Hispanic Americans of Texas

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This entry was originally written by Wendy Bebout Elliott, Ph.D. FUGA for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
the Texas Family History Research series.
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There were two distinct Spanish colonies in present-day Texas during the early stage of the area’s settlement. Although discouraged by Apache and Comanche, the Tejas colony was founded with a mission in 1690; it was located along the Nueces River and then north and east, near present-day Crockett. The other colony was that of Nuevo Santander in the Rio Grande Valley. Twenty-four settlements were established between 1749 and 1755.

Mexican population increased slowly in the state. In the early 1800s the Tejas population was less than 5,000, concentrated near San Antonio, Goliad, and Nacogdoches. In 1835, the population of the Nuevo Santander settlements had increased to 15,000. After statehood Latinos in Texas faced difficulties such as property rights, justice in the American court system, and differences in religion, language, and custom. The 1850 federal census shows that Latinos represented only five percent of the state’s population.

During the Civil War, approximately 3,000 Tejanos enlisted in the Confederate Army, but many deserted. Other Tejanos joined the Union Army. The state’s constitutional convention of 1868 authorized bounty-land grants for Union service: eight acres for six months service and 320 acres for service of one year or longer. Many Latinos who served for the Union became U.S. citizens during Reconstruction.

During the 1920s there were waves of migration from Mexico into Texas and other southwestern states. In 1960 Latinos numbered 1,448,900 in Texas, the highest concentrations in three counties: Hidalgo, Bexar, and El Paso. In recent history there has been an urban trend, with large numbers leaving rural occupations and moving into cities. Suggested background references include the following:

  • Barker, Eugene, “Land Speculation as a Cause of the Texas Revolution,” Texas Historical Association Quarterly (1906): 76-95.
  • Barrera, Mario. Race and Class in the Southwest: A Theory of Racial Inequality. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979.
  • Briggs, Vernon, Walter Fogel, and Fred Schmidt. A Statistical Profile of the Spanish-Surname Population of Texas. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas, Bureau of Business Research, 1964.
  • Cardenas, Gilberto. “Mexican Migration.” Paper presented at Conference on Demographic Study of the Mexican American Population. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas, 17–19 May 1973.
  • Connell, Earl. The Mexican Population of Austin, Texas. San Francisco: R & E Research Association, 1971. Reprint of a thesis, University of Texas, 1925.
  • Hardman, Max. “The Mexican Immigrant in Texas,” Southwestern Political and Social Science Quarterly (June 1926): 33-41.
  • Hufford, Charles. The Social and Economic Effects of the Mexican Migration into Texas. San Francisco: R & E Research Association, 1971. Reprint of a thesis, 1929.
  • Kibbe, Pauline. Latin Americans in Texas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1946.
  • Kielman, Chester V. Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the Bexar Archives, 1717–1803. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Archives Microfilm Division, 1967.
  • Menefee, Selden. Mexican Migratory Workers of Southern Texas. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1941.
  • Moquin, Wayne, and Charles Van Doren, eds. A Documentary History of the Mexican Americans. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971.
  • Nance, Joseph. After San Jacinto: The Texas-Mexican Frontier, 1936–1841. Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1963.
  • O’Rourke, Thomas P. The Franciscan Missions in Texas, 1690–1793. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1927.
  • Perrigo, Lynn. Texas and Our Spanish Southwest. Dallas: Banks Upshaw, 1960.
  • Rosenbaum, Robert J. Mexicano Resistance in the Southwest: “The Sacred Right of Self-Preservation.” Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 1981.
  • Thompson, Jerry. Vaqueros in Blue and Gray. Austin, Tex.: Presidial Press, 1976.
  • Weber, David J. The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: The American Southwest Under Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.
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