03/02/2017 Comments are off the Voice of Change
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The story of American Tejanos land grants

(There were 363 Spanish and Mexican established land grants in South Texas alone.) American Tejano historians consider the 1870s as one of most brutal and racially influenced times in the killings of innocent Mexican-Americans and Mexican citizens in…

A Texas General Land Office map from 1882. (Photo: R.J. Molina)

Many American Tejano families’ descendants such as myself know and understand our history, the good with the bad. Givens doesn’t mention American Tejanos’ positive contributions to Texas and the USA. As he emailed me years ago, ‘It is at the discretion of the writer.”

Givens Wild West Texas hanging articles convey one side of history. Many were actually lynchings of innocent people. These victims were honest innocent vaqueros and settlers descended from Indian, Spanish and Mexican heritage.  Thousands of American Tejano settlers came from firmly established families in present-day South Texas prior to America’s independence much like the British Pilgrims in the New England states.

American Tejanos were predominantly not respected like other U.S. citizens.  Historically, American Tejanos by heritage and genealogy were more rooted in the Southwest, yet even today Tejanos are considered foreigners in their own land.

An example of a devious way of changing the historical facts was the so-called 1857 Mexican Cart War. Efficient Mexican (American) freighters were hung in Goliad because they were better at this type of business than Anglo freighters.  When Tejanos shot back defending themselves as a group, they were “rounded up and hung.”

There was no Mexican Cart War, just Tejanos trying to make a living the American way and dying while defending their Second Amendment rights as citizens.  American Tejano freighters carried rifles to defend themselves against predators and thieves.  They were truly U.S. citizens according to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo but were called and considered Mexican freighters.

Mr. Givens glorifies Texas’ old-time vigilante system of justice of hanging without trail by jury.  Perhaps speedy justice deterred crime among its citizens and gave American citizens the satisfaction of justice served even it they hung the innocent.

The truth is that many of these malicious lynching were the result of forced confessions.  The innocent Tejano victims just pleaded guilty to stop the brutality and/or torture by the vigilante groups.

I do appreciate Mr. Givens’ knowledge of South Texas history  but he tells one side of the story or one part of Texas’ ethnicity. Most of his articles about 19th century Texas fail to mention American Tejanos’ positive contributions in Texas and the USA.

In the 1800s and early 1900s, quite a number of “northern” American speculators and ill-willed men secretly killed innocent American Tejano patriarch family members with vast land holdings, which left the lands of the American Tejano in tax forfeiture status.

Back in those days, the Texas and U.S court system failed to properly follow the due process of tax forfeitures on the victims of land-grabbing injustice.  The law of due process was an opportunity for citizens to resolve any land-deeded claims or tax forfeiture.  The American right of due process of tax forfeiture was not rightfully given to most of the families of American Tejano survivors who attempted to retain their land.

The Texas’ method of tax forfeiture on Tejano lands was quick, fast, and devious and resold at very cheap prices. Most of the time, these Tejano families were not permitted to enter the courthouse or participate in their own land tax forfeiture sale by order of the sheriff who was also the tax assessor and collector.  Rest assured that the local county sheriff was secretly in collusion with big landowners who placed him in office.

The loss of their family’s entire land grant heritage was more than emotionally heartbreaking with its prosperous oil, gas and cattle financial family futures mostly gone forever.  This also left a deeply disappointed ancestral story among its descendants. (There were 363 Spanish and Mexican established land grants in South Texas alone.)

American Tejano historians consider the 1870s as one of most brutal and racially influenced times in the killings of innocent Mexican-Americans and Mexican citizens in South Texas.  Tejanos and Mexicans did kill some innocent people because of the malicious abuses toward their families by U.S. cattle rustlers and malicious thieves on both sides of the border.  These killings occurred because Anglo-American accusers were hardly brought to justice.

Tejano historians have uncovered documented information of the enormous number of vigilante hangings of innocent American Tejanos and Mexicans.  These hangings were much like those of African Americans in the Deep South.  Yet, it was the signs of the times much like the Midwest killings of innocent Kansas farmers by big ranch owners. It still was not right in the eyes of God.

Also, during the 1870s in South Texas, there was an tremendous influx of Civil War Confederate veterans who stirred the flames of racial hatred.  In South Texas, these former Confederates took their anger out against all  “Mexicans,” blacks and carpetbaggers.

Most of the hanging victims in South Texas were American Tejano ranchers and vaqueros who were U.S. citizens with inalienable rights and were mostly innocent.  They were hung because they “looked alike” or had been forced to confess.  Unbeknownst to the arrogant former Confederate vigilante groups was that nearly 10,000 Tejano vaqueros fought on both sides in the American Civil War.

In one documented example of a seemingly justified South Texas hanging, a vigilante group concluded that there was no way a Mexican vaquero (Mexican or U.S. citizen?) could have a new saddle and thus the saddle certainly was the one stolen. But Anglo-Americans who blatantly killed American Tejanos were rarely brought to justice.

These vast militia vigilantes had a dastardly point of view of the American Tejano frontier settlers. They thought all Tejanos were Mexican citizens and therefore, they were trespassers and bandits in the USA. Such is the case with Givens’ hanging articles, he cannot be sure if these hanging victims were American Tejano citizens or Mexican citizens.

In the 1800s, the Anglo-American history books and diaries did not truly acknowledge American Tejanos as contributors to Texas or our USA.  These writers rather mentioned Tejanos as Mexicans, as if they were foreigners.  Therefore, the reader has disturbing visions of illegals committing crimes on U.S. soil, which continues to be a serious misunderstanding.  Perhaps it was their way of justifying their wicked ways of land grabbing.

American and Texas history books tend to forget that American Tejano settlers had for centuries dealt in ranching development and in international commerce with Native American Indians, Spanish freighters and later with Mexican and U.S. freighters.

By the late 1800s, many Tejano settlers and commerce freighters established hundreds of miles crossroads connecting with South Texas’ historic Spanish and Mexican land grant ranches.  The truth was that Tejano ranching, commerce; religious events, family celebrations and the area economy had prospered over the centuries.

There are thousands of untold stories of American Tejano history and most of them are good. Descendants of American Tejanos are still very proud that we are American and Texan and we continue to enjoy the fruits of our labor and education in the USA.

R.J. Molina is a member of the Tejano Monument project, the JHC Historical Commission, Hebbronville Museum and Tejano Civil Rights Museum in Corpus Christi.

 

Curated from : The Caller Times