Message #12:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Tejanos in Texas
Date: Fri, 03 Jan 1997 23:03:36 -0700
Encoding: MIME-Version: 1.0

The history of the State of Texas cannot be sufficiently appreciated
without acknowledging contributions made by people of Mexican descent.
Today, Mexican-Americans are a natural part of the Texas cultural
landscape and their numbers and importance will increase in
the years to come. Sadly enough, Mexican-Americans today know little
about Tejano history. The public schools today continue to largely
ignore or minimize this history. Consequently, Chicano youth grow up
learning little about their cultural history and find it virtually
impossible to identify Tejanos and important events that helped shape
the status of Mexican people in this part of the country.

The earliest permanent Spanish-speaking settlements in Texas were Ysleta
and Socorro which now form part of El Paso. As early as 1598,
Juan Onate explored the region and claimed it for Spain. This area was
on the Spanish explorers' northern route from Mexico City to the
Spanish colonies in New Mexico. El Paso del Norte, or the northern
passage, was strategic for Spanish explorers as they came through the
Sierra Madre Mountain range.

In 1691, a mission settlement was established by San Domingo Terande de
los Rios and Father Damian Massanet in the Native American
village of Yanaguana. Today, it is called San Antonio, Texas, and the
mission is considered to be one of the most significant historical
sites in the United States. Most people in Texas recognize San Antonio
as the place where the famous Battle of the Alamo took place. Public
schools today continue to erroneously teach that God-fearing Texans
fought for freedom and independence there. It is interesting to note
that very few individuals who fought against the Mexican army at the
Alamo were actually from Texas. In fact, only a small number of
Mexican-Texans such as Juan Seguin were born in Texas. Others came from
places such as New York, Georgia and Tennessee. Other Alamo defenders
came from other countries such as Ireland. Mexican-American historians
such as Arnoldo De Leon and Rudolfo Acu█a accurately describe the fact
that Texans were not fighting for liberty and democracy. The truth is
that non-Texan (Anglos) were abusing their privileges in Texas and were
fighting to keep slavery a viable institution.

After Texas gained her independence, individuals like Juan Seguin, who
escaped the Alamo to get reinforcements, and Jose Antonio Navarro
were chastised by the growing Anglo population whose anti-Mexican
sentiments could not be contained. Seguin became the first mayor of
San Antonio during the early days of the Republic of Texas. Seguin and
his family were harassed by the Anglos to such a degree that they
were forced to leave. Jose Antonio Navarro also faced an increasingly
hostile Anglo society in spite of the fact that he was one of the
soldiers who fought for Texas independence. Seguin's son, Angel,
attended Harvard University where he studied law and became a practicing
attorney. Angel Navarro thus became the first Mexicano from Texas to
attend the prestigious institution of higher learning. Lorenzo de
Zavala, who was also a veteran of Texas' fight for independence, became
the first vice-president of the Republic of Texas. Today, numerous pubic
schools throughout Texas are named after these early Tejanos. 

The settlement by Spanish-Mexicans of Texas' Rio Grande Valley and most
of the region toward San Antonio and as far east as Goliad can
be credited to successful colonizing efforts of Jose de Escandon. In
1749, the first mass migration of non-indigenous people occurred in
Texas. This occurred many years before Moses and Stephen F. Austin
initiated their own colonies in and around the St. Banard River around
Houston and Brazoria County. Among other places, Escandon's colonization
efforts were instrumental in the establishment of towns such as
Laredo, Mier, Camargo and Guerrero along the Rio Grande River.

Today, the Rio Grande Valley is considered to be one of the most
important cultural meccas for Mexican people in the United States. Much
of Mexican folklore in Texas and in states located in the Northeast and
Midwest, where migrants from the valley settled, can be linked to the
Mexican heritage of the Rio Grande Valley. Knowledge of medicinal
plants, folktales, the use of home altars, Spanish language, Mexican
culinary traditions, music, art, dance and belief in a strong family
unit are part of the legacy linked to the communities left behind by
Jose de Escandon.

These folkways have diminished over the years but are very much alive
within many communities in the valley. The corrido, or Mexican folk
ballad, was transmitted to other parts of the United States through Rio
Grande Valley communities. The numerous corridos written in homage
to the late Selena Quintanilla-Perez are a good example of a valley
tradition living on in Tejano communities throughout the United States.
The noted Chicano musicologist, Jesus "Chuy" Negrete, who resides in
Chicago, Ill., wrote four versions of such a corrido and has
performed them throughout the Midwest.

In Texas, Tejano corridos were the common people's means of documenting
history and telling the tales of important and significant events in the
Chicano community. The corrido de Jacinto Trevino (Rio Grande Valley)
and the corrido de Gregorio Cortez (San Antonio area) both
written in the early 20th century, describe the oppression imposed upon
the Mexican community in Texas. More importantly, they describe
how the community united and fought against such oppression. During the
late 19th century and the early 20th century, many Mexican- Americans
were lynched by Anglo vigilante groups. Law enforcement groups such as
the Texas Rangers were also known to inflict brutality upon the Mexican

Texas conjunto, or musica regional, is a rich and popular genre of music
that incorporates the polka as its basic dance rhythm. South Texas is
the heart of conjunto and has nurtured numerous individuals famous for
their playing abilities. The three-row button accordion is the
traditional instrument in the Texas conjunto bands. Dr. Manuel Pena,
Professor of Folklore at the University of Texas, states that
conjunto music evolved from northern Monterrey, Mexico. The accordion
was introduced in Mexico by German immigrants to northern Mexico during
the latter part of the 19th century. The accordion was quickly adapted
by Mexicanos due to several factors. The accordion could be
played alone and still provide sufficient music for dancing; be
purchased rather cheaply along the border and be transported from place
place with little trouble.

Early Tejano conjunto accordion players such as Bruno Lopez and Valerio
Longoria pioneered the way for others as the music evolved into a
symbol of the Mexican-American working class. Other noted accordionists
such as Tony De La Rosa from Alice, Texas, and Santiago Jimenez
and Fred Zimmerle from San Antonio, have contributed much to the social
life of Tejanos. [In the] fall [of 1996], PBS television...present ed a
film about the origins and evolution of conjunto music called Songs of
the Homeland. Conjunto music has gained in popularity over the last 15
years. This growth is due in part to the Chicano Movement of the
1960's-70's that legitimized conjunto as a form of music. The growth of
the Mexican-American community as a consumer market has also been a
factor as radio stations compete for advertisers' dollars.

Internationally acclaimed Chicana artist, Carmen Lomas Garza, basically
uses Tejano community and family-life scenes in her colorful
paintings. The quinceaneras, bodas, salones de baile and tamaladas
represent powerful icons from the valley. She also uses South Texas
experiences that would include larger metropolitan centers such as
Houston and Dallas. Her paintings appear in her book which is used by
elementary school teachers throughout the country. The book conveys the
importance of Chicano society to the students. Originally from
South Texas, Lomas Garza currently lives in San Francisco, Calif., where
she continues to use Tejano community scenes in her work.

On a wall of the old Continental Can Company in Houston's Central Park
barrio, nestled between Segundo Barrio and Magnolia Park, is a 20
ft. by 40 ft. deteriorating mural called Rebirth of our Nationality. The
mural was painted by a collective of Chicana and Chicano artists
in 1973. One of the lead muralists, Leo Tanguma, explained the mural
represents the historical struggle of the Mexican people. The mural
depicts the Mexican Revolution, the struggle for political
representation and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that was signed on
February 2, 1848.

Issues of the Chicano Movement of the 1960's-70's, such as the right to
bilingual education, La Raza Unida Party, prison reform and an
unfair judicial system, are clearly represented in the artwork.
Ironically, the neighborhoods around the mural's location continue to
suffer from underemployment, substandard housing and an inferior
educational system.

In spite of an array of gang writings on the walls all around the mural,
no one has ever defaced the mural itself. It seems the entire
community respects the mural. Its symbols and images represent the
people in the community in their struggles for equality and justice and
their fight against oppression. Currently, the Mexican-American Studies
Program at the University of Houston is studying the feasibility of
renovating the aging mural. Some of the artists involved in the mural's
creation, such as Joe Rodriguez, Mary Ann Escalante Garcia, A. Davila
and Leo Tanguma, have given their consent to the renovation.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is hardly ever discussed in any
significant detail in public schools. Yet, it is important to Mexican-
Americans as it formally ended the war between the United States and
Mexico (1846-1848). Moreover, it provided for the incorporation of the
Mexican people, living in what was Mexican territory, as U.S. citizens.

The treaty stated Mexican citizens who lived in the territory would have
their property respected and that they would have all the rights
of United States citizens. History has shown us the treaty was violated
almost immediately after it was signed. Mexican-Americans had their land
stolen. For example, the Texas cattle industry was controlled by Anglos.
The King Ranch near Kingsville is the best example of
land-robbing cattle barons in the United States. Even though a Supreme
Court decision ruled the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo did not
include Texas, the Mexican-American War set the tone for the future
subjugation of Mexican-Americans in Texas.

Tejanos have a long history of fighting for their rights. One of the
founders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC),
Alonso Perales, spoke widely against prevalent discrimination against
Mexican-Americans. Perales, born in 1898 in Alice, Texas, studied law at
the National University in Washington, D.C., where he received his
degree in 1925. Perales was largely responsible for having Mexicans
categorized as "whites" by the U.S. Census Bureau in the 1930's. Perales
felt this accomplishment would allow Chicanos to enter
segregated facilities such as restaurants, movie theaters, schools, etc.
that were designated for "whites only." Perales wrote the book, En
Defensa de Mi Raza, in 1937. The book was published by a San Antonio
firm, Artes Graficas Press. Later, in the 1950's, he wrote a book called
Are We Good Neighbors? Both books outlined the widespread discrimination
against Chicanos throughout Texas and called for the elimination of
racism in housing, education and employment.

One of the most famous labor strikes in Texas was the Pecan Sheller's
Strike in the late 1930's organized by a very young Chicana, Emma
Tenayuca. The strike took place in San Antonio during the Great
Depression. Whole families from San Antonio's west side shelled pecans,
by hand, in small factories or in their homes. In the late 1930's, the
employers lowered the salary of the Mexican-American workers who
were feeling the brunt of the Depression. Tenayuca was only 19 years old
when she spoke out against the abuses of the pecan industry's bosses.
Tenayuca's efforts were instrumental in getting the Congress of
Industrial Organizations (CIO) to begin organizing the labor movement in
San Antonio.

Tenayuca was arrested and jailed on several occasions simply for
speaking out against the pecan company which had the mayor and city
council's support. Shortly thereafter, a vigilante group of Anglos
almost lynched Tenayuca while she was speaking at a pro-union rally
in downtown San Antonio. She was forced to leave town and moved to
California where she lived for many years before returning to San
Antonio. Tenayuca is an excellent example of Chicana activists that
worked for the benefit of the Mexican-American community.

Tenayuca's mother, whose maiden name was Cepeda, was a relative of the
first Spanish-speaking settlers that colonized San Antonio. Her
father was an American-Indian from South Texas. Their last name,
Tenayuca, is a Native-American name. Emma Tenayuca was a fighter for
the working class Mexican people. She had been a member of the Workers
Alliance which promoted unionism in Texas. After leaving San
Antonio, she attended San Francisco College where she graduated magna
cum laude.

Texas-Mexican history is filled with rich and exciting experiences.
Brave women and men lived hard and difficult lives in order to
provide for their families. The leaders from the Mexican community came
from all political persuasions and class backgrounds. Although their
tactics and strategies were different in the various regions of Texas,
they demonstrated they were not passive and reluctant people. Today the
presence of Mexicans in Texas is more prevalent than it has ever been.
The Spanish language is increasing rather than dying out. More and more
radio stations play Tejano music. More and more schools and
neighborhoods have a Latino population majority.

The future of Mexican-Americans in Texas will not be decided only on
mere numbers but on their ability to organize effectively and
understand of how economics, politics and culture interact in today's
world. Mexican-Americans must question the value system of the
dominant culture in society at all levels and critically assess what is
important if they are to prosper and evolve for the betterment of
all members of La Raza. Emma Tenayuca believed in the improvement of the
entire group, not just a few individuals from our community. We
should not forget.  

Tejanos in Texas
By Lorenzo Cano