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Fronteras Series, sponsored by Texas A&M International University

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Fronteras Series, sponsored by Texas A&M International University

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Claiming Citizenship

Mexican Americans in Victoria, Texas

By Anthony Quiroz

Claiming Citizenship spotlights a community where Mexican Americans, regardless of social class, embraced a common ideology and worked for access to the full rights of citizenship without confrontation or radicalization. Victoria, Texas, is a small city with a sizable Mexican-descent population dating to the period before the U.S. annexation of the state. There, a complex and nuanced story of ethnic politics unfolded in the middle of the twentieth century. Focusing on grassroots, author Anthony Quiroz shows how the experience of the Mexican American citizens of Victoria, who worked within the system, challenges common assumptions about the power of class to inform ideology and demonstrates that embracing ethnic identity does not always mean rejecting Americanism. Quiroz identifies Victoria as a community in which Mexican Americans did not engage in overt resistance, labor organization, demonstrations, or the rejection of capitalism, democracy, or Anglo culture and society. Victoria's Mexican Americans struggled for equal citizenship as the "loyal opposition," opposing exclusionary practices while embracing many of the values and practices of the dominant society. Various individuals and groups worked, beginning in the 1940s, to bring about integrated schools, better political representation, and a professional class of Mexican Americans whose respectability would help advance the cause of Mexican equality. Their quest for public legitimacy was undertaken within a framework of a bicultural identity that was adaptable to the private, Mexican world of home, church, neighborhood, and family, as well as to the public world of school, work, and politics. Coexistence with Anglo American society and sharing the American dream constituted the desired ideal. Quiroz's study makes a major contribution to our understanding of the Mexican American experience by focusing on groups who chose a more subtle, less confrontational path toward equality. Perhaps, indeed, he describes the more common experience of this ethnic population in twentieth-century America.

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Cortina

Defending the Mexican Name in Texas

By Jerry Thompson

At a time when the U.S.-Mexican border was still not clearly defined and when the doctrine of Manifest Destiny and land hunger impelled the Anglo presence ever deeper and more intrusively into South Texas, Juan Nepomucino Cortina cut a violent swath across the region in a conflict that came to be known as The Cortina War. Did this border caudillo fight to defend the rights, honor, and legal claims of the Mexicans of South Texas, as he claimed? Or was his a quest for personal vengeance against the newcomers who had married into his family, threatened his mother’s land holdings, and insulted his honor? Historian Jerry Thompson mines the archival record and considers it in light of recent revisionist history of the region. As a result, he produces not only a carefully nuanced work on Cortina—the most comprehensive to date for this pivotal borderlands figure—but also a balanced interpretation of the violence that racked South Texas from the 1840s through the 1860s. Cortina’s influence in the region made him a force to be reckoned with during the American Civil War. He influenced Mexican politics from the 1840s to the 1870s and fought in the Mexican Army for more than forty-five years. His daring cross-border cattle raids, carried out for more than two decades, made his exploits the stuff of sensational journalism in the newspapers of New York, Boston, and other American cities. By the time of his imprisonment in 1877, Cortina and his followers had so roiled South Texas that Anglo reprisals were being taken against Mexicans and Tejanos throughout the region, ironically worsening the racism that had infuriated Cortina in the beginning. The effects of this troubled period continue to resonate in Anglo-Mexican and Anglo-Tejano relations, down to this very day. Students of regional and borderlands history will find this premier biography to be a rich source of new perspectives. Its transnational focus and balanced approach will reward scholarly and general readers alike.

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Farm Workers and the Churches

The Movement in California and Texas

By Alan J. Watt

In the mid-1960s, the charismatic César Chávez led members of California's La Causa movement in boycotting the grape harvest, and melon pickers in South Texas called a strike against growers, contesting unfair labor and wage practices in both states. In Farm Workers and the Churches, Alan J. Watt shows how the religious and social contexts of the farm workers, their leaders, and the larger society helped or hindered these two pivotal actions. Watt explores the ways in which liberal expressions of Northern Protestantism, transplanted to California and combined with the pro-labor wing of the Catholic Church and the heritage of Mexican popular piety, provided a fertile field for the growth of broad support for Chávez and his organizing efforts. Eventually, La Causa was able to achieve collective bargaining victories, including a historic labor contract between California agribusiness and farm workers. The movement did not fare as well in Texas, where the combination of a locally weak union leadership, a more conservative Southern Protestant ethos, and the strikebreaking measures of the Texas Rangers all boded ill. However, a general Chicano/a movement ultimately took permanent root in the state, because of the workers' struggle. Watt offers a careful examination of the complex interactions among religious traditions, social heritage, and ethnicity as these factors affected the course and outcomes of these two pioneering campaigns undertaken by La Causa.

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Lost Architecture of the Rio Grande Borderlands

By W. Eugene George; Foreword by Ricardo Paz Treviño

Mexican settlers first came to the valley of the Rio Grande to establish their ranchos in the 1750s. Two centuries later the Great River, dammed in an international effort by the U.S. and Mexican governments to provide flood control and a more dependable water supply, inundated twelve settlements that had been built there. Under the waters of the new Falcón Reservoir lay homes, businesses, churches, and cemeteries abandoned by residents on both sides of the river when the floods of 1953 filled the 115,000-acre area two years ahead of schedule. The Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, and the University of Texas at Austin conducted an initial survey of the communities lost to the Falcón Reservoir, but these studies were never completed or fully reported. When architect W. Eugene George came to the area in the 1960s, he found a way of life waiting to be preserved in words, photographs, and drawings. Two subsequent recessions of the reservoir—in 1983–86 and again in 1996–98—gave George new access to one of the settlements, Guerrero Viejo in Mexico. Unfortunately, the receding lake waters also made the village accessible to looters. George’s work, then, was crucial in documenting the indigenous architecture of these villages, both as it existed prior to the flooding and as it remained before it was despoiled by vandals’ hands. Lost Architecture of the Rio Grande Borderlands combines George’s original 1975 Texas Historical Commission report with the information he gleaned during the two low-water periods. This handsome, extended photographic essay casts new light on the architecture and lives of the people of the Texas-Mexico borderlands.

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LULAC, Mexican Americans, and National Policy

By Craig A. Kaplowitz

Through the dedicated intervention of LULAC and other Mexican American activist groups, the understanding of civil rights in America was vastly expanded in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mexican Americans gained federal remedies for discrimination based not simply on racial but also on cultural and linguistic disadvantages. Generally considered one of the more conservative ethnic political organizations, LULAC had traditionally espoused nonconfrontational tactics and had insisted on the identification of Mexican Americans as “white.” But by 1966, the changing civil rights environment, new federal policies that protected minority groups, and rising militancy among Mexican American youth led LULAC to seek federal protections for Mexican Americans as a distinct minority. In that year, LULAC joined other Mexican American groups in staging a walkout during meetings with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Albuquerque. In this book, Craig A. Kaplowitz draws on primary sources, at both national and local levels, to understand the federal policy arena in which the identity issues and power politics of LULAC were played out. At the national level, he focuses on presidential policies and politics, since civil rights has been preeminently a presidential issue. He also examines the internal tensions between LULAC members’ ethnic allegiances and their identity as American citizens, which led to LULAC’s attempt to be identified as white while, paradoxically, claiming policy benefits from the fact that Mexican Americans were treated as if they were non-white. This compelling study offers an important bridge between the history of social movements and the history of policy development. It also provides new insight into an important group on America’s multicultural stage.

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Tío Cowboy

Juan Salinas, Rodeo Roper and Horseman

By Ricardo D. Palacios

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Tejanos in Gray

Civil War Letters of Captains Joseph Rafael de la Garza and Manuel Yturri

Edited by Jerry Thompson; Translations by José Roberto Juárez

Mexican Texans, fighting for the Confederate cause, in their own words . . .  The Civil War is often conceived in simplistic, black and white terms: whites from the North and South fighting over states’ rights, usually centered on the issue of black slavery. But, as Jerry Thompson shows in Tejanos in Gray, motivations for allegiance to the South were often more complex than traditional interpretations have indicated. Gathered for the first time in this book, the forty-one letters and letter fragments written by two Mexican Texans, Captains Manuel Yturri and Joseph Rafael de la Garza, reveal the intricate and intertwined relationships that characterized the lives of Texan citizens of Mexican descent in the years leading up to and including the Civil War. The experiences and impressions reflected in the letters of these two young members of the Tejano elite from San Antonio, related by marriage, provide fascinating glimpses of a Texas that had displaced many Mexican-descent families after the Revolution, yet could still inspire their loyalty to the Confederate flag. De la Garza, in fact, would go on to give his life for the Southern cause. The letters, translated by José Roberto Juárez and with meticulous annotation and commentary by Thompson, deepen and provide nuance to our understanding of the Civil War and its combatants, especially with regard to the Tejano experience. Historians, students, and general readers interested in the Civil War will appreciate Tejanos in Gray for its substantial contribution to borderlands studies, military history, and the often-overlooked interplay of region, ethnicity, and class in the Texas of the mid-nineteenth century.

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