With Hispanic Heritage Month 2018 fast approaching, it’s an opportune time to focus on the largest part of the umbrella covering U.S. citizens of Hispanic descent – Mexican Americans.  

Ironically, the term “Mexican American” seems to confuse and needlessly alarm some Texas SBOE members, most obviously during the approval process of the long-awaited Mexican American Studies (MAS) Program.  

Frankly, the labeling of large homogeneous racial/ethnic groups within the U.S. population is nothing new. Such terms are meant to identify stand-alone segments and are non-threatening. For example, Mexican Americans originating in Texas (also Tejanos, U.S. citizens of Mexican-descent, and/or Spanish surnamed Texans) represent the only united thread connecting all phases of Texas history — pre-Columbian, New Spain, Mexican Republic, Texas Republic, and U.S. statehood.

Quite simply, the term Mexican American is historically accurate. In short, Spanish-Mexican descendants today are a blend (product) of Spanish European and Native American ancestors. In other words, we are the children of the Spanish Mexican founders of Texas and the Southwest.

In reality, our ancestors were in effect “Mexicanos” living in America (Republic of Mexico) before the U.S. took Texas and the Southwest from Mexico. By the way, Stephen F. Austin, designated as the “Father of Texas”, and the Old 300 Anglo families who came with him came to Texas to be “Mexicanos.” (See more below.)   

With all due respect, the Texas SBOE’s refusal to recognize the authenticity of Mexican Americans as a legitimate segment of the Texas state population has held Spanish Mexican descent Texans in a perpetual colonial style life existence.

What are some of the key points that mainstream Texas history has over-looked? The following details offer a sample of pre-1836 Texas history people, places, and events that must no longer be ignored in Texas classrooms.  

1.  Texas was born in 1691. Domingo Terán was the first Texas governor. There were over thirty (30) additional Spanish-surnamed Texas governors during 1691-1821. So, Texas was already over 130 years old when Stephen F. Austin (The Father of Texas) arrived!

2. Stephen F. Austin came to Texas to manage his father Moses’ Spanish land grants. (He came for free land; not to set Texas free.)

3. Moses Austin was no longer a U.S. citizen. He was a Spanish citizen living in Spanish Missouri. (Incidentally, Daniel Boone was a Spanish citizen living in Spanish Missouri, as well. Plus, he was a Spanish civil servant.)

4.  Stephen F. Austin and the Old 300 Anglo families immigrated to Mexico (Texas) in 1825 and of their own free will became Mexican citizens to begin new lives in Mexico.

5. Stephen F. Austin wrote at the time that Mexico was the most benevolent (friend to the immigrant) than any other country in the world. 

6.  Stephen F. Austin clearly understood that Texas was a province (state) of Mexico. In fact, he recognized Texas’ sister internal provinces (California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Nuevo México, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Nuevo Santander. In fact, he travelled to Mier, Nuevo Santander (Tamaulipas) to buy horses and other stock.

7. Texas is no longer independent. A short nine (9) years after 1836, the Anglos traded their independence to join the U.S. as a slave state.

8. Mexico was the first country to abolish slavery in America in 1829. So, African American families living in Texas in 1836 were free. However, they were re-enslaved after the 1836 Texas independence and did not become free again until 1865.

9. The Mexican soldiers at the battles of Goliad, Álamo, and San Jacinto were the only legitimate military police force in Texas. They were fulfilling their duty to defend their country of Mexico against armed invaders from the U.S. They were not the aggressors – the armed Anglo expatriates from the U.S. were!

10. The battles of Goliad, Álamo, and San Jacinto are part of the chronological history of Mexico, not the U.S. Mexico didn’t lose Texas, South Texas (northern Tamaulipas) and the entire Southwest until 1848. 

11. For as long as the Anglo-influenced tourism industry have pushed Mission San Antonio de Valero as the Álamo, they’ve been guilty of a “truth in advertising” violation.

– There were two Spanish institutions in San Antonio, a Presidio (San Antonio de Béxar) and a mission (San Antonio de Valero). The mission was (is) a place of worship, dedicated to area Native Americans. It was (is) a sanctuary of peace; not a place of battle.  

– Soldiers were stationed at the Presidio, not the Mission. What happened to the San Antonio de Béxar Presidio in downtown San Antonio? City leaders tore it down and sold the land (where the 1836 battle took place) and developed it for commercial business. By the way, the mission graveyard (camposanto) was paved over and is still under the concrete and asphalt.)

In summary, it’s time for the Texas SBOE to (a) accept the fact that the words “Mexican American” as in Mexican American Studies (MAS) is non-threatening. Texas students of all backgrounds must learn in the classroom that they correctly refer to the founding roots of the Texas history family tree.  

The bottom line? The current Texas SBOE has within its power to (and must) solve the major mainstream Texas history riddle. Why is everything historically old in Texas named in Spanish?In the words of William E. Gladstone, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”  

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column comes from the website of the Mexican American School Boards Association. MASBA is a voluntary, non-profit, statewide education association that has served local Texas school boards since 1970. MASBA is focused on closing opportunity & achievement gaps for all students–especially for Hispanic students and English Language Learners.