Digital History
The Fate of the Tejanos
Digital History ID 549

Author:   John N. Seguín

Annotation: Even though many Tejanos had fought for Texas independence, they soon found themselves reduced to second-class social, political, and economic status. At first, Tejanos took an important political role in the new Texas republic. Lorenzo de Zavala was chosen the first vice-president and Juan Seguin became mayor of San Antonio.

But especially after Mexico attempted to invade Texas twice in 1842, Tejanos found themselves stigmatized as aliens in their own land. After he was accused of supporting Mexico's attempted invasion, Juan Seguin was forced to flee south to Mexico.

The new Texas constitution denied citizenship and property rights anyone who failed to support the revolution. All persons of Hispanic ancestry were considered to be in this category unless they could prove otherwise. The Texas government also declared to be aliens any Tejanos who left the Republic during the Texas Revolution.

Violent intimidation and murder forced many Tejanos to leave Texas and squatters quickly occupied their lands. Lynchings, beatings, and riotings broke out against Mexican American landowners. In Nueces County, where at the time of Texas independence Mexican Americans had owned all 15 land grants, only one Tejano holding was surviving in 1859. By 1860 there were only two Tejanos among the 263 Texans with over $100,000 in real property. In 1856, in the case of McKinney v. Saviego, the Supreme Court ruled that protections for property and civil rights included in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican War, did not apply to Texas, since it had been annexed prior to the conflict.

While delegates to the constitutional convention of the state of Texas at its admission to the Union rejected a motion to restrict voting to Anglos, violent intimidation kept Mexican Americans from the polls. In south Texas, large landowners and political bosses used their economic power to manipulate the votes of Mexican American cowboys and laborers. Late in the nineteenth century, many Texas counties restricted primaries to Anglos. In 1902 the state approved a poll tax to further reduce the Mexican American (and African American) vote.

In the selection here, written in 1858, a leading Tejano discovers that he has become a foreigner in his native land.

Document: A native of the City of San Antonio de Bexar, I embraced the cause of Texas at the report of the first cannon which foretold her liberty; filled an honorable situation in the ranks of the conquerors of San Jacinto, and was a member of the legislative body of the Republic. I now find myself, in the very land, which in other times bestowed on me such bright and repeated evidences of trust and esteem, exposed to the attacks of scribblers and personal enemies, who, to serve political purposes, and engender strife, falsify historical facts, with which they are but imperfectly acquainted. I owe it to myself, my children and friends, to answer them with a short, but true exposition of my acts, from the beginning of my public career, to the time of the return of General Woll from the Rio Grande, with the Mexican forces, amongst which I was then serving....

I have been the object of the hatred and passionate attacks of some few disorganizers, who, for a time, ruled, as masters, over the poor and oppressed population of San Antonio. Harpy-like, ready to pounce on every thing that attracted the notice of their rapacious avarice, I was an obstacle to the execution of their vile designs. They, therefore, leagued together to exasperate and ruin me; spread against me malignant calumnies, and made use of odious machinations to sully my honor and tarnish my well earned reputation.

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