Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


People of Mexican descent who live in Texas, whether native or foreign-born, are generally referred to as "Tejanos" by Spanish speakers. The designation has been used since at least the 1820s. The beginnings of Mexican-origin inhabitants of Texas may be traced to the early eighteenth century, when the Spanish established several permanent settlements in what eventually became the state of Texas. In 1821 Tejanos became citizens of Mexico, in 1836 members of the Republic of Texas, and in 1845, following annexation, citizens of the United States. In the late twentieth century, their numbers approximated five million.

Historically, mainstream society has treated Tejanos as an ethnic/racial group, and much of what is Tejano history consists of resistance (at times violent, but generally peaceful) against such forces as discrimination, racism, labor exploitation, and nativism. But Tejanos have also made a pronounced imprint on the state by helping build its economy, enriching the Texas literary corpus and its musical heritage, contributing to the cultural mosaic that is the Lone Star State, participating in politics (there were more than 2,000 elected Tejano o.cials in the 1990s), and fighting in every foreign war.

Today, most Tejanos are United States– born. But their adjustment to mainstream society runs the gamut from those who remain culturally "Mexican," to many who feel comfortable being bilingual and bicultural, to those who have become totally Americanized. Mexican Americans considering themselves Tejanos would readily concede their admiration for such aspects of Mexican heritage as the Spanish language, Mexican music, Mexican religious and cultural traditions, fiestas, and Mexican cuisine and folklore. Simultaneously, they embrace most of what is representative of Anglo-American life and culture.

Arnoldo De León Angelo State University

Benavides, Adán Jr. "Tejano." In New Handbook of Texas, 6: 238–39. Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996.

De León, Arnoldo. Mexican Americans in Texas: A Brief History. Wheeling IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1999.

Montejano, David. Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836–1896. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1987.

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