The Texas Revolution: A Conflict of Cultures?
Digital History ID 550
During the Texas Revolution, Tejanos faced a test of conflicting loyalties: whether to fight for independence with Texas Anglos, or to side with General Antonio López de Santa Anna. Gregorio Esparza, a Tejano, was one of 183 Texans who died defending the Alamo. His brother Francisco was in the victorious Mexican army. Families, like the Esparzas, were split by the fight for Texas independence.
Was the Texas Revolution essentially a conflict of cultures? The answer is ambiguous. Anglo-Texans provided most of the leadership for the revolution. Some Anglo-Texans, including Stephen Austin, made statements that suggest deep ethnic hostility. In 1836, Austin wrote that the conflict in Texas pitted "a mongrel Spanish-Indian and Negro race, against civilization and the Anglo-American race." But a significant number of Tejanos took an active role in the Texas Revolution. The Texans who captured San Antonio in 1835 included 160 Tejanos and seven Tejanos died defending the Alamo. Many elite Tejanos, who regarded slave-grown cotton as the key to the region's prosperity, opposed Mexico's 1829 decree prohibiting slavery. They also favored repeal of an 1830 law forbidding further immigration from the United States, and wanted improvements in the court system, lower tariffs, and separation from Coahuila.
Among the rebel Tejanos was Juan Seguin. Seguin, the son of a wealthy rancher, recruited a company of Tejano volunteers which helped defend the Alamo. During the siege of the former mission, Seguin and some of his men went to look for reinforcements. Later he did essential service harassing and delaying Santa Anna's army, which gave Sam Houston time to gather reinforcements from the southern United States. He served as mayor of San Antonio until 1842, when Anglos accused him of supporting a Mexican invasion of Texas. He was forced to flee to Mexico, having become "a foreigner in my native land."
Another rebel was Tejano Gregorio Esparza, who died defending the Alamo. His brother Francisco was in the victorious Mexican army. Families, like the Esparzas, were split by the fight for Texas independence.
After Texas secured its independence in 1836, and especially after two failed Mexican invasions of Texas in 1842, anti-Mexican sentiment soared. Anglo-Texans threatened to banish or imprison all Tejanos unless Mexico accepted the Rio Grande River as the southern border of Texas.
This selection examines the attitudes of the Tejanos and Anglo-Texans, eight years prior to the Revolution. It is excerpted from a journal kept by José María Sánchez, who served on a Mexican government directorate commissioned in 1827 to survey the boundary between Texas and Louisiana.
The Americans from the north have taken possession of practically all the eastern part of Texas, in most cases without the permission of the authorities. They immigrate constantly, finding no one to prevent them, and take possession of the sitio [site] that best suits them without either asking leave or going through any formality other than that of building their homes. Thus the majority of inhabitants in the Department are North Americans, the Mexican population being reduced to only Béjar, Nacogdoches, and La Bahía del Espíritu Santo, wretched settlements that between them do not number three thousand inhabitants, and the new village of Gudalupe Victoria that has scarcely more than seventy settlers. The government of the state, with its seat at Saltillo, that should watch over the preservation of its most precious and interesting departments, taking measures to prevent its being stolen by foreign hands, is the one that knows the least not only about the actual conditions, but even about its territory.... Repeated and urgent appeals have been made to the Supreme Government of the federation regarding the imminent danger in which this interesting Department is becoming the prize of the ambitious North Americans, but never has it taken any measures that may be called conclusive....
The Americans from the North, at least the great part of those I have seen, eat only salted meat, bread made by themselves out of corn meal, coffee, and homemade cheese. To these the greater part...add strong liquor, for they are in general, in my opinion, lazy people of vicious character. Some of them cultivate their small farms by planting corn; but this task they usually entrust to their Negro slaves, whom they treat with considerable harshness.
Source: José María Sánchez, "A Trip to Texas in 1828," trans. Carlos E. Castañeda, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, 29 (1926), 260-61, 271.
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