Despite California’s status as the most populous US state, with a large percentage of its population comprised of Latinos, Texas bears many significant characteristics that make it a critical area of Latino Studies. Although four states share a border with Mexico, the Texas border is longer than the other three borders combined. Due to the sheer size of the area, policing the border has a long and troubled history in Texas, as the history of the Texas Rangers law enforcement agency reveals. Further, the geographical size of the Texas/Mexico border has resulted in an intriguing social milieu that comes from the union of the border culture of two nations. The Texas cities of Brownsville, McAllen, El Paso, Laredo, and Del Rio have sister cities that lie just beyond the border in Mexico—Matamoros, Reynosa, Juárez, Nuevo Laredo, and Ciudad Acuña, respectively. Also, the history of the state’s formation, the many groups and nations that have at one time or another claimed dominion of the Texas land, the violent battles between these competing groups, its status as a Spanish colony, its one-time position as part of a Mexican state, its independence as a republic for nearly a decade, and, finally, its annexation as an American state have all yielded unique social consequences that have impacted Latinos in Texas. Of all key events in Texas history, perhaps the most far-reaching development is what came to be known as the Texas Revolution, which wrested control of Texas from Mexico. The critical turn of this revolution occurred at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836, the Mexican siege that sought to quell the uprising once and for all. The plea to “Remember the Alamo!” resonates with Texas popular culture to this day and is a reminder of the state’s independent spirit. However, the anti-Mexican sentiment that was the result of the new Texas greatly impacted those citizens of Mexican descent who were already living in Texas before it broke free from Mexico. Consequently, much of Texas history has been an engagement with Latino history and culture, and scholars and artists alike have explored Latino identity in Texas from a variety of standpoints. The 20th century has seen Latinos in Texas push for civil rights, recover their lost or forgotten literary tradition and history, tell their own stories through literary narrative and poetry, critically examine their own literature and culture in university classrooms, and participate further in the important work of shaping conceptions of the Latino/a in the popular imagination.
Like California, Texas has long been at the center of any attempt at understanding Latino/a, and, specifically, Chicano/a identity. Its status, first as home to many native peoples, then as a Spanish colony, as a northern Mexican frontier, as a free republic, and finally as a US state (and at one time a state within the Confederacy), has yielded a rich and complex history. Acuña 1972 is a holistic declaration of the significant presence of Chicanos in American history writ large, and, necessarily, Texas history. Because of the shifting power structure throughout Texas history, scholarship has tended to take on the mission of recovering a lost or forgotten aspect of Latino/a culture in the region. Perales and Ramos 2010 is a prime example of a text that attempts to reset how Latinos resonate in Texas history. Other works, such as Montejano 1987, aim to make sense of the issues facing present-day Latinos in Texas by scrutinizing sociopolitical issues in the early years of Texas statehood. Orozco 2009 also concentrates on the historical, specifically the significant organization for Latino civil rights, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and casts it in the positive light of its own historical context. González 2009 situates the rise of Mexican American literature within Texas history and reveals how this tradition emerged from the prejudicial and racist treatment Latinos in Texas often endured. There has also been intense interest in the consequences of immigration in Texas as a result of its prominent border with four Mexican states, a border that runs more than 1,200 miles. Maril 2011 takes stock of the intricate relationship of the US/Mexico border and immigration and how that relationship impacts or is impacted by the heightened post-9/11 US national security. But perhaps the most notable of these texts is Paredes 1958, which elevated a ballad form of Mexican folksong to a subject of serious critical inquiry. As a result, the book cleared the way for more scholarly examinations of Latinos and their cultural production.
Acuña, Rodolfo. Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. New York: Pearson Longman, 1972.
A landmark reconsideration of Chicanos in US history. Acuña delineation of Chicano history creates a significant juxtaposition with mainstream American history in which Chicanos are often relegated to the margins. Currently in its seventh printing, Occupied America was one of many books proscribed by the Tucson Unified School District in Arizona from 2010 to 2013.
González, John Morán. Border Renaissance: The Texas Centennial and the Emergence of Mexican American Literature. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009.
González locates the Texas centennial as the locus for a crystallization of Mexican American identity that formed in response to racist vilification of “Meskins” in Texas. Offers intriguing readings of works by Jovita González, Américo Paredes, and Elena Zamora O’Shea.
Maril, Robert L. The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration Along the U.S.–Mexico Border. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2011.
Maril takes up one of the most contested issues and geographic sites in the United States—the national border that separates Mexico and the United States. Chronicles the struggles raised by the border from a variety of perspectives. Includes useful maps, images, and tables.
Montejano, David. Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1986. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987.
Surveying 150 years of Texas history, Montejano takes a sociological and historical approach to understanding the development of the politics of race and ethnicity along the Texas–Mexico border from the Battle of the Alamo to the present. Contains dozens of useful illustrations, maps, and tables.
Orozco, Cynthia E. No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009.
A significant work that examines the origins and development of the LULAC and its activist endeavors in its own historical context of the 1920s.
Paredes, Américo. With His Pistol in His Hand: A Border Ballad and Its Hero. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958.
Groundbreaking exploration of the Mexican folk hero Gregorio Cortez and the corrido ballads he inspired. Paredes investigates the corrido as a locus for understanding Texas border culture, folk music, and the mythopoesis of Cortez as a hero. One of a handful of books that demonstrates Chicano studies as a serious academic area of study.
Perales, Monica, and Raul A. Ramos, eds. Recovering the Hispanic History of Texas. Houston, TX: Arte Público, 2010.
An interdisciplinary collection that seeks to cast the history of Latinos in Texas in a new historical light. The various essays reinscribe elided Hispanic history within specific communities as well as written history itself. The book seeks to create a paradigm shift for how Texas history is viewed.
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- U.S. Mexican War, The
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