Tejano West Texas by Arnoldo De León
With Tejano West Texas, Arnoldo De León—known among scholars as the unofficial “dean” of Tejano history—points his readers toward the woefully understudied histories of Mexicans and Mexican Americans in Texas west of the one-hundredth meridian. These eleven chapters represent a host of essays that De León published over the course of his career as a historian at Angelo State University. As a collection, De León’s writings on these oft-overlooked people stand to prompt younger historians to investigate the histories of West Texas Tejanos, much as his earlier works inspired a torrent of studies on Mexicans and Mexican Americans in South Texas and other parts of the state.
De León begins with the early settlement of the region by Spanish and Mexican pobladores, eventually chronicling their interactions with Anglo American settlers in the late-nineteenth century and the resulting conflicts [End Page 261] and adaptations that Tejanos faced during that time period (similar to the better-known challenges that Tejanos and Mexican immigrants faced in the borderlands regions further to the south and southeast). In chapter three, De León provides raw data concerning education, literacy and labor in the region, providing valuable statistics for future researchers to utilize. The larger sweep of Tejano West Texas history along with statistical data continue in the middle chapters of the book: chapter four covers the larger dynamics of town life, migrant farm and ranch labor, and community issues; chapter five provides raw data on Tejano demographics in the Trans-Pecos region in the southern portions of West Texas; and turning north, chapter six covers the interesting phenomenon of Tejanos in the Texas Panhandle transitioning from living in largely rural settings to cities and towns as the twentieth century wore on. One of the most interesting chapters is “Blowout 1910 Style,” in which the author briefly chronicles a 1910 public-school boycott by ethnic Mexicans in San Angelo who sought to overturn racial segregation in schools—over half a century before the famous Chicano school walkouts in Los Angeles in 1968. Chapter eight brings West Texas Tejanos into the story of Depression-era labor unionism in Texas by briefly relating a strike among sheepshearers in 1934, while chapter nine transitions into an overview of West Texas Tejano’s patriotic contributions to World War II and the Korean War. Finally, De León shifts to biography in the book’s last two chapters, highlighting the lives of philanthropist Eva Camúñez Tucker and Chicano activist and politician María Cárdenas, respectively.
Tejano West Texas serves as a nice capstone to one of the lesser-known aspects of De León’s storied career as an historian. The book is more a conversation-starter than the final word on the subjects and phenomena contained therein; it undoubtedly serves its purpose as a clarion call for other historians to follow the author’s lead in further investigating the interesting histories of Tejanos living in the so-called “giant side of the state.” One hopes that future generations of historians will heed that call.