How does a relatively powerless ethnic group deal with the problems of economic inequality and racial discrimination? How do they gain power in the community? From Peones to Politicos examines these questions in detail, focusing on the changes in Mexicano-Anglo relations in one small South Texas community called North Town. These changes are typical of evolving Mexicano-Anglo relations in much of Texas and the Southwest.
The authors divide their study into three historical periods: the rancho era (1900–1930), the colonia era (1930–1970), and the contemporary period (1970–1977). They trace how Mexicano-Anglo relations have evolved away from the extremely exploitative, paternalistic sharecropper system of the rancho era, when open racism, strict social segregation, and effective Anglo political machines prevailed. They reveal, by contrast, how Mexicanos have become a power to be reckoned with by developing their own economic and political leaders and ethnic political organizations and challenging the Anglo control of the city, school, and county governments. The study also shows how Mexican American family practices have been changed by this transformation of the local political economy.
This revised edition of From Peones to Politicos presents updated fieldwork and additional discussion of class theory and the study of racial orders. Of special interest are reactions to the study by North Town residents themselves, which appear in the new Part IV.