the air. Captain Brunington came running at the sounds of the shouts and asked the prisoner, “What’s going on, man?” And the prisoner, with a feigned innocence, replied, “The chain came undone.”

Then the captain said to the soldiers, “This Mexican is going to get away from you, and the one who lets him get away is going to be punished severely.” And some answered, “I’d like to see him get away from 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. 64-65.

When Menchaca got back with the two prisoners, he said to the captain, “What do you think about Menchaquita? Will he at least be made a corporal?” Another one of us, a German who had also cut off from the group, came back with two more prisoners. Since the rest of us were already on Texas soil, and they saw the German alone on the Mexican side, a mob of men and women came up on him shouting “Kill him! Kill him!” and someone shot him in the back with a rifle. The bullet went through him and they would have killed him had our soldiers not lined up along the river’s edge and protected him. Our men fired a volley, and knocked down their leader, who was one horseback in front, and they succeeded in  dismounting him. And the rest of them fled when they saw us finish crossing over.

I came inside, cursing heavily against those who’d shot the German. […]

[69] But the Mexican we had chained earlier escaped in a tragically sad manner. [prisoner escapes across Rio Grande, unharmed despite attempts to shoot him while swimming the river] There were many Americans from up North on board and they began making fun of us, shouting harassments, and calling us cowards. […]

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. 68-69.

[Tafolla goes on leave to visit family, Confederate Army begins retreat from Rio Grande to Corpus.] The day we arrived back to the regiment, I was surrounded by my mexicano friends who were still left in the regiment (as many had already deserted). They begged me to word a petition to Col. Duff asking that we be transferred to the regiment of Col. Santos Benavides, who was in charge of a regiment of mexicanos in the service of the Confederate States. Because of my absence, Corporal Juan Mercado had disappeared from one day to the next, and it was believed that he had been hanged.

We had in our regiment a group of about ten men who had the bad reputation of hanging folks. And it was said that they had hanged several men who didn’t go along with their ideas. Among these hangmen, there was a captain named Taylor who they said had a grudge against Corporal Mercado and had threatened to hang him. He made this threat in the presence of one of Corporal Mercado’s friends, a man named Juan Santa Ana. Santa Ana told Corporal Mercado about the threat. Since [71] Mercado had disappeared so suddenly, the boys believed he had been hanged. It was for this reason that the mexicanos wanted to be transferred to Benavides’ regiment. They feared for their lives in our own regiment, for at every step there were constant and ugly disagreements between the mexicanos and americanos. The colonel, however, denied our petition, telling us that we were mistaken. He assured us that Corporal Mercado had not been hanged.

About this time, Col. Duff received orders to take his regiment to the state of Louisiana. After marching about ten days, while camped on the Lavaca River, a dispute arose between a mexicano and an americano. The contention grew to the point where the americanos took up arms and said they would put an end to all the “greasers” [griseros] in their midst. Then I and a German friend of mine, Fred Metzger, who had previously served five years in the U.S. Cavalry with me, put ourselves in between the contending parties and succeeded in calming them. This friend’s name is Fred Metzger, and he lives today in Hondo, in Medina County. I believe that if it were not for him, many would have died that day.

That day, all my mexicano friends decided to desert that very night. They insisted that I go along with them, saying that we could take the best horses in the regiment and leave that night.

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. 70-71.

Deserts: 71-80.

“The political status of the Mexican in Texas … the right to vote” (Montejano)

From David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986, 39-41.

The second question requiring immediate attention was the political status of the Mexican in Texas. One of the liveliest debates in the Texas Constitutional Convention (1845) concerned whether or not the Mexican should be allowed the right to vote. The debate centered on whether the qualifying adjective ” white” should be retained in the constitutional provisions that described the voters of the state. The Harris County representative argued that the qualifier “white” should be kept, not because he feared the Spaniard; he welcomed them as he welcomed any portion of the Caucasian race that desired to settle in Texas. Rather he feared the mass immigration of “hordes of Mexican Indians”: “Silently they will come moving in; they will come back in thousands to Bexar, in thousands to Goliad, perhaps to Nacogdoches, and what will be the consequence? Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty thousand may come in here, and vanquish you at the ballot box though you are invincible in arms. This is no idle dream; no bugbear; it is the truth.”[47] The proposal failed, however, because of opposition by several Anglo-Texan allies and protectors of the Texas Mexican elite (like Col. Henry Kinney of Corpus Christi). José Antonio Navarro of San Antonio, the only Texas Mexican (and the only native-born Texan) at the Constitutional Convention, argued eloquently against the proposal.

In spite of the formal defeat of disenfranchisement at the convention, Mexicans in certain districts were denied the vote or allowed only limited participation. Corpus Christi merchant Henry Kinney observed that in several counties the practice immediately after independence had been to withhold the franchise from Mexicans, even though they may have fought against a people “of their own race.” Traveler Frederick Olmsted observed that, if the Mexicans in San Antonio voted, they could elect a government of their own; “such a step would be followed, however, by a summary revolution.”[48] Where Mexicans did have the right to vote, protests and threats from Anglo-Americans were constant reminders of a fragile franchise.

A typical protest was exemplified by a hotly contested election for state representative from Nueces and Webb counties in 1863, where S. Kinney of Corpus Christi lost to Charles Callaghan of Laredo by a margin of thirty-five votes. The Corpus Christi Ranchero noted that Kinney was the choice of fifteen of sixteen voters where the English language was spoken and that “American men in an American country should have a fair showing in shaping the destinies of the country.” The Fort Brown Flag of Brownsville joined in the protest, editorializing that “we are opposed to allowing an ignorant crowd of Mexicans to determine the political questions in this country, where a man is supposed to vote knowingly and thoughtfully.”[49] Disenfranchisement was the usual sentiment of disgruntled losers in electoral politics.

Where Texas Mexicans constituted a significant portion of the male vote, the politicians among the American settlers proceeded to instruct and organize the new voters. A common pattern wast the controlled franchise, where Mexicans voted according to the dictates [40] of the local patrón or boss. Since these political machines delivered sizable blocs of votes in state and national elections, the Anglo patrones acquired influence far beyond that usually accorded “backwater” county politicians.

Generally, the lesser bosses were members of the wealthy Mexican families who had entered the political arena to maintain and defend their traditional status, as in the “subrings” of Brownsville, San Antonio, and El Paso.[50] But in all these instances, including places where Mexicans controlled most offices, as in Starr and Zapata counties, the figure of an Anglo boss legitimized Mexican political involvement. In the 1850s, the specific arrangements varied. Cameron County in the Lower Valley showed a nearly equal division of county commissioner positions. In Webb County, Anglos ran the county while Mexicans ran the city of Laredo. In El Paso County, the pattern was reversed, and Anglos ran the city while Mexicans ran the county.

The role of the Mexican elite as influential politicians was contingent, of course, on the presence of a large Mexican electorate. In San Antonio, where the Mexican population increasingly declined through the nineteenth century, Mexican representation on the city aldermanic council fell at an exponential rate after 1836. In 1837, for example, all but one of the forty-one candidates running for city elections were of Spanish-Mexican descent; a decade later there were only five. Between 1848 and 1866 each aldermanic council included one or two Mexican representatives; after 1866, however, even token representation was rare. Mexican political clubs remained active but constituted minor actors in the city’s affairs. Through the early 1900s, the Mexican voice in city politics was symbolically represented by Anglo officials with family ties to the Mexican upper class–the Lockwoods, Tobins, and Callaghans, for example.[51] The [41] tabulation in Table 1, with city administrations organized roughly in periods of seven to ten years, gives a clear indication of the decline in power of the Mexican elite in San Antonio during the late nineteenth century.[52]

[N.B. how in the Corpus Ranchero, “American” has become a purely ethnic and not a national term; an election in 1863 took place in the Confederacy, after Texas had been two years out of the United States of America.]

  1. [47] Quoted in P.S. Taylor, American-Mexican Frontier, p. 232.
  2. [48] Olmsted, Journey through Texas, p. 163; P.S. Taylor, American-Mexican Frontier, p. 230-234.
  3. [49] Quoted in J. Thompson, “A 19th Century History,” pp. 58-59. Another example is provided by Arnoldo de León, In Re Ricardo Rodriguez.
  4. [50] González, “Social Life,” p. 84; M. T. García, Desert Immigrants, pp. 157-158; De León, Tejano Community, pp. 23-49; J. Thompson, “A 19th Century History,” pp. 5, 28-31.
  5. [51] Remy, “Hispanic-Mexican San Antonio,” pp. 570; De León, Tejano Community, pp. 25, 28, 30-34.
  6. [52] This table was organized from information compiled by August Santleban, who attached an appendix of San Antonio’s city officials to his memoirs. The ethnicity of an alderman was based on surname, a fairly reliable method. See August Santleban, A Texas Pioneer, pp. 314-321.