“The conflict in Texas was over land” (Anderson)

I argue, however, that the situation in Texas fails to rise to the level of genocide, if genocide is defined as the intentional killing of nearly all of a racial, religious, or cultural group. I seek to draw an important distinction from it. […] Texans would have been pleased had the groups they wanted removed simply left without violence. But these groups did not. The conflict in Texas was over land; indiscriminate killing, while common during the fighting, never became a prolonged, strategic, state policy on either side. […] The ethnic conflict continued in Texas because Anglos wanted it to; ethnic cleansing, not genocide, became state policy.

Gary Clayton Anderson, The Conquest of Texas: Ethnic Cleansing in the Promised Land, 1820-1875 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005), 7.

“said land shall not be … within four miles of the residence or improvements of any white inhabitant of this State” (Alabama Indians Relief Act, 1854)

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, that twelve hundred and eighty acres of vacant and unappropriated land, situated in either Polk or Tyler counties, or both, to be selected by the Chiefs of the Alabama Indians and the Commissioners hereinafter named, be, and the same is hereby set apart for the sole use and benefit of, and as a home for the said tribe of Indians….

Sec. 3. That said land shall not be selected or located within four miles of the residence or improvements of any white inhabitant of this State. And that said Indians shall not alien, lease, rent, let, give or otherwise dispose of said land or any part thereof to any person whatsoever. And should the State of Texas hereafter provide a home for said tribe of Indians, and settle them thereon, then the said twelve hundred and eighty acres of land, with its improvements, shall become the property of the State.

“An Act for the relief of the Alabama Indians,” February 3, 1854. H. P. N. Gammel, The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, Vol. 4 (Austin, Texas: Gammel's Book Store, 1898), 68 (link).

 

“the tribulations of a valiant people … our Americans, who with base, aggressive pretexts want to uproot from this classic land its legitimate people” (Navarro)

These motives and the urging of some of my friends, who have desired to know about the most important contemporaneous events that happened in our city, have persuaded me to write this brief chronicle.

I do not write for the heartless nor for the egoists–to whom the glories and misfortunes of men of another origin and language matter little or not at all. I write for the humanitarian and cultured who understand how to respect and empathize with the tribulations of a valiant people who have struggled in the midst of their own ignorance guided only by an instinct for their liberty, against enemies so superior that they may be placed alongside the most free and fortunate nations of all mankind–such as the nation with the flag of stars. I write in order to inform our Americans, however indignant some of them among us may be, who with base, aggressive pretexts want to uproot from this classic land its legitimate people who are the descendants of those who fifty years ago spilled their blood searching for the liberty of which we now vaingloriously boast.

José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995), 63.

Estos motivos y las instancias de algunos de mis amigos que han deseado saber los mas importantes sucesos contemporaneos acaecidos en nuestra ciudad, me han decidido á escribir esta sucinta crònica.

No la hago para las almas pequeñas, ni para los egoistas, que poco ó nada les importan las glorias ó desgracias de hombres de otro origen y lenguaje; la hago para los filántropos y cosmopòlitas, que saben apreciar y condolerse de las vicisitudes de un pueblo valiente, que ha luchado enmedio de su propia ignorancia y por solo el instinto de su libertad, con enemigos tan superiores; [6] por tal de ponerse al nivel de los hombres mas libres y dichosos del genero humano, como son los que cubre el pabellon de las estrellas: la hago para que sepa nuestro pueblo Americano, cuan indignamente hay algunos entre nosotros, que con pretextos mesquinos é ingratos quieren extirpar de este suelo clásico, á los legítimos señores y descendientes de los que hace como medio siglo que derramaron su sangre, buscando esa libertad de que hacemos jactancia.

José Antonio Navarro, Apuntes historicos interesantes de San Antonio de Bexar (San Antonio de Bexar: publicados por varios de sus amigos, 1869), 5-6. Reprinted in José Antonio Navarro, Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: José Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857, ed. David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina (Austin: State House Press, 1995).

 

“That year I got 160 acres of land” (Tafolla)

In the same year, the war broke out between the United States and the Confederate States, and when the army was set to march out of the state of Texas, Sergeant McDonald deserted, came to where I was, and sold the cows. […] That year I got 160 acres of land, which was the amount the state of Texas was granting to every citizen who was a head of household. I built a ranch on a particular branch of Privilege Creek which is called Bear Creek. I lived there for some time with my brothers-in-law, who’d come to live with us there in Bandera County. J.P. Rodríguez had established a ranch on the main branch of Privilege Creek approximately two miles from mine.

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. 63.

Land: Tafolla qualifies for headright land 1861.

“this race of men who, as the legitimate proprietors of this land, lost it together with their lives and their hopes” (Navarro)

Mexican independence, germinated in the blood of these martyrs, was finally declared in September 1821.

But what ingratitude! Not one single murmur ever crossed the mountains of Anahuac [Mexico City] to console the broken remnant of those brave patriots. Such is the end for heroes! Perhaps their renown would be more complete if they were to receive the miserable compensation due from their fellow men. To complete the picture of misfortune, the few descendants who survive in San Antonio are disappearing, murdered in full view of a people [un pueblo] who boast of their justice and excellence.

Consolación Leal, heroine of those days, died a few months ago, killed by a Spaniard, and Antonio Delgado was riddled by bullets from the rifle of an American bastard.

May Divine Providence use these historical commentaries to stir generous hearts to treat with more respect this race of men [esa raza de hombres] who, as the legitimate proprietors of this land, lost it together with their lives and their hopes, to follow in the footsteps of those very ones who now enjoy the land in the midst of peace and plenty.

Jose Antonio Navarro, “Commentaries of Historical Interest,” in Defending Mexican Valor in Texas: Jose Antonio Navarro’s Historical Writings, 1853-1857. Edited and translated by David R. McDonald and Timothy M. Matovina. Austin, Tex.: State House Press. 76.

“Mexicans are different to negroes and are recognized as Americans.” “Money Whitens” (Montejano)

From David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986, 84-85:

Landed Mexicans represented the complicating factor in the Mexican-Anglo relations of the frontier period. Even during the worst times of Mexican banditry, the permanent Mexican residents who were landowners were seen as “good citizens” while the large “floating” population temporarily employed on ranches were seen as sympathizers of the raiders.[27] Similar distinctions were made in the less dramatic, daily encounters. For example, in her first trip to Corpus Christi in 1870, Mrs. Susan Miller of Louisiana stopped at the State Hotel and “was horrified to see Mexicans seated at the tables with Americans. I told my husband I had never eaten with Mexicans or negroes, and refused to do so. He said ‘Mexicans are different to negroes and are recognized as Americans. However, I will speak to the manager and see if he will not put a small table in one corner of the room for you. He did so and we enjoyed our meal.”[28] Evidence of inconsistent patterns at times comes from ironic sources. They indicate, nonetheless, that not all Mexicans were seen or treated as inferior. In fact, most pioneers, especially merchants and officials, were quite adept at drawing the distinction between the landed “Castilian” elite and the landless Mexican. Thus, L. E. Daniell, author of Successful Men in Texas (1890), described the physical appearance of prominent “Canary Islander” José Maria Rodríguez as “five feet nine inches in height, complexion dark, but not a drop of Indian blood in his veins.” As if to emphasize this point, Daniell added that Rodríguez had ïn his veins the blood of the most chivalric Knights that made the Olvie of Spain respected wherever a Knightly name was known.”[29]

The well-known aphorism about color and class explains the situation on the Mexican frontier–“money whitens.” The only problem for upper-class Mexicans was that this principle offered neither consistent nor permanent security in the border region. Certainly it did not protect them from the racial opinion of many Anglos. One descendant of this upper class described their reaction as follows: “Now that a new country has been established south of the Rio Grande they call our people Mexicans. They are the same people who were called Spaniards only a short time ago. Some say the word in such a bitter way that it sounds as if it were a crime to be a Mexican. My master says he is one, and is proud to be [85] one. That he is a member of the white race, whether he be called Mexican or not.”[30]

[N.B.: The closing quote is from a 1935 “folk history” of the area told from the perspective of a Mesquite tree.]

 

  1. [27] Dobie, Vaquero of the Brush Country, p. 69; Graf, “Economic History,” p. 625.
  2. [28] Miller, Sixty Years, pp. 15, 175.
  3. [29] Daniell, Types of Successful Men, p. 340.
  4. [30] Zamora O’Shea, El Mesquite, p. 59.

Damacio Jimenez, defender of the Alamo, and Tejano headright claim

Tejano defender of the Alamo, heirs attempted to file for war bounty land claim in 1861 [supported by Seguin; petition was denied for non-payment of fees]: Damacio Jimenez.[26]

In its Constitution of 1861, Texas once again opened its court systems for worthy citizens and/or Texas revolutionary war veterans to petition for land, and, as in the Constitution of 1845, a two-year limitations period was imposed.[10]

The 1861 term of court saw such a claim: the descendants of Damacio Jimenez, defender of the Alamo, came forward and petitioned in open court for a headright claim of land as promised by the Constitution of Texas.[11]

 

 

 

  1. [26]Raul Casso IV, “Damacio Jimenez: The Lost and Found Alamo Defender,” in Southwestern Historical Quarterly 96 (July 1992 – April 1993): 87-92.
  2. [10]Texas Constitution of 1861, article XI, sec. 2, in Vernon’s Annotated Constitution, 594.
  3. [11]Headright Book 2, pp. 370-373.

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.