“Racism and prejudice, it is clear, played a fundamental role in encouraging mob violence against Mexicans … [1920s] ‘I would not think of classifying Mexicans as whites'” (Carrigan and Webb)

1920s: “I would not think of classifying Mexicans as whites.” / BB&W 50 (From Taylor interviews.)

Economic competition, although a significant force, does not sufficiently explain the history of anti-Mexican or anti-black mob violence. If mobs had considered only economics, they would have been just as likely to murder or expel any group standing in their way. But, in fact, mobs specially targeted Mexicans in the southwestern United States. Racism and prejudice, it is clear, played a fundamental role in encouraging mob violence against Mexicans. Mexicans were portrayed as a cruel and treacherous people with a natural proclivity toward criminal behavior. Racist stereotypes abounded in private correspondence, contemporary literature, and the popular media. “The lower class of Mexicans, on the west coast, appear to be a dark, Indian-looking race, with just enough of the Spanish blood, without its appropriate intelligence, to add a look of cunning to their gleaming, treacherous eyes, wrote Theodore T. Johnson in 1849.[54] In April, 1872, the Weekly Arizona Miner exclaimed: “Bad Mexicans never tire of cutting throats, and we are sorry to be compelled to say that good Mexicans are rather scarce.”[55] These assumptions, legitimated by pseudoscientific research, remained prevalent well into the twentieth century. A track foreman interviewed in the late 1920s in Dimmit County, Texas, observed: “They are an inferior race. I would not think of classing Mexicans as whites.”[56]

William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, "Muerto por Unos Desconocidos (Killed by Persons Unknown): Mob Violence against Blacks and Mexicans," in Beyond Black & White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, edited by Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004), 50.



  1. [54]Theodore T. Johnson, Sights in the Gold Regions and Scenes by the Way (New York: Baker and Scriber, 1849), p. 240. Another early example of Anglo prejudice against Mexicans can be found in T. J. Farham, Life, Travels, and Adventures in California and Scenes in the Pacific Ocean (New York: William H. Graham, 1846), pp. 356-57.
  2. [55]Weekly Arizona Miner, Apr. 26, 1872.
  3. [56]Paul S. Taylor, Mexican Labor in the United States: Dimmit County, Winter Garden District, South Texas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 446 (quote). For additional accounts of prejudicial views towards Mexicans, see Robert Lee Maril, Poorest of Americans: The Mexican Americans of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989), pp. 10-11, 30, 33, 41-47, 49, 51-54, 79, 81, 151-55; Américo Paredes, “With His Pistol in His Hand,” in Chicano: The Evolution of a People, ed. by Renato Rosaldo, Robert A. Calvert, and Gustav L. Seligmann, Jr. (Malabar, Fla.: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1982), p. 101; Richard Griswold del Castillo and Arnoldo De León, North to Aztlán: A History of Mexican Americans in the United States (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996), p. 30; Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1914), vol. 1, p. 516; Mark Reisler, “Always the Laborer, Never the Citizen: Anglo Perceptions of the Mexican Immigrant during the 1920s,” in Between Two Worlds: Mexican Immigrants in the United States, ed. by David G. Gutierrez (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources Inc., 1996), pp. 25-29.

“National citizenship gained significance only in the wake of the Civil War and the Fourteenth Amendment” (Haney López)

significance of the nationalization of citizenship vs. old state citizenship system / WBL p. 50

The lag between the enactment of a racial prerequisite for naturalization and its first legal test may partly reflect the relative insignificance of federal as opposed to state citizenship during this country’s first century. Prior to the Civil War, state citizenship was more important than federal citizenship for securing basic rights and privileges. National citizenship gained significance only in the wake of the Civil War and the Fourteenth Amendment. After 1870, “[a]ll persons born within the dominion and allegiance of the United States were citizens and constituents of the sovereign community. Their status with respect to the states depended upon this national status and upon their own choice of residence, and it could not be impeached or violated by state action.”[3] Thus, the spate of naturalization cases that began in 1878 may reflect the increased importance of national versus state citizenship after the civil war.

Ian F. Haney López, White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 50.


  1. [3]Ichioka, supra, at 12.

“In 1875 when election time came around, my friends nominated me as Justice of the Peace” (Tafolla)

In 1875 when election time came around, my friends nominated me as Justice of the Peace for the precinct. And, as I was wicked, they wanted me to be the judge. On election day, Mr. J. P. Rodríguez did not get a single vote.

In due time, after the election, they called me to Bandera to take the oath of Justice of the Peace for the precinct.

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. 90.