“the marks of a long line of Castilian ancestors” (Newcomb, qtd. in Matovina and de la Teja)

Depictions of Menchaca focusing primarily on his military exploits and his “American” loyalties continued beyond his own lifetime. In the introduction to the partial publication of Menchaca’s reminiscences in the San Antonio weekly the Passing Show, his longtime acquaintance James P. Newcomb avowed that the Tejano’s “sympathies carried him into the ranks of the Americans.” Newcomb even went so far as to describe Menchaca’s physical characteristics as bearing “the marks of a long line of Castilian ancestors,” rhetorically severing Menchaca from both his Tejano loyalties and his Mexican heritage. Similarly, the obituary of Menchaca published in the San Antonio Express declared that he was “born a Mexican” but that “when the Texas war for independence came on, Don Antonio was found upon the side of our people, a contestant for that liberty and those privileges of citizenship which are bequeathed to the American.” Claims such as these reveal a larger pattern regarding some Tejanos and others deemed loyal to the Texas or U.S. causes. James Crisp notes similar rhetorical commentaries regarding nineteenth-century Tejanos like José Antonio Navarro, whose patriotism led Anglo-Americans to claim that he was “not of the abject race of Mexicans,” but rather “a Corsican of good birth,” that is, a european. In more contemporary times, Edward Linethal shows that public ceremonies at the Alamo continue to mediate a message of “patriotic conversion” whereby through courage in battle those of diverse backgrounds leave behind their ancestral heritage to become Texans and Americans.[4]

Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, “Introduction: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History,” in Antonio Menchaca, Recollections of a Tejano Life: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History, edited by Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, with the collaboration of Justin Poché (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013)., 2.

  1. [4]James P. Newcomb, introduction to Memoirs, by Antonio Menchaca, ed. Frederick C. Chabot, 11; San Antonio Express, 2 November 1879, p. 4; Northern Standard (Clarksville), 6 March 1845, as cited in James Ernest Crisp, “Anglo-Texan attitudes toward the Mexican, 1821-1845,” 402; Edward Tabor Linenthal, Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields, 61-62.

“such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly” (Menchaca)

Perceptions of skin color– “such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly” / RTL, 88

After Houston and his officers and also Santa Anna had held a long conversation with Zavala, [88] the latter asked to see the documents which contained a record of the proceedings of the Congress of the Republic of Texas. Rusk told him that I had them and asked him to accompany him over to my quarters. When they reached there I had not returned and they asked where I was and sent after me. My shirt had not yet dried sufficiently for me to put it on, so I went back without it. When I came into the presence of the august ex-vice president of the Republic of Mexico, I had no shirt on, and both he and Rusk looked a little surprised and smiled visibly. Rusk asked me to explain why I came on dress parade before one of the generals of the army with such a pretty brown shirt that fit me so tightly. I told him all of my other shirts but one had been stolen by one of his own men who were guarding some of the baggage and that one was drying on the bank of the bayou. He then said he would make me a present of a shirt and sent to his tent by one of my men to bring me one.

Antonio Menchaca, Recollections of a Tejano Life: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History, edited by Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, with the collaboration of Justin Poché (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013)., 87ff.

 

“Burleson … told me that my family might cross but not me, that the men were needed in the army … I also met up with fourteen Tejanos from San Antonio, and we united and remained there until a company could be formed” (Menchaca)

1836: Menchaca conscripted by Burleson, Mexican company organized. / RTL 66ff

I continued my journey to Gonzales and arrived at the house of Green DeWitt, where I met up with General Edward Burleson, who had just arrived with seventy-three men. I slept there and on the next day attempted [67] to pass to the other side of the river with my family but was prevented by Burleson, who told me that my family might cross but not me, that the men were needed in the army.

Arrival of Seguín with Message from Travis: Organization of Company of Mexicans

At Gonzales I also met up with fourteen Tejanos from San Antonio, and we united and remained there until a company could be formed. The Texans were gradually being strengthened by the addition of from three to fifteen daily. Six days after being there Captain Seguín, who was sent as a courier by Travis, arrived there and presented himself to General Burleson, who upon receipt of the message forwarded it to the Convention assembled at Washington, Texas. On the following day, the Mexican company was organized with twenty-two men, having for captain Seguín, for first lieutenant Manuel Flores, and me for second lieutenant.

On 4 March news reached us that Texas had declared her independence. The few who were there, 350 men, swore allegiance to it, and two days later General Sam Houston arrived and took command of the forces.

Antonio Menchaca, Recollections of a Tejano Life: Antonio Menchaca in Texas History, edited by Timothy Matovina and Jesús F. de la Teja, with the collaboration of Justin Poché (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013)., 66-67.

 

Patrolling the Borders of Whiteness: How the Texas Mexicans Became People of Color (Abstract)

“Patrolling the Borders of Whiteness: How the Texas Mexicans Became People of Color.” Charles W. Johnson (Auburn University)

Submitted and accepted for presentation at the Symposium for History Undergraduate Research (SHUR) conference at Mississippi State University.

ABSTRACT: (393 words)
Latinos are people of color. They are the largest and the fastest-growing non-white population in the United States today. Everybody knows this: it is routinely taken for granted in media, in political polling, and in policymaking. Immigration is a fraught issue in U.S. politics because debates about immigration often tacitly or explicitly become conversations about race, color lines, declining white demographic majorities and the status of non-white Mexican-American and Latino populations in American public life.
But it has not always been so. In 1845, when white Texans met to frame an antebellum state Constitution, formally dedicated to preserving slavery and white supremacy, draft articles followed standard Southern legal practices by defining qualified electors as “free white male persons.” But heated floor debates broke out over whether or not the language excluded Texas Mexicans. In the racial order of the Deep South, mestizo Tejano communities posed an anomaly for the ever-present color line: did Tejanos count as “white persons,” like Anglo Texans and European immigrants, or as non-white, like blacks, Indians, and mixed-race “persons of color?”
I will analyze the evolving legal construction of whiteness in the 1845 Texas state constitution, Texas’s distinctive racial intermarriage law, and the federal racial-prerequisite case In Re Rodriguez (1897), and Texas “white primary” party bylaws. I will show that Tejanos posed a racial problem for the Deep South culture of Anglo Texas. In antebellum Texas, despite brutal, often violent Anglo social prejudice, Anglo and Tejano politicians repeatedly agreed to address the anomaly by categorizing Mexicans as legally white. But after Reconstruction, Anglo majorities moved to push Tejanos out of legal whiteness, to make them subject to disenfranchisement and segregation. This historic reversal — the racial “darkening” of Texas Mexicans — was a political decision and a contested historical process emerging from the racial projects of antebellum slavery and post-Reconstruction Jim Crow. The removal of Tejanos from whiteness, which has so profoundly re-shaped the debate over immigration in U.S. politics, was an act of racial reconstruction, which, unlike the racializing of black and Indian populations, was rooted not in the Deep South settler-plantation system but in a post-Civil War hybrid, integrating the increasingly Deep South economy in Texas with an emerging frontier Western racial order, in a regional borderland within the newly consolidated Continental United States.

“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.

“The Third Enlargement of American Whiteness,” post-1945 (Painter)

“The Third Enlargement of American Whiteness,” post-1945. “Included now were Mexicans and Mexican Americans … Since the mid-1930s, federal and Texas state laws had defined Mexicans as white and allowed them to vote in Texas’s white primary.”

The Second World War rearranged Americans by the millions. […] Louis Adamic had dreamed of a second, more homogenized immigrant generation, and one had already started in the Civilian Conservation Corps, fruit of the New Deal’s earliest days. Now, a decade later, millions rather than tens of thousands left home.

Let us remember that this mixing occurred with several notable exceptions. Black Americans–who numbered some 13.3 million in 1940–were, of course, largely excluded. Their time would come much later, and with revolutionary urgency. But also excluded were Asian Americans. Even so, other Americans–provided they qualified as white for federal purposes–experienced a revolution of their own. Indeed, the white category itself had expanded enormously, well beyond European immigrants and their children. Included now were Mexicans and Mexican Americans.

[360] The handsome Julio Martinez from San Antonio plays a leading role in the multicultural Army squad of Norman Mailer’s best-selling war novel The Naked and the Dead (1948). […] Since the mid-1930s, federal and Texas state laws had defined Mexicans as white and allowed them to vote in Texas’s white primary.[4] While Asian American and African American service personnel were routinely segregated and mistreated, Mexican Americans fought in white units and appeared in the media of war, witness the boom in popular war movies like Bataan (1944), staring the Cuban Desi Arnaz (who in the 1950s would become a television star as Lucille Ball’s husband in the long-running I Love Lucy series).

Nell Irvin Painter, The History of White People (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010), 359-360.

(N.B.: this account is largely wrong, and symptomatic of an all-too-frequent mistake in the historical studies of expanding constructions of whiteness)

  1. [4]Thomas A. Guglielmo, “Fighting for Caucasian Rights: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and the Transnational Struggle for Civil Rights in World War II Texas,” Journal of American History 92, no. 4 (March 2006): 1215-16. After 1945, Native American Indians were included with Caucasians (1232).

“In Texas, unlike in other parts of the South, whiteness meant not only not black but also not Mexican” (Foley)

In rupturing the black-white polarity of southern race relations, the presence of Mexicans in central Texas raises some interesting questions about the way in which “whiteness” itself fissured along race and class lines. White Texans had a long history of invoking the color line in their social, economic, and political interactions with African Americans, but they had little experience in plantation society with what one contemporary sociologist called “partly colored races.”[12] Were partly colored Mexicans, in other words, white or nonwhite? As a racially mixed group, Mexicans, like Indians or Asians, lived in a black-and-white nation that regarded them neither as black nor as white. Although small numbers of Mexicans–usually light-skinned, middle-class Mexican Americans–claimed to be Spanish and therefore white, the overwhelming majority of Texas whites regarded Mexicans as a “mongrelized” race of Indian, African, and Spanish ancestry. In Texas, unlike in other parts of the South, whiteness meant not only not black but also not Mexican.[13]

Neil Foley, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 5.

 

  1. [12]Mnax Sylvius Hindman, “Economic Reasons for the Coming of the Mexican Immigrant,” American Journal of Sociology 35 (January 1930): 609-10; and idem, “The Mexican Immigrant in Texas,” Southwestern Political and Social Science Quarterly 7 (June 1926): 37.
  2. [13]For the growing literature on working-class constructions of whiteness, see David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (London and New York: Verso, 1991); idem, Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, and Working-Class History (London and New York: Verso, 1994); Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, vol. 1, Racial Oppression and Social Control (London and New York: Verso, 1994); Noel Ignatiev, How the Irish Became White (New York and London: Routledge, 1995); and Alexander Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (London and New york: Verso, 1990). On the legal construction of whiteness, see Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996); and Cheryl I. Harris, “Whiteness as Property,” Harvard Law Review 106 (June 1993): 1709-91. On racial formation and the gendered construction of racial ideologies, see Howard Winant, Racial Conditions: Politics, Theory, Comparisons (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994); Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, “African American Women’s History and the Metalanguage of Race,” Signs 17 (Winter 1992): 251-74; Peggy Pascoe, “Miscegenation Law, Court Cases, and Ideologies of ‘Race’ in Twentieth-Century America,” Journal of American History 83 (June 1996): 44-69; Ruth Frankenberg, White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993); and Vron Ware, Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism, and History (London and New York: Verso, 1992). See also Barbara J. Fields, “Ideology and Race in America,” in Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward, ed. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 143-77; Thomas C. Holt, “Marking: Race, Race-Making, and the Writing of History,” American Historical Review 100 (February 1995), 1-20; and Ronald Takaki, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979).

“while longhorns, Stetson hats, and the romance of ranching have replaced cotton, mules, and overalls in the historical imagination of Anglo Texans today, the fact remains that most Anglo Texans were descended from transplanted Southerners who had fought hard to maintain the ‘color line’ in Texas and to extend its barriers to Mexicans” (Foley)

Southern vs. Southwestern Image and Orientation / WS, 2

The postbellum image of the South also overlooks twentieth-century Texas and its large population of Mexicans, both native-born and immigrant, who came increasingly to displace Anglos and blacks on cotton farms in central Texas after 1910. As part of the Spanish borderlands before 1821 and as a Mexican state until 1836, Texas has had a long history of interaction between Mexicans and Anglos, as well as between masters and slaves in east Texas.[2] East [2] Texas, for example, fits comfortably within the cultural and historiographical boundaries of the South, with its history of slavery, cotton, and postemancipation society. South Texas, however, shares more commonalities with the history of the “trans-Rio Grande North” and Mexico than with the U.S. South. These discrete cultural regions of east and south Texas overlap in south-central Texas from Waco to Corpus Christi, where cultural elements of the South, the West, and Mexico have come to form a unique borderlands culture. Spanish, French, German, African, Mexican, English, Polish, Czech, and other groups have left their cultural mark in a society of such great social heterogeneity and hybridity that one geographer has called it the “shatter belt.” Texas is thus culturally and historiographically at some distance from the “most southern place on earth,” but its cotton culture nevertheless makes it recognizably southern, even if the state’s large Mexican population continues to link it with other western states and Mexico (see Maps 1 and 2).[3]

As the cotton culture of the South advanced westward, Texas retained the image of a state more western than southern, in part because, as one Texas historian has noted, cotton makes Texas seem “too southern, hence Confederate, defeated, poor, and prosaic.”[4] In Texas, “unlike the Deep South,” wrote the anthropologist Oscar Lewis, “there was no leisure class to romanticize cotton farming, and it could at no time compete with ranching in capturing the imagination of the people as an ideal way of life.”[5] Tourists flock to San Antonio more than any other Texas city because it alone captures the image that Texans most like to project of themselves–defenders of the Alamo, victors in the war against Mexico, pioneers in the western wilderness, manly cowboys and rich cattle barons. But while longhorns, Stetson hats, and the romance of ranching have replaced cotton, mules, and overalls in the historical imagination of Anglo Texans today, the fact remains that most Anglo Texans were descended from transplanted Southerners who had fought hard to maintain the “color line” in Texas and to extend its barriers to Mexicans. Many Anglo Texans thus often wore two hats: the ten-gallon variety as well as the white hood of the Invisible Empire.[6]

Neil Foley, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 1-2.
  1. [2]On interactions between Mexicans and Anglos in Texas, see David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987); Américo Paredes, “With His Pistol in His Hand”: A Border Ballad and Its Hero (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958); and Arnoldo de León, The Tejano Community, 1836-1900 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982). On slavery in Texas, see Randolph B. Campbell, An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989); Paul D. Lack, The Texas Revolutionary Experience: A Political and Social History, 1835-1836 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992), 238-52; and Eugene C. Barker, The Life of Stephen F. Austin: Founder of Texas, 1793-1836 (1926; reprint, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1985), 201-25.
  2. [3]Terry D. Jordan, John L. Bean Jr., and William M. Holmes, Texas: A Geography, Geographies of the United States Series (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1984), 5, 91.
  3. [4]Robert A. Calvert, “Agrarian Texas,” in Texas through Time: Evolving Interpretations, ed. Walter L. Buenger and Robert a. Calvert (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991), 197.
  4. [5]Oscar Lewis, On the Edge of the Black Waxy: A Cultural Survey of Bell County, Texas (Saint Louis, Mo.: Washington University Studies, New Series, 1948), 2.
  5. [6]On the resistance of many white Texans to identify with the Texas of the South and the Confederacy, see Campbell, Empire for Slavery, 1. For a long-overdue discussion of the burden of Western history, see Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1987), esp. 17-32. On the connection between southern and western regional identities, see David M. Emmons, “Constructed Province: History and the Making of the Last American West,” Western Historical Quarterly 25 (Winter 1994): 437-59, and, in the same issue, the responses by Joan M. Jensen (pp. 461-63), A. Yvette Huginnie (pp. 463-66), Albert L. Hurtado (pp. 467-69), Charles Reagan Wilson (pp. 470-73), Edward L. Ayers (pp. 473-76), and William Cronon (pp. 476-81). See also Edward L. Ayers, “What We Talk about When We Talk About the South,” and Patricia Nelson Limerick, “Region and Reason,” in All over the Map: Rethinking American Regions, ed. Edward L. Ayers et al. (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 62-104.

“became the nation’s leading cotton-producing state by 1890” (Foley)

Whatever image of the South one summons, it largely excludes Texas cotton farmers, even though Texas, as a slave state of the Confederacy, experienced defeat and Reconstruction and became the nation’s leading cotton-producing state by 1890.

Neil Foley, The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 1.