“Middle-class Mexican Americans … drew distinctions between themselves and lower-class Mexicans who they often regarded as ‘Indios’ or ‘Indian Mexicans’ and used terms like ‘mojados’ …” (Foley)

racial stratification within Tejanx community — “indios,” “mojados,” etc. / BB&W, 134

These middle-class Mexican Americans in El Paso sought to eliminate once and for all the ambiguity surrounding Mexican racial identity. First, they recognized that any attempt to define them as “nonwhite” could easily come to mean “noncitizen” as well, because many Anglos did not regard Mexicans, particularly of the lower class, as truly American or fit for American citizenship. Second, middle-class Mexican Americans themselves drew distinctions between themselves and lower-class Mexicans who they often regarded as “Indios,” or “Indian Mexicans” and used terms like “mojados” (“wetbacks”) and other terms of class and racial disparagement. Hamilton Price, the black El Pasoan, pointed out as much when he reminded El Pasoans about the close, even intimate, relations that existed between blacks and lower-class Mexicans in El Paso, from Mexican men shining the shoes of African American men to African American men marrying Mexican women.

Neil Foley, "Partly Colored or Other White: Mexican Americans and Their Problem with the Color Line," in Beyond Black and White: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the U.S. South and Southwest, ed. Stephanie Cole and Alison M. Parker, 123-144 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 204), 134.


“muddied by simultaneous conflict and mixture of cultures … the Mexican finds himself in the middle” (Buitron)

Nowhere was this amalgamation of the races more evident than in the writings of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, (1580-1648) a Hispanisized Mexica who became renowned for his histories of the Pre-Columbian and colonial eras. … [5] Most importantly, it is in the work of de Alva that we begin to see the ambiguity present in the Mexican identity, an identity torn between the values of the indigenous American and the Spaniard. The identity of the mestizo, and of all Mexicans, was muddied by simultaneous conflict and mixture of cultures. During the colonial era and for centuries afterward, status in Mexican society was determined by racial ancestry. People of Indian and mixed race were placed in a lesser rank, excluded from political power. This racial discrimination had a profound effect on the nation as a whole. “The Mexican,” writer Samuel Ramos postulated, “finds himself in the middle, and to be there is his destiny, for he is not really American [Indian] and no longer Spanish. Thus the Mexican, the compulsive imitator, considers himself an inferior being.” Paz described the history of the Mexican as a tragic quest for lost parentage, who desired “to go back beyond the catastrophe he suffered… to be a sun again, to return to the center of that life from which he was separated.” Just as the black thinkers like Langston Hughes and James Baldwin sought an identity which was not African but not yet white American, Mexicans and their descendants in the United States would be forced to grapple with the same critical issue.

Richard A. Buitron, Jr., The Quest for Tejano Identity in San Antonio, Texas, 1913-2000. New York: Routledge, 2004. 5-6.

“Mixed Bloods” (De Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas)

[p. 17 previous also has some discussion of fluidity of categories based on money and prestige]

Mixed Bloods. […] While the news of Indian attacks in the province continued to discourage immigration from New Spain’s interior, demographic expansion still resulted principally from in-migration.[36]

Most Tejano pioneers during the colonial era were the product of mestizaje, or miscegenation among the native Indian populations, European Spaniards, and African slaves. By the seventeenth century, much of New Spain’s people were termed mestizos, a label applied to the product of unions between Spanish males and Indian women. Though this element composed the majority population in Texas, various other racial categories existed, including Christianized Indians, mulattoes, and Spaniards. All participated in further racial amalgamation in the province.[37]

Census taken in the 1780s actually enumerate more Spaniards than any other classification, but such figures distort actual ancestry. Demographers know that the term “Spanish” did not necessarily identify European, white-skinned Spaniards; instead it represented a social categorization. In fact, racial makeup could be upgraded on the frontier, as one’s racial constitution did not bar upward mobility. Realistically, the term “Spaniard” identified those worthy of a certain status because of accumulated wealth, family connections, military standing, or even distinguished service to the community. European Spaniards, therefore, included but a few government or church appointees. The rest of those labeled Spaniards by census enumerators were undoubtedly mixed-bloods who “passed” as Spaniards. As noted, the Canary Islanders of San Antonio themselves intermixed with the New Spain-born population, so within two generations following their arrival, no “islander” could claim undiluted blood.[38]

Arnoldo de Leon, Mexican Americans in Texas: A Brief History, 2nd ed. Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson Inc., 1993/1999. 18.

  1. [36]Jones, Los Paisanos, p. 60; Poyo, “Immigrants and Integration in Eighteenth-Century Bexar,” pp. 85-86; Cruz, Let There Be Towns, p. 129.
  2. [37]de la Teja, San Antonio de Bexar, pp. 25-26; Gerald F. Poyo, “The Canary Islands Immigrants of San Antonio: From Ethnic Exclusivity to Community in Eighteenth-Century Bexar,” in Poyo and Hinojosa, Tejano Origins in Eighteenth Century San Antonio, p. 47; de la Teja, “Forgotten Founders,” in ibid., pp. 32-33; Poyo, “Immigrants and Integration in Late Eighteenth Century Bexar,” in ibid., pp. 96-97; Gilberto M. Hinojosa and Anne E. Fox, “Indians and Their Culture in San Fernando de Bexar,” in ibid., pp. 106-107; and Alicia V. Tjarks, “Comparative Demographic Analysis of Texas, 1777-1793,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly LXXVII (January 1974), 322-338.
  3. [38]Tjarks, “Comparative Demographic Analaysis,” p. 294; de la Teja, San Antonio de Bexar, pp. 24-26, 28-29; Poyo, “Immigrants and Integration in Late Eighteenth-Century Bexar,” pp. 86-87.