“All the parties of volunteers en route to San Antonio declared they wanted to kill Seguín … coming down by the river, burning the ranchos on their way” (Seguín)

parties of volunteers aim to kill Seguín; burn Tejanx ranches

I remained, hiding from rancho to rancho for over fifteen days. All the parties of volunteers en route to San Antonio declared “they wanted to kill Seguín.” I could no longer go from rancho to rancho, and determined to go to my own rancho and fortify it. Several of my relatives and friends joined me. Hardly a day elapsed without receiving notice that a party was preparing to attack me; we were constantly kept under arms. Several parties came in sight but, probably seeing that we were prepared to receive them, refrained from attacking. [96]

On the 30th of April, a friend from San Antonio sent me word that Captain James W. Scott and his company were coming down by the river, burning the ranchos on their way. The inhabitants of the lower ranchos called on us for aid against Scott. With those in my house, and others to the number of about one hundred, I started to lend them aid. I proceeded, observing Scott’s movements from the junction of the Medina to Pajaritos. At that place we dispersed and I returned to my wretched life. In those days I could not go to San Antonio without peril for my life.

Matters being in this state, I saw that it was necessary to take some step which would place me in security and save my family from constant wretchedness. I had to leave Texas, abandon all for which I had fought and spent my fortune, to become a wanderer. The ingratitude of those who had assumed onto themselves the right of convicting me, their credulity in declaring me a traitor on the basis of mere rumors, the necessity to defend myself for the loyal patriotism with which I had always served Texas, wounded me deeply.

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), 95-96.

“five or six other Mexicans joined me … some Americans were murdering Curbier” (Seguín)

accused of treason; extralegal violence; refers to self, compas as “Mexicans” vs. “Americans”

Having observed that Vásquez gained ground on us, we fell back [94] on the Nueces River. When we came back to San Antonio, reports about my implausible treason were spreading widely. Captain Manuel Flores, Lieutenant Ambrosio Rodriguez, Matías Curbier and five or six other Mexicans joined me to find out the origin of the false rumors. I went out with several friends, leaving Curbier in my house. I had reached the Main Plaza when several persons came running to inform me that some Americans were murdering Curbier. We ran back to the house where we found poor Curbier covered with blood. On being asked who assaulted him he answered that the gunsmith Goodman, in company with several Americans, had struck him with a rifle.

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), 94-95.

“because they are not of our race, which is unworthy, as they say, to belong to the human species” (Cortina, qtd. in Carrigan and Webb)

Many Mexicans had indeed turned to “banditry” as a result of white mob violence…

Another Mexican who greatly angered whites was Juan Cortina. Between 1859 and 1873, Cortina and his gang engaged in a series of bitter and bloody confrontations with the U.S. military along the Texas border. Cortina proclaimed to be an instrument of divine retribution sent to avenge those murdered and dispossessed by whites. Cortina reserved particular wrath for the local and state authorities who continued to tolerate the lynching of his people. He once observed: “There are to be found criminals covered with frightful crimes, but they appear to have impunity until opportunity furnish [sic] them a victim; to these monsters indulgence is shown, because they are not of our race, which is unworthy, as they say, to belong to the human species.”[74] Scholars have described Murrieta, Vásquez and Cortina as “social bandits” who raided in retaliation against the forces of racism that repressed Mexicans throughout the Southwest.[75]

Mexicans’ retaliatory actions often served only to compound racial conflict. Retaliatory raids provoked whites to further reprisals against Mexicans. This in turn strengthened the bitter resolve of the recalcitrant Mexicans. A vicious circle of violence and retribution was therefore created. In October, 1859, Texas Rangers lynched Thomas Cabrera, a leading member of the Cortina gang. An enraged Cortina immediately launched an assault on white settlers near Brownsville, Texas.[76] The persistence of these raids provided whites with an excuse to condemn all Mexicans as dangerously criminal people whose presence in the Southwest posed a continued threat to white settlement. Francisco P. Ramírez of the Spanish-language newspaper El Clamor Público understood the danger of retaliatory action. He wrote on July, 1856, that “the Mexicans are growing tired of being run over and having injustices committed against them; but to take up arms to redress their grievances, this is an act without reason.”[77]

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), 54-55.

 

  1. [74]S. Dale McLemore, Racial and Ethnic Violence in America, second edition (Newton, Mass.: Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1983), pp. 219-21; Jerry D. Thompson, ed., Juan Cortina and the Texas-Mexico Frontier 1859-1877 (El Paso: University of Texas at El Paso Press, 1994), p. 6; Jerry D. Thompson, “The Many Faces of Juan Nepomuceno Cortina,” South Texas Studies 2 (1991): 88, 92; Webb, Texas Rangers, p. 176.
  2. [75]Social banditry and Mexican outlaws are discussed in Pedro Castillo and Albert Camarillo, eds., Furia y Muerte. John Boessenecker believes that most Mexican bandits were not social bandits. See Boessenecker, “Pio Linares: California Bandido,” The Californians 5, no. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 1987): 34-44.
  3. [76]Matt S. Meier and Feliciano Rivera, The Chicanos: A History of Mexican Americans (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), pp. 101-102; Thompson, “Many Faces,” p. 89; Thompson, Juan Cortina, p. 102, notes 1 and 3; Lyman L. Woodman: Cortina: Rogue of the Rio Grande (San Antonio, Tex.: Naylor, n.d.), pp. 21-22; “Report on the Accompanying Documents of the Committee on Foreign Affairs on the Relations of the U.S. with Mexico,” U.S. House, No. 701, 45th Cong., 2nd sess., Serial Set 1824, pp. 75-76.
  4. [77]El Clamor Público, July 26, 1856. English translation from Zaragosa Vargas, ed., Major Problems in Mexican American History (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999), p. 147.

“the straggling American adventurers… their dark intrigues against the native families” (Seguín)

The tokens of esteem and evidences of trust and confidence repeatedly bestowed upon me by the supreme magistrate, General Rusk, and other dignitaries of the Republic, could not fail to arouse a great deal of invidious and malignant feeling against me. The jealousy evinced against me by several officers of the companies recently arrived at San Antonio from the United States soon spread among the straggling American adventurers, who were already beginning to work their dark intrigues against the native families, whose only crime was that they owned large tracts of land and desirable property.

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), 89.

“exposed to the assaults of foreigners who, on the pretext that they were Mexicans, treated them worse than brutes?” (Seguín)

I will also point out the origin of another enmity which, on several occasions, endangered my life. In those evil days, San Antonio swarmed with adventurers from every quarter of the globe. Many a noble heart grasped the sword in the defense of the liberty of Texas, cheerfully pouring out their blood for our cause, and to them everlasting public gratitude is due. But there were also many bad men, fugitives from their own country who found in this land an opportunity for their criminal designs.

San Antonio claimed then, as it claims now, to be the first city of Texas. It was also the receptacle of the scum of society. My political and social situation brought me into continual contact with that class of people. At every hour of the day and night my countrymen ran to me for protection against the assaults or exactions of those adventurers. Sometimes, by persuasion, I prevailed on them to desist; sometimes, also, force had to be resorted to. How could I have done otherwise? Were not the victims my own countrymen, friends and associates? Could I leave them defenseless, exposed to the assaults of foreigners who, on the pretext that they were Mexicans, treated them worse than brutes? Sound reason and the dictates of humanity precluded any different conduct on my part.

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), 90.

“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.

“Frustrated at having been beaten out by the lower prices of their Mexican rivals, white competitors resorted to murdering cartmen, driving off their oxen and burning their carts and freight. Economic rivalry with Mexicans continued to inspire retributive action by whites throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” (Carrigan and Webb)

1857: Cart War in context of Anglo lynchings of Mexicans. / BB&W 49

Although the California gold rush witnessed some of the worst acts of mob violence against Mexicans, whites also resorted to savagery–in order to secure economic supremacy–on other occasions. Actions during the Texas “Cart War” of 1857 exemplify this. During the 1850s, Texas businessmen developed a freight-hauling service between Indianola and San Antonio. Frustrated at having been beaten out by the lower prices of their Mexican [50] rivals, white competitors resorted to murdering cartmen, driving off their oxen and burning their carts and freight. Economic rivalry with Mexicans continued to inspire retributive action by whites throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1898, a group of Gonzales, Texas men–probably poor white sharecroppers in competition with Mexican immigrants–posted this warning: “Notice to the Mexicans. You have all got ten days to leave in. Mr. May Renfro and brother get your Mexicans all off your place. If not, you will get the same they do. Signed, Whitecaps.” In the 1920s, alarm at the increasing number of Mexican laborers who settled in the Rio Grande valley contributed to the growth of the local Ku Klux Klan.[53]

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), 49ff.
  1. [53]Waco Times-Herald, Feb. 17, 1898; David J. Weber, ed., Foreigners in their Native Land: Historical Roots of the Mexicans (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1973), p. 153; George P. Garrison, Texas: A Contest of Civilizations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1973), p. 274; Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (Chicago: American Historical Society, 1914), vol. 1, pp. 515-16; J. Fred Rippy, The United States and Mexico (New York: F. S. Crofts & Co., 1931), pp. 179-80; Charles C. Alexander, The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1965), p. 24. For further evidence of economic competition precipitating mob violence, see Mary Romero, “El Paso Salt War: Mob Action or Political Struggle?” Aztlán 16, nos. 1-2 (1985): 119-38.

“Without exception, every Mexican in the county was implicated…” (Scraps of Newspaper, Olmsted)

Contemplated Servile Rising in Texas.

The Galveston News publishes the following in relation to the late contemplated negro insurrection in Colorado county:

Columbus, Colorado Co., Sept. 9, 1856

The object of this communication is to state to you all the facts of any importance connected with a recent intended insurrection.

Our suspicions were aroused about two weeks ago, when a meeting of the citizens of the county was called, and a committee of investigation appointed to ferret out the whole matter, and lay the facts before the people of the county for their consideration. The committee entered upon their duties, and in a short time, they were in full possession of the facts of a well-organized and systematized plan for the murder of our entire white population, with the exception of the young ladies, who were to be taken captives, and made the wives of the diabolical murderers of their parents and friends. The committee found in their possession a number of pistols, bowie-knives, guns, and ammunition. Their passwords of organization were adopted, and their motto, “Leave not a shadow behind.”

Last Saturday, the 6th inst., was the time agreed upon for the execution of their damning designs. At a late hour at night, all were to make one simultaneous, desperate effort, with from two to ten apportioned to nearly every house in the county, kill all the whites, save the above exception, plunder their homes, take their horses and arms, and fight their way on to a “free State” (Mexico).

[504] Notwithstanding the intense excitement which moved every member of our community, and the desperate measures to which men are liable to be led on by such impending danger to which we have been exposed by our indulgence and lenity to our slaves, we must say the people acted with more caution and deliberation than ever before characterized the action of any people under similar circumstances.

More than two hundred negroes had violated the law, the penalty of which is death. But, by unanimous consent, the law was withheld, and their lives spared, with the exception of three of the ringleaders, who were, on last Friday, the 5th inst., at 2 o’clock P.M., hung, in compliance with the unanimous voice of the citizens of the county.

Without exception, every Mexican in the county was implicated. They were arrested, and ordered to leave the county within five days, and never again to return, under the penalty of death. There is one, however, by the name of Frank, who is proven to be one of the prime movers of the affair, that was not arrested; but we hope that he may yet be, and have meted out to him such reward as his black deed demands.

We are satisfied that the lower class of the Mexican population are incendiaries in any country where slaves are held, and should be dealt with accordingly. And for the benefit of the Mexican population, we would here state, that a resolution was passed by the unanimous voice of the county, forever forbidding any Mexican from coming within the limits of the county.

Peace, quiet, and good order are again restored, and, by the watchful care of our Vigilance Committee, a well-organized patrol, and good discipline among our planters, we are persuaded that there will never again occur the necessity of a communication of the character of this.

Yours respectfully,

John H. Robson,
H.A. Tatum,
J.H. Hicks.
} Cor. Com.

The Galveston News, of the 11th nst. has also the following paragraph:

“We learn, from the Columbian Planter, of the 9th, that two of the negroes engaged in the insurrection at Columbus were whipped to death; three more were hung last Friday, and the Mexicans who were implicated were ordered to leave the country. There was no proof against these last beyond surmises. The band had a deposit of arms and ammunition in the bottom. They had quite a number of guns, and a large lot of knives, manufactured by one of their number. It was their intention to fight their way to Mexico.”

[From the True Issue, Sept. 5]

We noticed last week the rumor that a large number of slaves, of Colorado county, had combined and armed themselves for the purpose of fighting their way into Mexico. Developments have since been made of a much more serious nature than our information then indicated. It is ascertained that a secret combination had been formed, embracing most of the negroes of the county, for the purpose of not fleeing to Mexico, but of murdering the inhabitants–men, women, and children promiscuously. To carry out their hellish purposes, they had organized into companies of various sizes, had adopted secret signs and passwords, sworn never to divulge the plot under the penalty of death, and had elected captains and subordinate officers to command the respective companies. They had provided themselves with some fire-arms and home-made bowie-knives, and had appointed the time for a simultaneous movement. Some two hundred, we learn, have been severely punished under the lash, and several are now in jail awaiting the more serious punishment of death, which is to be inflicted to-day. One of the principal instigators of the movement is a free negro, or one who had been permitted to control his own time as a free man.

Frederick Law Olmsted, A Journey Through Texas; or, a Saddle-Trip on the Southwestern Frontier (New York: Dix, Edwards & Co, 1857), 503-504.