“Baptismal and census records list her variously as a ‘mestiza,’ ‘mulata,’ ‘loba,’ or ‘coyote,’ … Mariano was also one of those individuals who experienced gradual ‘whitening’ over time, early records recording his status as a ‘coyote’ or ‘mestizo,’ but later records referring to him as an ‘español.'” (Matovina and de la Teja)

Family

José Antonio Menchaca was a fourth-generation Tejano, the son of Juan Mariano Menchaca and María de la Luz Guerra. According to the parish baptismal register, Father Gavino Valdez baptized the eight-day-old José Antonio on 17 January 1800.[8] Although in the years before his death in 1879 he would claim descent from the wrong first settlers of San Antonio, he was nevertheless correct that his ancestors were among the town’s founders.

[5] It is a shame that Antonio apparently was unaware of his family’s colorful roots in his beloved San Antonio. Both of his maternal great-grandfathers were soldiers in the city’s earliest days. Antonio Guerra was one of the men Governor Martín de Alarcón recruited in Monclova for his 1718 expedition to found a settlement on the San Antonio River, and between 1718 and sometime in the 1740s Guerra served in the presidio company there. Whether he was married before or after he came to San Antonio is not clear, but he and his wife, Catarine Jiménez Menchaca, had at least four children during his enlistment. Having made his life in San Antonio, Guerra lived out his retirement among his children and grandchildren, passing away in the spring of 1759.[9]

Among Antonio and Catarina’s children was Antonio’s grandfather, José Joaquín Guerra, who was baptized in San Antonio on 19 February 1735 and buried there on 19 April 1790. Little is known of Joaquín, who for at least part of his adult life made a living as one of the civilian assistants at Mission San Antonio de Valero. On the few occasions that he appears in the town’s and mission’s sacramental records, he is listed as a “mestizo,” a “mulato,” or, as in his burial record, a “coyote.” Likewise, his wife, María Guadalupe de Ávila, who had at least twelve children with him between 1763 and 1781, is recorded as a “mestiza” or a “mulata” in the sacramental records. That the children of soldiers who appear in the records as españoles (Spaniards) were later identified as being of mixed blood is not surprising, for in the eastern frontier provinces of New Spain, there was a tendency to equate military service with pure Spanish blood.[10] The [6] magic that an officer could perform with a pen on behalf of his soldiers, improving their calidad (quality) to that of Spaniards, generally did not extend to their children after they moved out on their own or even to themselves following their retirement.[11]

Antonio’s grandmother, María Guadalupe de Ávila, was the daughter of Antonio’s other great-grandfather, Felipe de Ávila, who came from Saltillo, Mexico, and entered military service in San Antonio in 1722. An enlisted man, Ávila has the distinction of having been involved in a 1730 homicide that led to the oldest recorded criminal investigation in San Antonio’s history. According to the testimony, Ávila found his wife, Ildefonsa (or Aldonza) Rincón, naked in bed with Nicolás Pasqual, and there was an altercation during which Pasqual stabbed Ávila, who was saved by his brother-in-law and next-door neighbor, Sabatián Rincón. A few weeks later there was a second confrontation during which Ávila shot Pasqual dead. Found not guilty of murder, he was nevertheless ordered transferred to Presidio del Río Grande, and he then disappears from the record. His family remained in San Antonio, where his sons went on to serve in the presidio and acquire property and his daughter María Guadalupe married Joaquín Guerra.[12]

[7] Among the dozen children born to María Guadalupe Ávila and Joaquín Guerra between 1763 and 1785 was María de la Luz Guerra, Antonio’s mother. Luz’s marriage to Mariano Menchaca produced ten children, of whom Antonio was the sixth. Like the other children of early soldiers, Luz appears in the documents as being of mixed blood. Baptismal and census records list her variously as a “mestiza,” “mulata,” “loba,” or “coyote,” and all but the last two of her children are similarly identified in the baptismal registers as “mestizos,” “coyotes,” “lobos,” or “tresalvas.”[13] Sometime between 1820 and 1830 she became widowed, and, as Antonio relates, she lived into the 1840s.[14]

At the time of his death sometime in the 1820s, when he was in his mid-to late sixties, Antonio’s father, Mariano Menchaca, had achieved a measure of prosperity. Having opted not to follow his father into military service as other Bexareños (residents of the San Antonio de Béxar area) did in the last decades of Spanish rule, Mariano rounded up horses and cattle as opportunities arose and otherwise hired out for agricultural work. The last Spanish colonial census of San Antonio, taken in 1820, lists Mariano as a resident of the barrio del sur, that is, the town’s south ward, which extended south from what are today Dolorosa and Market Streets between San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River. It also indicates that he was a labrador, or landholding farmer. Taking Antonio at his word that the family was in San Antonio in 1813 when Joaquín Arredondo entered the city following the battle of Medina, Mariano appears to have been one of the many residents of the city who avoided becoming entangled in the bloody rebellion against Spanish rule. Mariano was also one of those individuals who experienced gradual “whitening” over time, early records recording his status as a “coyote” or “mestizo,” but later records referring to him as an “español.”[15]

Matovina and 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)., 4-7.

  1. [8]Entry 450, San Fernando Cathedral Baptisms, book 5, San Fernando Cathedral Archives, Archdiocese of San Antonio Chancery (hereafter SF followed by the type of register and book number).
  2. [9]Autos sobre diferentes noticias que se han participado a su Exa. de las entradas que en estos dominios hacen los franceses por la parte de Coahuila y providencias dadas para evitárselas y fundación de la misión en la provincia de los Texas, 1715, Provincias Internas, vol. 181, Archivo General de la Nación, Mexico City, Mexico (hereafter PI); Autos sobre las providencias dadas por su ex., al gobernador de la provincia de Texas para la pacificación de los Indios Apaches y sus aliados, 1731, PI vol. 32; Autos a consulta de dn. Thoribio de Urrutia Capn. del Presidio de Sn. Antonio de Vejar en la Provincia de Texas, sobre aumento de soldados, y otras providencias que pide, para contener los insultos que hacen los Indios Apaches; sobre que también instó D. Joseph de Urrutia su Pe. difunto, PI vol. 32; Testamentary Proceedings for Joseph Urrutia, Bexar, 27 February 1741, Bexar Archives, Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (hereafter these archives are cited as BA); entry 89, SF Marriages, book 4a; entry 224, SF Burials, book 4b.
  3. [10]Unnumbered entry for 19 February 1735, entries 73, 135, 209, 287, 385, 497, 653, 790, 1042, 1274, 1368, 1550, SF Baptisms, book 4;
    entry 1368, SF Burials, book 10; criminal case against Roque, Anselmo, Francisco, and Mateo, Indians of Mission Valero, for the murder of Miguel Leal, 11 August 1778, BA. In northeastern New Spain, including Texas, mestizo and coyote were interchangeable terms denoting an individual of mixed Spanish-Indian blood. Elsewhere in New Spain, the term coyote denoted someone of mestizo-Indian parentage. A mulato was the offspring of a Spanish-black union. The label español was itself often compounded with the adjectives americano for individuals born in the New World and europeo for those born in Europe. Moreover, one need not be from Spain to be an español, as the term was commonly applied to anyone of European blood.
  4. [11]On the role of race in frontier military society, see Jesús F. de la Teja, “Why Urbano and María Trinidad Can’t Get Married: Social Relations in Late Colonial San Antonio.” See also De la Teja, San Antonio de Béxar: A Community on New Spain’s Northern Frontier, 24-28.
  5. [12]Autos a consulta hecha del Pe. Fr. Joseph González, Misionero del Presidio de San Antonio Balero Contra el Capitán Don Nicolás Flores por los motivos que expresa, PI vol. 32; Causa criminal hecha pr. muerte de Nicolás Pasqual contra Felipe de Ávila, Trinidad, 12 April 1730, PI vol. 32; Donación de un solar a Aldonza Rincón y otro a Blas de Ávila, 29 July 1765, Land Grants, Spanish Archives, Bexar County Clerk’s Office, San Antonio, microfilm roll 64 (hereafter BCSA); Donación de un solar a Juan Bautista de Ávila, 22 March 1774, BCSA Land Grants, microfilm roll 64; Census list of Villa, 31 December 1792, Nacogdoches Archives Transcripts, Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (hereafter these transcripts are cited as NAT); Blas de Ávila, vecino del presidio de S. Antonio de Béxar, sobre haberle quitado por el gobernador un pedazo de tierra para mercenarla al cura. Año de 1778, Archivo de Gobierno, Saltillo Legajo 5 expediente 303, in Spanish Materials from Various Sources, vol. 840, no. 4, Briscoe Center for American History,
    University of Texas at Austin; Padrón de las familias y almas que hay en esta Villa de San Fernando de Austria [sic], fecho en 31 December 1796, BA.
  6. [13]A lobo was an individual of Indian and mulatto parentage, while the meaning of the word tresalva is lost.
  7. [14]Entries 73, 135, 209, 287, 385, 497, 653, 790, 1042, 1274, 1425, 1542, 1677, SF Baptisms, book 4, and entries 55, 227, 310, 450, 585, 731, 830, 995, SF Baptisms, book 5; Pardón general, Béxar año de 1790, BA; Padrón de las almas que existen, 31 December 1792, NAT; Padrón de las almas que hay en esta villa, 31 December 1793, BA.
  8. [15]Cuaderno en que se sientan las partidas de el derecho que pagan los que cogen reses orejanas y caballerías mesteñas correspondientes al predicho año. 31 December 1784, BA; Cuaderno en que se sientan las partidas de el dro. que pagan los que cogen reses orejanas y cabellerís mesteñas en el discurso de el predicho año. 31 December 1793, BA; Census, barrio del sur, 1820, BA.

“a shout for death and a war without quarter on the gachupines” (Navarro)

Whoever knows, or who can formulate, a rough idea of the type of men of that epoch, can comprehend the extreme depth of ignorance and ferocious passions of the men of those times. Whoever is informed will understand that among the Mexicans of that time, with some exceptions, there was no clear political sentiment. They did not know the importance of the words “independence and liberty” and they did not understand the reasons for the rebellion of the priest Hidalgo as other than a shout for death and a war without quarter on the gachupines, as the Spaniards were called. Thus one will readily concede and agree, as Bernardo Gutiérrez has admitted in his own way, that the band of so-called patriots “killed those fourteen victims.” But his excuse is very weak, very cowardly, and unworthy of a general who neither would nor could avoid such a scandal, much less relinquish his command upon seeing his cause blackened by a more monstrous action than could be perpetrated by a vandal chieftain.

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), 50.

The priest Hidalgo gave the shout at midnight on the sixteenth of September–even a delay of two hours probably would have seen him a prisoner on the way to Mexico, with all hope of independence dashed.

¡Viva Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe; and mueran los Gachupines![56] This was the first invocation that occurred to him in those portentous moments. Upon such fragile auspices a revolution of fruitful results was born that has raised a federal republic that is a member of the family of nations.

Let those who judge these anomalies with astonishment pause and contemplate the times and the capacities of the people there. Let them put themselves in the place of the patriot Hidalgo, already denounced as a traitor before the implacable despot, the Viceroy of Mexico.[57] Imagine being in a pressing situation without the slightest plan of operation, without money, arms, or troops, having no more than a few hundred Indians from his own village. Neither the rigorous mind of a Washington nor the iron will of a Napoleon I could have led these chaotic, backward masses to so great an enterprise without motivating them by means of vengeance and [66] superstition, just as this illustrious and unfortunate patriot was compelled to do.

The plunder and slaughter, a necessary consequence, began at that point. But how powerful are the instincts of a people who fight for a just cause! The Mexicans, in the midst of those inevitable disorders, triumphed everywhere by the end of 1810.

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), 65-66.

This memorable day of January 22, 1811, was the first occasion in which the Mexicans of San Antonio de Béxar announced their desire to break forever the chains of their ancient colonial slavery.

This was the day in which they no longer attempted to restrain the trembling, guttural voice that pervades the long and servile life, and they were able to speak out loudly to those who had been the absolute masters of the Mexicans. But the sudden transformation of that day, in which the slaves were elevated to masters and the arbiters of their oppressors and masters of yesterday, generated a bitter vanguard directed against those called gachupines.

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), 68.

 

  1. [56]Long live our lady of Guadalupe and death to the Spaniards! Gachupín was a derogatory word for Spaniards. Derived from the Nahuatl word, cacchopini (cactus thorn), used by Aztec Native Americans with clear symbolism to characterize Spaniards by their large, conspicuous spurs. José María Santamaría, Diccionario de Mexicanismos (Méjico: Editorial Porrua, S.A. Av. Rep. Argentina, 15, segunda ediciôn, 1974), 541.
  2. [57]Francisco Javier Venegas, viceroy of Mexico 1810-1813. Venegas was described as a military man of action and few words who was bloody, cruel, and calculating. Assuming the viceregal office two days after Hidalgo proclaimed Mexican independence, Venegas undertook measures that led to the capture of the insurgent leadership, which he believed had crushed the rebellion. Manuel Garcia Puron, Mexico y sus Governantes, (México: Libreria de Manuel Porrua, S.A., tercer edición, 1964), 146-47.

“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.