“The US Census… had begun to notice Latin Americans in the 1940s” (?) (Painter)

New new immigrants of the post-1965 era, overwhelmingly from outside Europe, were upending American racial conventions. Asians, greatly rising in number, were rapidly being judged to be smarter and, eventually, to be richer than native-born whites. Latinos formed 13 percent of the population by 2000, edging out African Americans as the most numerous minority.

The U.S. census, without peer in scoring the nation’s racial makeup, had begun to notice Latin Americans in the 1940s by counting up heterogeneous peoples with Spanish surnames and hastily lumping them together as “Hispanics.” Though an impossibly crude measurement, it survived until 1977. By that point, the federal government needed more precise racial statistics to enforce civil rights legislation. To this end, the Office of Management and budget issued Statistical Policy Directive no. 15.

Here was a change worth noting: in the racially charged decades of the early twentieth century, governments at all levels had passed laws to separate Americans by race. […] The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 began to change all that, so that by the late twentieth century the rationale for counting people by race had morphed into a means of keeping track of civil rights enforcement. Statistical Policy Directive no. 15 set the terms for racial and ethnic classification throughout American society by directing federal agencies–including the U.S. census–to collect data according to four races (black, [385] white, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander–Hawaiian was added later as a concession to protests) and one ethnic category (Hispanic/Latino, which is not racial). Elaboration was good for civil rights, but it opened the way to chaos.

Under these guidelines the Hispanic/Latino classification portended enormous turmoil. Now that there was a “non-Hispanic white” category, did there not also exist Hispanic white people? Yes, no, and other. Faced with the given racial choices on the census of 2000, fully 42.2 percent of Latinos checked “some other race,” rather than “black” or “white,” throwing nearly 6 percent of Americans into a kind of racial limbo.[1]

In addition, the U.S. Census of 2000 had to increase a deeper and more personal recognition of multiracial identities. For the first time, respondents were allowed to describe themselves as belonging to one or more of fifteen “racial” identities.

History of White People, 384-385.

(N.B.: But this account seems confused. The Census didn’t start counting Latinos in 1940, it started counting them in 1930 with the “Mexican” racial category and then switched to the surname method when protest killed the category. The 1930 decision wasn’t initially developed to serve civil rights law; it was part of the racial “darkening” of Latinx people following the 1920s-1930s and heralded the age of mass deportation. Etc.)

  1. [1]Victoria Hattam, “Ethnicity and the Boundaries of Race: Rereading Directive 15,” Daedalus 134, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 61-62, 67.

Spanglish creole legal culture: Slave Law and Marriage Law in Anglo-Hispanic Texas

In the close of his chapter on antebellum Texas law, Campbell notes that race and slave law “drew its inspiration and precedents from practices in the southern United States, not from Hispanic America” (114). That might not seem like much of a surprise in Anglo governed antebellum Texas. If Texas lawmakers were predominantly Anglo white Southerners, then why wouldn’t the laws they made follow Anglo-American Southern models? But it wasn’t always the case in antebellum Texas, in areas of the law other than slavery. Texas laws often drew on Spanish colonial and Mexican precedents. In antebellum Texas, for example, community property marriage laws discarded Anglo-American traditions of coverture in favor of an existing Spanish model. Range law for livestock drew from English common law precedents, but innovated to adapt to open-range conditions. Anglo Texans preserved Mexican homestead exemptions in debt laws and Spanish law on water rights. Revolutionizing slave law according to the model of the Deep South U.S. was not a foregone conclusion but a political choice within the context of a Spanglish creole legal culture.

(As I wrote in a note to HOP # 5: “Republic of Texas lawmakers tended to be very emphatic about remaking Texas law along Anglo-American lines when it came to, for example, slave law, but Texas courts tended to be very flexible towards incorporating Spanish and Mexican precedent in the law of marriage; see for example Smith v. Smith, 1 Tex. 621 (1846), in which the judge’s opinion rejects an appeal based on Anglo-American law regarding bigamy and incorporates the Spanish Las siete partidas marriage code as binding.”)

 

Law as coercion creates racial categories in three chief ways (Haney López)

According to Haney López, pp. 116-123, “Law as Coercion,” in its coercive aspect law serves to create racial categories in three chief ways:

  1. Legal rules have shaped physical appearances
  2. Positive law has created the racial meanings that attach to physical features
  3. Positive law establishes the material conditions which often code for race.

[WBL p. 119]

Conceptual Differences in how to organize Anglo-Tejanx differences

Tejanxs have always been perceived as a distinct outgroup in Texas. But the question is how these differences were organized in rhetoric and law — the logic they obeyed, the axes of difference they marked out. The ingrouping-outgrouping could be done along a variety of distinct axes of difference — differences in religion, of color, of ethne, of nationality, of class, of race, of sides in wartime, etc.

 

Racial identities could be stratified by class, conditioned by loyalty or flattened for all Mexicans.

Racial identities could be stratified by class — which tended strongly to favor elite Tejanxs — or conditioned by loyalty — which did not necessarily do so, depended on local history and often provided a shield or an angle of attack on the community as a whole; or it could be flattened for all Mexicans.

 

Lorenzo de Zavala’s second wife, who he married before he came to Texas, was an American widow, Emily West de Zavala. (Henson)

HOP # 5, n. 40. “… There are some prominent exceptions to the generalization that mixed marriages primarily joined Anglo men and Tejana women; Lorenzo de Zavala’s second wife, who he married before he came to Texas, was an American widow, Emily West de Zavala. Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala, 53-55.”

Meanwhile, Zavala was unconcerned about colonists. He had fallen in love during the autumn. Estranged from his wife for a number of years, Zavala doubtless had entered into amorous affairs during his time in Mexico City. Apparently he was an admirer of beautiful women. In his Viage a los Estados-Unidos, published in 1834, he said that Mexican travelers wer always surprised by the beauty of Anglo American women. With their “good color, large bright eyes, well-shaped hands and feet …” they were unusually attractive although they lacked the voluptuous walk of Mexican women. Now at age forty-two, he met a beautiful, tall, dark-eyed New York native half his age.

During his early morning walks in Battery Park near his boardinghouse, Zavala regularly noticed the attractive young woman with two small children. After discreet inquiry, he learned that her name was Mrs. Miranda West Cresswell. After a proper introduction, the young widow enjoyed the attention from the cosmopolitan gentleman. Like Pygmalion and Galatea, Zavala began educating her to suit his more sophisticated taste by giving “her an accomplished education,” according to gossips. He even changed her first name to Emily, according to a note in his journal.

On December 22, the pair sailed for France where Zavala was to recruit colonists for the Galveston Bay Company. Upon reaching Paris in February, Zavala bought “Madame [54] Zavala” new clothes, subscribed to English and French newspapers, and contracted to print 5,000 copies of his Ensayo Histórico de las Revoluciones de Megico desde 1808 hasta 1830. He had worked on this first volume of his history for the past several years.

[…]

When Zavala’s enemies in Mexico City learned about his companion, one publicly labeled him a vagabond and a libertine. From Mexico City, Mexía warned his friend that rumors about him were spreading around the capital. Zavala’s wife had died in Yucatán in April 1831, and he should have received the news in Paris in May or June. Whether her death triggered the gossip is unknown.

[…]

[55] Personal busienss required Zavala’s attention on Saturday, November 12, his second day in New York. Early in the morning he visited Father Félix Varela, the pastor of the Catholic church on Ann Street, about performing a marriage ceremony for himself and Emily, who was seven months pregnant. The couple returned to the church at eight that evening and the priest gave them his “nuptial benedictions.” Zavala dutifully noted these details in his journal.

Margaret Swett Henson, Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1996), 53-55.