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Tejano Legacy

Rancheros and Settlers in South Texas, 1734-1900

Armando Alonzo

Publication Year: 1998

This is a pathbreaking study of Tejano ranchers and settlers in the Lower Río Grande Valley from their colonial roots to 1900. The first book to delineate and assess the complexity of Mexican-Anglo interaction in south Texas, it also shows how Tejanos continued to play a leading role in the commercialization of ranching after 1848 and how they maintained a sense of community. Despite shifts in jurisdiction, the tradition of Tejano land holding acted as a stabilizing element and formed an important part of Tejano history and identity. The earliest settlers arrived in the 1730s and established numerous ranchos and six towns along the river. Through a careful study of land and tax records, brands and bills of sale of livestock, wills, population and agricultural censuses, and oral histories, Alonzo shows how Tejanos adapted to change and maintained control of their ranchos through the 1880s, when Anglo encroachment and changing social and economic conditions eroded most of the community's land base.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-14

There is a continuing legacy for the Tejano—the descendants of the Spanish and Mexican settlers—of the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas: deep historical roots, town and rural traditions, and an enduring culture and identity. For generations of settlers, adaptation to a harsh environment and adjustment to a changing society became the cornerstone of their existence. Beginning with the...

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1. Spaniards, Indians, and the Inhospitable Seno Mexicano

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pp. 15-24

The Spanish conquest of much of present-day Mexico was a dynamic process that proceeded with varying speeds and in various directions, continuing for generations and reaching particular regions at different times and sometimes because of different motives. After the conquest of the Aztec empire in 1521, small Spanish armies rapidly pushed across much of Middle America, defeating...

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2. Hacia la Frontera: The Origins of Spanish and Mexican Society in Present-Day South Texas, 1730s-1848

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pp. 25-66

The Spanish bureaucracy in New Spain considered a number of proposals before deliberately choosing a colonizer for the conquest and settlement of the Seno Mexicano. The first two proposals for the conquest of the Seno Mexicano were made in 1736: one by Narciso Barquin de Montecuesta, former corregidor, or municipal officer, of Santiago de los Valles near Tampico, who proposed...

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3. Early Economic Life in the Lower Río Grande Frontier, 1730s-1848

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pp. 67-94

While the settlement of an exposed frontier and the Christianization of Indians were lofty goals of Spain's imperial policy in the Seno Mexicano, the success of the enterprise was significantly dependent on the ability of the settlers to make a decent life for themselves. Historians long have had an interest in the economic history of the colony, and especially in the Lower Rio...

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4. The Making of a Tejano Homeland in South Texas, 1848-1900 Population Growth, Adaptation, and Conflict

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pp. 95-144

Ever since the appearance of the so-called Mexican problem in the American Southwest during the 19205, both native and foreign-born Mexicans in the United States have been the subject of considerable study by social scientists. Much of their focus has centered on the group's social customs, family organization, and its assimilation into American life. The older literature depicted...

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5. Losing Ground: Anglo Challenges to Mexican Landholders and Land Grant Adjudication in South Texas, 1846-1900

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pp. 145-160

It is impossible to fully understand the anxiety that weighed heavily on Mexican landholders whose lands and other material possessions remained on the north side of the Rio Grande during the war with Mexico and the immediate postwar years. Still, it was certain that this difficult period would bring about Mexican-Anglo confrontation because the newly annexed lands offered few...

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6. A Case Study of Tejano Land Tenure in Hidalgo County, Texas, 1848–1900

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pp. 161-182

As noted above, land-grant adjudication by the state of Texas resulted in the confirmation of the vast majority of mejicano claims to Spanish and Mexican land grants. Once this had occurred, newcomers from the United States, Mexico, and Europe pressed their efforts to gain land from the original grantees and their descendants because prior to confirmation it had been too risky...

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7. Recovery and Expansion of Tejano Ranching in South Texas, 1845–1885 The Good Years

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pp. 183-226

Even before the war with Mexico, United States economic penetration had been felt in some areas of northern Mexico, including coastal California, northern New Mexico, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Tamaulipas. The presence of a small but influential group of Anglo-American and European merchants and artisans at Matamoros since 1820 was a portent of future events...

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8. The Decline of Tejano Ranching: Its Social and Economic Bases, 1885–1900

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pp. 227-258

Whereas the 18705 and early i88os were good years for Mexican as well as Anglo ranchers throughout south Texas, by the mid-i88os declining prices in the marketplace and other problems began to adversely affect Tejano rancheros. As the new century approached, the ranching economy remained largely stagnant, and new changes were in the offing as the movement to convert the...

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9. Tejano Rancheros and Hispanic Landholding in the Southwest, 1848–1900

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pp. 259-270

Most historians, such as David R Weber and Rodolfo Acuna, agree that the crucible of Mexican American history is the period from 1848 to 1900, when the old settlers, the Mexicans, and the new arrivals from Europe and the United States forged significant relationships that shaped the society and economy of the region. With land as the basis of wealth for most of the settlers...

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pp. 271-284

Over a period of 150 years (from the 17305 to 1900), the settlers in the Lower Valley proved to be hardy, resilient, and adaptable to changing circumstances, qualities that helped most of them adjust to a variety of changes. A difficult climate, nomadic Indians, shifts in the marketplace, changes in sovereignty, and conflict with Anglos did not dent the spirit of a people who for generations...

Appendix 1. Definition of Terms

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pp. 285-286

Appendix 2. A Note on Sources

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pp. 287-290

Appendix 3. Livestock Transactions Recorded in Hidalgo County, 1874–1899

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pp. 291-296

Appendix 4. Livestock Transactions in Webb County, Texas, 1876–1890

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pp. 297-300


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pp. 301-346


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pp. 347-357

E-ISBN-13: 9780826328502
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826318978

Page Count: 376
Publication Year: 1998