1927: Spanish Language May Be Taught In Schools In Certain Counties

In a previous Act of the legislature passed a few years before, the Texas state legislature had passed a sweeping attack on bilingual education in the state of Texas in an act forbidding the use of languages other than English in Texas schools; by 1927, it became clear from community and teacher complaints that the text of the act effectively forbade even teaching foreign languages as courses in Texas schools. The Legislature passed a second act, amending the first Act to preserve the ban on languages other than English outside of foreign-language classes, but with an exception to allow for teaching foreign languages, including Spanish, German, and Bohemian (the original targets of the English-only law, which in the 19th century had been used in many community schools as a primary language of instruction).

Spanish Language May Be Taught in Schools in Certain Counties

[…]

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas:

Section 1. That Article 288 of the Penal Code of the State of Texas adopted at the Regular Session of the Thirty-Ninth Legislature, 1925, be and the same is hereby amended so as to read as follows:

“Art. 288. Except as herein provided, each teacher, principal and superintendent employed in the public free schools of this State shall use the English language exclusively in the conduct of the work of the schools and recitations and exercises of the school shall be conducted in the English language, and the trustees shall not prescribe any texts for elementary grades not printed in English; provided, however, that it shall be lawful to provide text books for and to teach the Spanish language in elementary grades in the public free schools in counties bordering on the boundary line between the United States and the Republic of Mexico and having a city or cities of five thousand or more inhabitants according to the United States census for the year 1920. It is lawful to teach Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Bohemian or other language as a branch of study in the high school grades as outlined in the state course of study. Any such teacher, principal, superintendent, trustee, or other school official having responsibility in the conduct of the work of such schools who fails to comply with the provisions of this article shall be fined not less than twenty-five nor more than one hundred dollars, cancellation of certificate or removal from office, or both fine and such cancellation or fine and removal from office.

Sec. 2. The fact that under the present law it is unlawful to teach Spanish in the elementary grades in the public free schools of this State and that in counties having cities of over five thousand population bordering on the boundary line between the United States and the Republic of Mexico, a knowledge of the Spanish language is of inestimable value to the citizens and inhabitants of such counties and cities, and the fact that in order to obtain a speaking knowledge and mastery of any foreign language, it is imperative that instruction in such language be begun at the earliest possible period and the crowded condition of the calendar creates an emergency and an imperative [268] public necessity that the constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three several days in each House be suspended and that this Act take effect and be in force from and after its passage, and said rule is hereby suspended, and it is so enacted.

[…]

Approved March 28, 1927.

Effective (90) ninety days after adjournment.

H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1927: Supplement Volume to the Original Ten Volumes, 1822-1897 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1927), 283-284 (link).

“what laws have been translated, and where do they exist? … the dearest rights of my constituents as Mexico-Texians are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Laws of the Republic of Texas” (Seguín)

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Juan Seguín’s Address in Senate

[February 1840]

Mr. President: With the permission of the honorable Senate, I beg leave to make a few remarks in regard to the last estimate of the honorable Secretary of the Treasury, originated in the Second Auditor’s office. I wish, sir, to know upon what data the Second Auditor founded his estimate of the cost of translating and printing the Laws to be enacted by the present Congress, to the amount of $15,000. I wish to know, Mr. President, what the cost of translating the laws, encacted [sic] by the former Legislative bodies of Texas is, laws which in virtue of the existing laws upon that subject, ought to have been translated and printed; also, what laws have been translated, and where do they exist? My constituents have, as yet, not seen a single law translated and printed; neither do we know when we shall receive them: Mr. President, the dearest rights of my constituents as Mexico-Texians are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Laws of the Republic of Texas; and at the formation of the social compact between the Mexicans and the Texians, they had rights guaranteed to them; they also contracted certain legal obligations–of all of which they are ignorant, and in consequence of their ignorance of the language in which the Laws and the Constitution of the land are written. The Mexico-Texians were among the first who sacrificed their all in our glorious Revolution, and the disasters of war weighed heavy upon them, to achieve those blessings which, it appears, are destined to be the last to enjoy, and as a representative from Bexar, I never shall cease to raise my voice in effecting this object. But, in order not to detain this honorable body, at this time, any longer, I will conclude these cursory remarks, leaving my detailed observations upon the subject to a more proper occasion.

Juan N. Seguín, A Revolution Remembered: The Memoirs and Selected Correspondence of Juan N. Seguín, edited by Jesús F. de la Teja (Austin, Texas: State House Press, 1991), 174.

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.